Episode 48: The Brain Book – A safe space for your creative process

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey Word Nerds! Welcome to another episode of DIY MFA Radio! Today I want to talk to you about a crucial part of my own creative life: The Brain Book. It’s my portable office. When I have the Brain Book with me I know I can be creatively productive anytime, anywhere. Not only does the Brain Book have my outline, my to-do list, etc., in it, it also carries some little totems and mascots so that I don’t have to be attached to any place in particular when I want to or need to write.

In this episode I’m going to give you a quick rundown of what my Brain Book looks like. Then I’m going to challenge you to build your own Brain Book and share it with me!

The Brain Book

On the outside, you can see I have added some creative flair to the cover. I use the same cover and interchange notebooks depending on what project I’m working on, but the basic inner workings are the same from project to project. I do this because when I finish one notebook, I just replace it with a new blank one. This way I don’t have to reinvent the entire Brain Book every time I fill a new notebook.


Inside you’ll see I have a couple of notebooks and my favorite pens, in multiple colors. I like using fountain pens because they don’t tire out my hand as much as other pens. I’m especially a fan of these Pilot Varsity pens because they come in lots of fun colors. In case you couldn’t already tell, I like bright colors both for the creative inspiration and for color-coding and organizing my thoughts.


I have a few notes that I need to remember no matter what project I’m working on, so I keep those in a separate notebook that always stays with the Brain Book. And I keep with me some pretty postcards with inspirational images on them, as well as my DIY MFA Goal Sheet. I also have a DIY MFA brand cheat sheet that helps me keep track of what color belongs with what project. It’s a habit I picked up when I worked in the toy industry (Yes, it was a lot of fun, and no, it wasn’t like the movie Big) and it’s a habit that has stuck with me.


As you can see, I have a number of little totems and mascots in the Brain Book. I’m sure your Brain Book will have your own very different totems but these are mine.


Here’s the significance behind each totem:

  • Card: The card has a note of inspiration on the outside and inside another one from my husband, to keep me grounded and calm.
  • Slide: It’s not really a slide, but a cellophane window that a friend gave me to help me when I need to look at the world with a unique perspective.
  • Unsharpened pencil: The pencil was given to me by a teacher, and it stays unsharpened to remind me of all the untapped potential, all the untold stories that exist in the world.
  • Flash drive: The flash drive contains a backup of my writing (not the ONLY backup), and if I find myself at a computer and with the need to write, I can plug in and write away!
  • Seashell: The seashell is to remind me of the beauty of nature.
  • Chapstick/Creativity stick: This tube of “creativity stick” helps promote creativity and protect against dry ideas, and as a bonus, it also helps if you have chapped lips!
  • Mood ring: The mood ring is to remind me that I don’t have to wait to be in the mood for writing. I just have to write.
  • Heart-shaped stone: This stone is to remind me to follow my heart. (Cheesy, I know. But hey, whatever works!)
  • Amethyst crystal: Amethyst is my birthstone, and reminds me who I am.
  • Blue kitty pencil topper: The blue kitty is just something special I have had for a long time that is imbued with love.
  • Paper clips: The paper clips remind me that you can do a lot with a simple object.
  • Folded book: This little item was given to me frozen in an ice cube… to remind me that sometimes you have to let your ideas sit, give yourself creative space.
  • Die: Whenever I am in doubt about what to do in my story, I assign the numbers on the die choices and then roll it and write whatever that number represents. This gives an element of chance to my writing so that when I’m stuck I have a little help opening up my creativity.
  • Beaded tag: The beaded tag reminds me that one word by itself is just a word, but when you put a lot of words together into a sentence, a paragraph, an entire story, it takes on a shape and deeper meaning.
  • Penny: The penny is from 1907, because I like old coins. I can flip a coin if I’m stalled between two choices in my writing.

Why do I have all these things in a Brain Book?

Originally it was because I needed a place to keep all of my ideas so that I wouldn’t have to assemble each of my projects from scratch every time I needed to leave the house.

But really, it’s an extension of my brain. I need to work my ideas out on paper. Putting ideas in writing helps me to think them through and opens up mental space to work on new ideas. The Brain Book allows me to be more creative because I don’t have to carry all those ideas around in my head at once.

There are no real rules for how to set up a Brain Book… Quotes from other authors, notes on talks I attend, or from something I’m reading, ideas… they all go in there. The big thing to remember is that you can’t be afraid to make a “mistake” in your Brain Book. Just like “there’s no crying in baseball,” there are no mistakes in the Brain Book. There are no rules in the Brain Book either. Give your creativity full freedom to work itself out. It’s a safe space to play with ideas and see what happens with them.

The Brain Book Challenge

Now that you know what a Brain Book is and what I use it for, I want to challenge you to create one of your own. It doesn’t have to be an actual book, and you can call it whatever you want. It just needs to be a safe space for your creative process.

The ground rules

  • It needs to be portable.
  • It needs to be a place where you can safely–and without fear of judgement–exercise your creativity.
  • It needs to show your personality.

Once you’ve completed your Brain Book, follow me on Instagram (@DIYMFA) and share your Brain Book with me! Take a snapshot of your Brain Book and what’s inside, and then post it on Instagram, tag it #BrainBook, and paste the link to your pic in the comments below. This way I can follow you back and see what your creative safe space looks like. I will post the photos of my Brain Book there, later today too!

Link to Episode 48

(Right-click to download.)

If you liked this episode…

Head over to iTunes, leave a review, and subscribe so you’ll be first to know when new episodes are available. Also, if you know anyone who might enjoy this podcast, please share!

Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome.


Enjoyed this article?