Eight Days, Eight Lessons

Intent: Share, so those in our small profession can grow our collective range…

These reflections came morning 7 of 8, which could have been the timing of a scriber’s high (not sure of the feeling, because i don’t run… but a kind of bleary flow certainly kicked in. See #3.) The context was graphic facilitation for an MIT Sloan Executive Education program, ~50 people each day, who will apply their new skills to actionable, organizational projects, with potential global impact.

Lessons learned from a scribing marathon:

1. Consider the nest. The walls are the branches. Your drawings on them, the twigs and string that weave…  Plan ahead with real estate, know how much space is needed per session, tally your entire horizontal band of wall/board space, divide, and start crafting the container. Our content covered almost 180 linear feet, ~22/day, ~720sf in all, on bio-foam board and dry erase walls, starting in one room for 3 days and moving to another room for the remaining 5.

2. Hold the long view. Hold it no matter what, even if you have multiple small long views within the larger one, i.e.: “I’ll make it to lunch and there is only a 5′ board in my way.” – or – “If one decision-making person in this company changes the way they think of / engage with the earth because of something they see on the wall……”

3. Trust that flow will find you. It took a few days, and came when i least expected it – but there it was, in the form of an olive oval. In the midst of financial balance sheet lingo, the struggle to keep up became too much and “let go…” took over. Then it happened, my hand was led from some other magical kingdom of coloring. To anyone else’s eye, an oval is an oval – but this one was different.

4. Develop coping strategies. Identify what might help you along the way and adapt as needed – basically do whatever it takes to keep you going. I started with exercise and quick meditation in AM. Then switched to a ton of sleep. Then switched to ice cream (yes, this went against Lesson 6, but was a PM thing to get me to the next day…) Then was into water. Then First Aid Kit’s “To a Poet” over and over and over. Then Candy Crush. (I am aware how this may seem…. but know also I’m not alone here…)

5. Dress to move. This is too obvious… but still after 18 years in the profession was a lesson. One day I wore a skirt to be more “professional”. Fine. But then every time I bent down to draw low on a board or grab a marker off the floor I was self-conscious, and that limited the quality of my listening and attention to the content. Enough said.

6. Avoid sweets (and increase minerals). I forgot this previously-learned lesson, and by 3pm each day was sorry. Sweets quite simply, in fact, create sugar highs and lows and put us on a crash course with the beast named Tired. Minerals help us fend off and process toxins. On certain days I aimed for super-steady, letting go of coffee and wheat and eating voluminous fruits and veggies. But come on… it’s hard. Actually if you can manage to cut out sugars – your energy will be much more consistent. And less caffeine does = less shaky hands. This lesson is a big boohoo, esp when every dessert stares you right in your reward-hungry face.

7. Go out on a limb. Draw within and outside your comfort zone. After x numbers of circles, i had to draw a map. Yikes. Looked it up online, and made it work. Also drew a bunch of animals, which i usually avoid like the plague: elephant, bear, ox, cow… oy. And a few faces: Charlie Chaplin and a red bearded baron. All these things made me squirm. Also, systems thinking was a big part of the content… even as a novice, and in front of the experts, some loops came out. If you are really off base, people will correct you. This increases learning.

8. Make yourself laugh. Who cares if it’s only you?! That doesn’t matter. Draw things that make you smile, and when no one can see, snap a picture and send it to a colleague who WILL get it. There are other things to consider in this lesson that might not be appropriate for a broad audience, but insert what you want, for example: Go in a dark hallway and whistle off key at full capacity… Whatever keeps your heart open, your mind engaged, and your hand drawing.

No doubt these lessons will expand – and i welcome input to keep us all forward-creating.

Thank you’s to those who helped w/o knowing they were helping: Sita for the endless Bird-plane ripples, Alicia and Neuland for enabling dry-erase fatty markers, Stuart for germology, Kripalu for nutritional counseling, Otto for the introduction to the MIT exec group and longest view, and Kandinsky for the always relevant Point and Line to Plane, and MB and JJP for the nest outside the nest.


  1. Stir says:

    Never doubt the power of a small olive oval to change the world. In fact, it is all that ever has. – he says, channeling his inner Margaret Mead Bird.

  2. Love this! I find that after awhile I begin to get delusional. I have a great time and laugh, a lot. Even when it’s not really a good time because what else is better than drawing on the wall and getting paid for it?

    I always dress to impress then live to regret it. Especially on day two or three in my shoes. Day 8? I’m not worthy!