In Episode 13 of The Mindful Creator, I chat with designer Mike Rohde about finding that deeper determination to fight for the work that you love.
Mike is a designer, author, illustrator and sketchnoter with a passion for simple and usable design solutions. He has published two books on sketchnoting, The Sketchnote Handbook and The Sketchnote Workbook, and has provided custom illustration for New York Times bestsellers, REWORK and REMOTE by 37signals, The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau and The Little Book of Talent by New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle.
In this episode, Mike and I discuss the evolution of our creative processes and how to push through when real life struggles threaten to pull you under.
Podcast: Play in new window
| Download (Duration: 1:06:12 — 91.3MB)
Writer Pro (Mike uses for his books)
Showing up can be simple
Music For Focus and Creativity (what I use for writing/creating) – The American Dollar
plannerhack.com (Mike mentions in our segment on productivity hacking)
In this Episode
- Mike talks about his 20+ year journey as a designer and an illustration.
- The evolution of Mike’s design and illustration processes and how this introduced intentional limitations into his work.
- The advent of sketchnoting, or “visual note taking,” in Mike’s process and how that led to a variety of opportunities at conferences and an eventual book deal.
- How Mike’s willingness to accept and seek out limitations in creative projects forced himself to be present in his work and find more satisfaction in the grind.
- The journey of writing and handling all of the production work on his first book, and the struggle to be creative and see this project through while dealing with serious family challenges.
- Using challenges as a way forward.
- Leaning on learning from your struggles when everything seems to fall apart.
- Why my failure to place “purposeful limitations” around creative work has led to incomplete or unfinished projects.
- Why we can’t always choose our situations, but we can choose how we creatively respond.
- Learning to recognize the true nature of your struggles through self awareness and acceptance and reframing them.
- Mike – “Sometimes fighting for what you love means pushing against a situation and finding a way to change it.”
- Why accepting where you are can help you get passed denial that keeps you from moving forward.
- Why acceptance is about creating space to take the emotion out of the equation so you can gain some objectivity to deal with creative struggles (which is really hard when you’re deeply attached to your work).
- Mike talks about the real tests of determination that he faced on higher-stake projects and how he overcame them (note – every big project Mike has done had some sort of major challenge personally).
- How Mike managed the production work on Rework in the middle of his daughter’s birth, including working in the hospital room while his wife and newborn slept.
- Why focusing on making a little progress each day and letting go of some expectations helped Mike navigate through his struggles to ship these big projects.
- Mike – “the only way I could do it under the circumstances was just to be satisfied with what I could do within that day and not worry about the future because I can’t do anything about tomorrow – and yesterday’s gone.”
- The power of reframing difficult situations in a positive light (just enough to keep you moving forward).
- Mike – “I guess I was agile before agile was cool.” (Love this. Note – Mike is referencing his lean, agile creative process and how he’s now working on agile design/dev project teams and seeing it from a different perspective).
- How staying agile empowered Mike to adapt and adjust the design and production process for the Sketchnote Handbook.
- Mike talks about “batching” his tasks on creative projects and having firm “principles” vs. a rigid process (Note – I call this “parameters” where you know your bookends and can stay flexible in between).
- Why marrying yourself to specific outcomes will make it very difficult to adapt your process when necessary.
- Why staying level headed in challenging creative situations is a vital skill that takes practice.
- Why staying anchored to the “why” and finding joy in the work are critical to sticking with it.
- Mike’s process of envisioning how his ideal audience will engage and interact with the finished product and how this helps him stay connected to the creative process.
- Why having entire seasons of TV shows and documentaries on in the background actually helped Mike stay inspired and active late at night while hustling on his big deadlines.
- Mike reflects on his early days as a print designer doing annual reports and tedious design work and how it taught him the benefits of getting into creative flow.
- Mike and I discuss the pro’s and con’s of productivity hacking (hint – I think it’s mostly bullshit and overhyped). Mike talks about being more analog and why that works for him.
- Me – “When the task managing becomes a task, then you know it’s not working.”
- Recognizing when productivity and organization is really just avoiding the big, scary tasks and how practicing this awareness can help you recognize opportunities to let go.
- Knowing when it’s time to let go vs. hold on to creative projects (and how alignment can help you understand what needs to stay and what needs to go).
- Why the deeper intuition that we often ignore disconnects us from the awareness we need to understand when we’re putting energy into projects and tasks that don’t align with what we want.
- The power of turning a “no” into a “yes” for someone else.
- Accepting the day for what it, appreciating the things that you have and being grateful for them, and gaining the needed perspective to just go with what life puts in front of you.
- The unofficial theme for this episode = perspective.
- Mike breaks down the nuts and bolts of the Sketchnote Handbook and Workbook (hint – they are fucking awesome).
Thanks for listening!
If you can please take a moment to leave an honest rating and review of the show on iTunes or Stitcher, it will help improve our ranking and discoverability so that we can reach more artists and creators.