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Category Archives: confessions

So, I’m kind-of a perfectionist. Like, a competitive, need-to-win perfectionist. Maybe this is a result of being the first born in my family – both in siblings and the many younger cousins. Maybe it’s from pressure to success as a first-generation college student. In any event, I like to be good at things I do and I don’t really care to do anything else. If I’m going to do something, it needs to be done well and on time. And (if I’m completely honest), if there’s any chance that my work could be compared to anything else, it needs to be worthy of winning.

I also have a deep desire to be creative. I have closets filled with crafting things – knitting, scrapbooking, stamps, paints, baking pans, cake decorating tools. But what I really want to be able to do is to paint and draw. The problem is, I’m not good at either. (No, really, I’ve tried. I’ve taken lessons even.)

So, instead, I doodle. I’m a compulsive doodler, my mind wanders if I’m forced to sit still. Doodling keeps me occupied but I always tried to hide it. When asked if people could borrow my notes in school, I responded one of two ways. If I liked the person well enough, I’d copy my notes over on a clean sheet of paper or I’d manage to photocopy notes and cover up the doodles. If I didn’t really like the person that well… well, I’d rather them think me stand-offish or rude and not share my notes rather than show anyone my doodles.

Then, a little more than a year ago, I saw something about sketchnotes. Sketchnoting is a process of taking visual notes. So, I practiced in secret, with plain paper and pen, watching TED talks. I poured over beautiful, professional drawn notes and thought, man, I could never do that… but I kept sketching because I discovered that incorporating doodling into my notetaking helped me focus and process information.

I graduated to a sketchbook and pens. I practiced sketching my personal reflection and notes from sermons after church. Then, I tried in a few professional development sessions, sitting in the back, not drawing attention to myself. Last summer, I attended the ASCD L2L Conference as part of the Emerging Leader program. A colleague noticed my awesome pens. Then, the test… she asked what I was drawing. So… I showed her. And she thought it was cool. And then I showed a few others. So I tweeted a picture. And people liked it.

Mr. RogersI know that my art isn’t that great, especially compared to some others who sketchnote, but it is mine. And it’s helped me embrace a weakness and turn in into… not a strength, but an asset, maybe? I’m not afraid to share my work anymore, even when it doesn’t look like what I’d hoped it would. I’m back and forth between pen/paper sketchnoting (mostly for church) and digital sketchnoting with the Paper by FiftyThree app and Pencil by FiftyThree, which I love beyond words – it is the best stylus for iPads, hands-down – and I’ve tried many on the market.

Sketchnoting changed my professional practice and improved a personality quirk. I’m still a perfectionist, but at least I’m learning to love the process in at least one area. It is helping me move toward a growth mindset. What secret thing in your heart do you want to do but dare not for looking foolish? Try it, you might be surprised!

If you want more on how to get started on Sketchnoting (and the story how those private art lessons I took went), here’s my article in January’s ASCD blog.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post includes Amazon affiliate links, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase anything from Amazon. I only recommend products that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands. You won’t pay any more and it helps support my internet shopping addiction.