Hatching Free Range Ideas

Lesson 1, Part 1, Get your mind right

In Sketchnoting on May 20, 2014 at 1:17 pm

This talk is about establishing a solid, safe, exploratory environment for Sketchnoting. There are two parts. Part 1 talks about gaining an improvisational mindset. Part 2 is a list of principles for holding that mindset open. This is part 1. 


  1. Read the article.
  2. Highlight key words from the article.
  3. Create an image that reflects the key points.
  4. Try for one small image for each of the points.
  5. Use some kind of “fancy” connector for those points that seem to be closely related to each other.
  6. Make note of the images that you created that you can use in other places.

gear brainSketchnoting is innovation – finding new meaning and new learning in listening and drawing. We’re bypassing our verbal editor, that part of ourselves that Natalie Goldberg explains is the Monkey Mind editor who inhibits our writing as well as our drawing.

The Monkey Mind is a Zen concept that Goldberg uses to name the incessant voice of the inner critic, that running commentary on the not good enoughness of our work. Often the voice is dressed in rational words and phrases. The Monkey Mind represents the safety of the status quo.monkey mind Drawing and sketchnoting seek to move beyond the status quo, to surface that which we don’t know we know. Often we reach that place by acting without thinking, by improvising.

Sketchnoting  is. . . improvisational drawing. Let’s start with some improvisation rules from Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson.

There are 7 that apply to Sketchnoting.

  1. Say yes – Madson describes the act of saying yes as an act of acceptance of what is offered. Its opposite is to block, by suggesting there might be a better idea. Take your first idea and move forward.
  2. Don’t prepare; pay attention –Substitute attention for anticipation. That way you’re open to surprise. Sketchnotes learnings are often surprises because you are processing in real time.
  3. Focus your attention by practicing total listening. When your mind wanders, notice the tangent and then quickly bring it back. Find a beacon of interest in all things by paying attention to points with personal resonance. The more attention you pay, the less you will notice your own drawing and the more you will fall into the work itself. Stephen King describes it as “falling through the hole in the paper.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [Me Hi  Cheek sent ma hi ee] calls it FLOW.

fall through paper

  • 4. Just show up. Start anywhere and be average– Accept what is offered. The phrase “Lower your standards” has its history in acceptance. When two opposing forces wanted to parley, to signal parley the standard bearer lowered the standard. When you block an idea, you deny the muse entry. Lower your standard and invite parley. Saying yes is about acceptance so that you can begin a practice, whether you think you’re an artist or not.

lower standard5. Accept your insecurity. We’ve all got it. Find what you love about your work. It’s there.
Ignore how you are feeling and focus on your purpose. Why are you here? What are you learning? That’s what you want to capture. This is about personal value, not about what someone else might take away from your experience.

6. Risk making mistakes. Embrace the risk. Circus clowns, when they flub a routine, raise their arms high in the air and address the audience with a deep bow as if this was a normal part of the routine. Mistakes are. If you’re not making mistakes, if you’re not working outside your comfort zone, you’re not really trying.

  • clown bow

Take care of each other. Enjoy the work. Share the discovery. “Look at each other with encouraging eyes.”


  1. Love love love it!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. WOW!! I love this application of the improv maxims to your purpose in teaching sketching. This is awesome. I’m going to take your advice and pull out my book right now. Thank YOU, thank YOU for this post and for sharing IMPROV WISDOM maxims. You Rock!!!!

    • I am totally honored to have received a comment from YOU! I was so thrilled with your book that I bought 5 copies to spread them around and not lose my own. It’s a glorious book!

  3. If you email me your mailing address I’d like to send you an autographed bookmark! Thanks for caring.

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