3 Reasons Sketchnotes Can Level Up Your Creative Process

tsh-cover-175pxDo you ever finish a brainstorming session feeling like you’ve just rehashed the same old ideas on new sheets of paper?

Does your freewriting exercise stall before you hit the second paragraph?

Does your plot refuse to twist, or do your characters insist on behaving predictably?

Maybe you need a creative kick-start! I have an awesome–and fun–new tool for you to add to your creativity toolbox:



What the Heck Are Sketchnotes?

Sketchnoting authority Mike Rohde, author of the Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking, puts it this way:

Sketchnotes are rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes & lines.”

Sketchnotes arose from Mike’s frustration with the standard note-taking process. He was filling notebooks with pages of detailed, text-only notes, and then never referring to them again.

Sound familiar? How many of us have notebooks full of notes from conferences and meetings, notebooks that now gather dust on shelves (**raises hand**)? Perhaps worse, how many of us have notebooks filled with valuable story ideas or character descriptions, similarly gathering dust because sorting through them is too daunting a task?

Sketchnotes focus on capturing BIG IDEAS and representing them VISUALLY. By using symbols and shapes to capture concepts, sketchnotes can convey information more succinctly than text alone. The way information is organized on the page can help communicate a hierarchy of ideas or logical progression.

The end result is a “visual map,” Mike says. Sketchnotes “are built from meaningful thoughts and ideas your mind collects and squirrels away….”

In other words, when you translate ideas into sketchnotes, you store them in a format that’s easy to review and access later.

Sketchnotes let you translate ideas into a format that’s QUICK TO SCAN and EASY TO REVISIT. 


Cool, right? But that’s not the only benefit of sketchnoting–as you might’ve guessed based on the the title of this post.

Sketchnoting Is About PROCESS as Much as PRODUCT

Sketchnoting isn’t just about creating a beautiful end product–which is why you don’t need to be an artist to start creating your own sketchnotes. Sketchnoting helps you think differently.

Sketchnoting Involves the Visual Areas of the Brain 

The process of creating a sketchnote actually uses different parts of the brain than simply writing text–it fires up both your visual and your verbal brain regions. This can help you see new relationships between ideas and make connections you might not make otherwise.

Making new connections is crucial for creativity.


Sketchnoting Requires Handwriting

Sketchnoting requires handwriting, and handwriting has been shown to help thinking and processing more than simply tapping on a keyboard. According to Virginia Berninger, in her 2010 interview with the Wall Street Journalthat may be because handwriting “activates a much larger portion of the brain’s thinking, language, and “working memory” regions than typing”.

Handwriting also seems to enhance your memory for what you’re writing–which is valuable whether you’re taking notes at a conference or taking notes for your novel’s climax!

Sketchnoting Invokes a Playful Attitude

Sketchnoting, which involves doodling different shapes and colors on the page, naturally invokes a playful attitude. Plenty of research suggests that play is essential to the creative process. Play helps silence your inner critic, freeing your mind to be silly and spontaneous. (Check out this great overview of the link between play and creativity if you want to learn more!)

This isn’t a how-to post, because I figured you’d want to know “why bother” before you’d care about the “how-to.” If you want to know more about how to get started with sketchnoting, please check out Mike Rohde’s fantastic and inspirational book,  the Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking


The hidden price of "productivity" every writer needs to know - www.cherylreif.com

You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]


  1. […] So I thought I’d try an experiment. On Mondays, I’ll continue to bring you information and tips about writing, creativity, and novel ways to connect with readers. Thursdays, we’ll dive into specifics–specific examples, specific applications, specific challenges, and so on, that have to do with the week’s topic. Starting with (drumroll, please…) sketchnoting! […]