World-Traveling & Self-Publishing: Sketchnotes of The Knowledge Project

Imagine traveling the world on a sail boat while writing and self-publishing novels, earning enough to keep your travels going.

That’s the life of Hugh Howey, as I learned from a recent episode of The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish.

The first part of the conversation explored Hugh’s life sailing around the world, and the direction technology is taking us.

In the video above and recap below, I’ll first break down the sketchnoting process that I used to take notes on that episode, and then I’ll reflect on some of the ideas I heard and how I plan to apply them to my life and work.

The second half of the conversation focused on writing and self-publishing, where Hugh has found lots of success.

The Sketchnoting Process

The sketchnoting tools that I used for this note-taking session: 9×12-inch drawing paper and a Pentel Energel 0.7mm pen.

To add some structure to the note-taking process, I followed the brick road approach, in which I fill the page one imagined rectangle at a time, each rectangle with some combination of words and sketches to capture the idea.

Here are a few process takeaways from this particular sketchnoting session.

If long sections of conversation arise that you’re not deeply interested in, just capture a few of the ideas with bullet points. That’s what I did with the discussion about where technology will take us in the next five years.

You might get text-heavy mid-way through a sketchnoting session. That happens for me frequently, especially once I’m fully engaged in what I’m taking notes on. That’s when the desire to capture lots of details creeps in. I try to recognize that and then refocus on stronger visuals and fewer words.

Don’t worry about small mistakes! I screwed up the tense (“My writing starts with daydreaming about the world you’re creating.”) and I wrote “at” twice, deciding to just cross out the second one. Those small mistakes don’t impact what you get out of your sketchnotes.

To make a bulleted list a bit more interesting, add a custom icon to each element. That’s what I did with the discussion of the benefits of self-publishing.

If you hear a sequential story in the works, use a flowchart. That’s how I captured the broad strokes of Hugh’s story about achieving success as a self-publisher and then getting approached by traditional publishers.

Reflections on World-Traveling & Self-Publishing

Let’s next explore a few of the ideas that came up throughout the conversation. For me, there were two large takeaways:

I’m more excited than ever to experiment with self-publishing.

Hearing Hugh talk about his experience with self-publishing and all of the benefits (and maturity) of that approach makes me want to start doing it myself!

I think I know how to start.

I’ve known for a while the type of writing that I’d like to publish: illustrated personal essays. (I’ve already drafted a few.)

Before listening to this conversation, my assumption was that I’d need to write a dozen or so essays and then publish them as a collection. But hearing Hugh talk about publishing short stories gave me another idea: why not publish each essay individually, as soon as it’s complete?

That feels like a much more achievable task compared to writing a dozen essays before the payoff of hitting publish on a complete book. Like Hugh, I might publish one for free, then a few others at $0.99 each. In my case, since they’d be illustrated, I’d be particularly interested in the print-on-demand format, so that’s something that I’m excited to experiment with.

Learn to Sketchnote

Want to learn how to take notes like those I shared above? If so, I think you’d enjoy our course An Introduction to Visual Note-Taking:

Reconnect to making marks by hand as you learn to use text, layout, imagery, and color to engage your visual brain.

That course will walk you step-by-step through the process of developing all of the individual skills you need, then you’ll get to bring those skills together into your own sketchnoting process.

You can also explore our full course library here.

Once you’ve got a few more visual skills under your belt, maybe you too could add some simple sketches or illustrations to the book that you’re going to self-publish!