078: Use Sketchnotes to Deliberately Capture Meaningful Ideas: Interview with Mike Rohde [Podcast]

Too many aspiring authors try to write a book they hope the world will read. They fail to realize writing to everyone is the fastest way to ensure no one reads their book at all.

078: The Counterintuitive Power of Constraints to Promote Creativity: Interview with Mike Rohde

With over 350 million copies of his books sold, Stephen King reveals in On Writing that he writes to one person, his wife. King recognizes his words will lose all meaning and resonance if he tries to write for everyone.

The secret here is that constraints foster creativity rather than suppress it. By narrowing the focus of your audience you can harness a creative power bursting to pour words onto the page.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Mike and I talk about how you can capture ideas more effectively and how to run a business within the constraints of a full-time job.

Listen in as we discuss how creativity is unlocked in the balance between the artistic and business sides of your portfolio.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you are reading this via email, please click here).

Get a smaller toolbox

It’s hard to keep track of everything we’re interested in. Writing, blogging, photography, painting, drawing, computers, programming, travel, and hoarding notebooks. No? Just me on that last one?

We are not designed for a singular function. Our calling may have direction, but the path to get there rarely involves a solitary skill we must master. Instead, we must draw on our portfolio of experiences and acquired skills to achieve our aim.

In our pursuits, it’s tempting to try everything, but the compulsive wanderer rarely creates lasting art. To hone your craft requires focus and diligence to do hard work over time.

With new applications and tools developed every day, it’s easy to get distracted by all the options. We fall into the trap of experimenting with each new shiny toy or get frozen with fear, overwhelmed we might make the wrong choice and instead decide not to create at all.

One of the things I found most interesting about Mike is the balance between his openness to test new tools and a bias for creative action.

You can’t get much more simple than pen and paper, but Mike creates sketchnotes that capture compelling ideas in an accessible format.

You may need to stop looking for the right tool and just get to work.

Show highlights

In this episode, Mike and I discuss:

  • Creating art without Photoshop
  • Observing other people develop solutions to problems
  • The lie everyone tells themselves about note taking
  • Self-inflicting constraints to promote creativity
  • A deliberate approach to capturing ideas
  • Intentionally deciding what not to pay attention to
  • Why technology will never completely replace pen and paper
  • How two channels of your brain work together to create a matrix of memory
  • Caching (or staking) ideas as they come so you don’t lose them
  • Managing the constraints of work, life, and creative pursuits

Quotes and Takeaways

  • Grace is really important for yourself. And that includes your drawing ability.” —Mike Rohde
  • Technology is antagonistic to creativity. Force yourself to be creative with fewer tools.
  • Crank everyday on a little bit of something and move the process forward.” —Mike Rohde
  • Art always emerges from constraints. Art comes out of the margins of your life.
  • Leverage limitations to your advantage. Learn to create within constraints.
  • Life is an experiment. Explore and play to discover what works for you.


BONUS: Download a free portion of Mike's Sketchnote Workbook here.

BONUS: Download the full interview transcript here.

Have you tried sketchnoting? What constraints are you facing? How do they boost your creativity? Share in the comments