Struggle with sketchnoting perfectionism? Here’s how to cope

Do you struggle with perfectionism when it comes to your sketchnoting practice?

It can often look like:

  • Trouble keeping up: It could be that you’re slow, but it’s more likely you don’t write or draw fast because you don’t want it to be imperfect or messy-looking. Or maybe you don’t want to synthesize, but try to write every word as it was spokent.
  • Trouble starting: You have trouble getting started with creative projects because you know you won’t be very good at it at first. You hate being bad at something, so you avoid it. Maybe you have a lot of empty sketchbooks laying around because you don’t want to “mess them up.”
  • Trouble finishing: You give up when your notes don’t turn out as you hoped. Instead of refining the sketchnote as best you can and moving on, you tear it out, throw it away, or don’t show anybody.
  • Trouble stopping: Maybe you can’t ever finish a sketchnote because, to you, it’s never done! “I can always make one more change…” You’re constantly adding more things to make it better, but in the end, your notes get too busy and too colorful, and you end up hating it more than when you started!
  • Trouble sharing: You’re too scared to share your work with others because you’re scared they’ll judge your abilities. You’re preoccupied with people thinking you’re good at the skill instead of focusing what a contribution you are!

If any of this sounds familiar, you might have some perfectionism issues to work through! Here are a few ideas to break the cycle:


  • Make the first page of a new sketchbook ugly. Or worse, tear out a page! There… now that it’s “ruined” there’s no pressure to make a perfect sketchbook. Draw something bad on purpose. Color it badly with colors that don’t go well together, like neon pink and brown and gold.

Sketchbooks are meant to be places to practices, not museums of perfection.

  • Invite critique/criticism. Share your work boldly if you haven’t been, then ask for ways to improve. It’s really hard at first, but like most things, it gets easier with practice and repetition!
  • Set deadlines for yourself, especially if you have trouble starting or finishing. Put real consequences in place or get an accountability partner to stay on track.
  • Think quantity over quality! Making more work is the only way to improve, not obessing over one project. From Ted Orland’s book, Art & Fear: 

    [A] ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

    P.s. If you liked this concept, you can practice this in my free course, Reconnect ot Creativity

    Now get out there and conquer your perfectionism! I believe in you.