Drawing is easy. Thinking is hard.

Last week I attended a training on how to write a product planning document. “Writing is the easy part,” read one slide. “Thinking is the hard part.”

I tried (and failed) to sketchnote the talk. Early in the discussion, the facilitator told an anecdote about Jeff Bezos: that he used to bring an empty chair to meetings to represent the customer. I dutifully drew the chair, which sat in the center of the page as random phrases began to surround it. I ran out of room 30 minutes into the talk.

I imagined the consumer of my sketchnote sitting in the empty chair I’d drawn. They’d look at the buzzwords I’d written, spread out in wobbly circles on the paper, wondering when they could get up and leave. My sketchnote, I realized, had no information structure — no skeleton. I guess I thought that this sort of thing would create itself as long as I could draw a few things along with the words.

It turned out that drawing is easy, but thinking is hard.

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  1. Too true Cheryl. I had a failed sketchnoting experience just a couple of weeks ago—way too much text rather than pulling out key concepts; rote copying of diagrams instead of any kind of intelligent symbolism.

    And yet the woman sitting next to me commented on how much she loved it, pressed me for a business card, and sent a follow-up email the next day trying to initiate a conversation about how we might work together.

    My point? You are your hardest critic…

    • Cheryl Lowry

      Ha, I think you’re right- perfectionism actually isn’t even possible when sketch noting anyway- too many variables! It’s tempting to madly copy quotes and diagrams out of fear of missing something, but then what ends up missing is the structure, metaphors, creativity.

  2. It turns out that starting a new page (or a new layer, if you’re working digitally) is totally not a big deal, so feel free to keep on capturing. 😉 I’ve got an upcoming blog post reflecting on how I pick my level of detail and how I deal with too much or too little content – it’s probably going to be up on Monday, but you can use that link for a sneak preview. Thanks for the nudge to write about this! =)

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