Break Down the Barriers

I picked up something new today.

That thing probably isn’t that exciting to you, but it is to me.

It’s just paper. Thin paper at that. Two pads of it that I bought at the art supply store just a few blocks from my office.

Why I’m Excited

Two things make this paper interesting to me.

The first is that it’s a style I’ve never worked with before, a style called newsprint (because it’s of similar quality to what newspapers are printed on).

Before I got into sketchnoting (which is to say, before I became somewhat obsessed about journals, pens, markers, and sketchbooks) I never would have guessed how many different styles of paper are out there.

But now that I’ve entered that rabbit hole I’m intrigued by what I find at each turn, and every time I come across a new style of paper or journal or writing utensil I think to myself, “Hmmm…I wonder how I might use that?”

The Specs

The second thing about this paper that excites me is the size of it: each piece measures 24 inches by 36 inches (or 61 by 91.4 cm for those with a measuring system that makes sense).

That’s big. I’m glad I didn’t have to walk far from the store to my office, because the two pads of it that I picked up were kind of awkward to carry.

Despite its jumbo size by most standards, it’s the perfect size for my desk. It covers the width exactly and its length just happens to fit precisely in between the two aluminum poles that I drilled into the top of my desk in order to create the overhead shooting rig that’s holding the camera that recorded the video above.

A few other details that are less important but that you might be curious about: the thickness rating is 32 lb (very much on the thin side), each pad of 50 sheets cost $18.99, and the color is a light gray, like the name newsprint implies.

Why It Matters

There has been one thing lacking from my set of supplies prior to today – easily accessible paper that can fill up the whole screen. I love my index cards and my 9 by 12’s and my 18 by 24’s, and even the large rolls of paper sitting over in the corner of my office, but none of those can fill the frame as easily as the one I’m using here, and as I try to re-enter a phase of productivity and regular output, I’ve come to realize that I want this in my arsenal.

Prior to these two large pads of thin gray paper that I am now the proud owner of, I was facing a lot of barriers to making videos. Some of those barriers were superficial and in my own head, others quite practical and based in reality.

Break down the barriers that keep you from creating - Verbal to visual - doug neill - sketchnotes, newsprint, visual note-taking, doodling, paper, thin

This $0.38 piece of paper helped to break down a barrier that was keeping me from creating. That barrier, synthesized down, was nothing more than the number of steps I faced in between having an idea and hitting the record button. I am reducing those steps to as few as possible.

I encourage you to do the same. First identify, and then look for opportunities to break down, the barriers that keep you from making the things that you want to make.

Do whatever you can to ease the friction between the seed of an idea and the full expression of it.




Want To Dig Deeper?

If you’d like to learn how to use the paper and pens that you have on hand to take helpful visual notes, check out our course An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking.

You can also find our full course library here.