The Heartbreaking Task of Not Doing Everything

This post is inspired by The Art of Non-Conformity’s “When to Let Go of an Unsuccessful Project.”

Those of you who know me in the non-digital landscape, and perhaps those who only know me in the digital landscape, know me to be a do-it-yourself and do-all-the-things sort of doer-maker-creative. In essence, when I hear about a new project/venture and asked by friends/peers/coworkers to join in, I don’t know how to say “no, thanks.”

On the one hand, this has opened great opportunities for me to broaden my horizons, learn new skills, meet new people, and try new things. On the other hand, I overload my schedule and time, leaving me feeling burned out, exhausted, and not a little emotional due to my INFJ-introvert sensibilities not being satisfied.

I have gone through phases of being known for doing certain things depending on my focus at the time. In middle school, high school, and some of undergrad/grad school, I was known as a writer and author due to publishing historical fiction. Then things started to shift in grad school from being a writer-author (though I did publish another book just after grad school) to being a sketchnoter and  dancer (though I had no real training, I was just always dancing around the halls).

Almost three years out of grad school and somehow I’m known as a sketchnoter and swing dancer only. I have to admit, a part of me mourns the writer-author. For twelve years that was my focus, to read and write and read and write some more until something is ready for some semblance of publication. I’ve had a really hard time making it work this past year, though.

As much as I want to publish historical fiction again, I’m not making the time investment it requires. I haven’t gone to the library to scour history books in about four months. I haven’t picked up my writing journal to jot down a new scene, plot point, or character quirk in almost as long. Every now and then (usually when trapped on a plane) I will write two pages of this book I’ve been struggling to write for three years, only to have all imagination, verve, and interest deep dive into crippling doubt at my ability by the end of the second page. I still read fiction, but it’s mainly to take advantage of having a couple hours to myself on the off-chance I’m not running around after The Boy’s dogs or my family or swing dancing.

It’s been a tough six months of me coming to terms that I am shifting my attention from an activity that once defined me, to something new. It’s been something of a heartbreak for me to realize I really can’t do all the things. Despite society telling me (and I kind of believe) that I can and should and must do all the things because I am part of a generation that has the best opportunities of any American generation to date.

All this to say, last night I realized my passion is not in historical fiction anymore. It might come back, but for the time being, the time I’m supposed to be writing and editing is spent sketchnoting and swing dancing. This is called “procrastiworking,” from Jessica Hische, which I love.

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” – Jessica Hische

I daydream about how to teach people sketchnoting, the benefits in attaining this skillset and how to improve my own. When I have the time, I watch hour-long talks in my evenings just so I can sketchnote the content. I write books about sketchnoting and give talks at conferences. I’ve dreamed about having a virtual classroom to help non-local sketchnoters critique their results. I’ve also begun taking commissions. And when I’m taking a break from sketchnoting, I’m geeking out at lindy and balboa videos, due to a particular spin or clever  footwork or fantastic connection style.

To go back to the first sentence in this post, I’m not letting go of my writing because it is unsuccessful. I make roughly $50 – $70 a month on royalties, without me doing much of anything anymore. The problem is the lacking passion. I am heartbroken by my apparent lack of passion for something that fueled me for so long.

I’m struggling to be ok that this one passion has splintered into two instead: 65% sketchnoting, 45% swing dancing.

And no, that math is not off. I have a habit of giving 110%.

So therein lies my update: I am heartbroken that I can’t do everything, while at the same time feeling so excited that I’ve found these new passions in my life. It’s an odd place to be for a creative, this transition stage. But it’s probably also rather healthy. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Am I the only one who goes through this?

Your name is What? ideogram

Since no one ever knows how to say my name properly the first time, I’ve been playing around with the idea of making personal business cards with the pictogram of my name on one side, and all my activities and services on the other. I dunno. It’s fun to think about.

How do you say my name?

Bin-EYE-uh-bee. Or maybe bih-NYE-uh-bee would be more accurate, but more difficult to draw. Not gonna lie, I can tell when I’ve met someone in person based on the way they pronounce my name. If they get it right, then I know they must know me or someone I know taught them. Pretty nice filtering mechanism if you ask me!

Cross-posted at dribbble. Ballpoint pen on Moleskine paper.

Hawkeye Swing Festival Spotlight

As I might have mentioned once upon a time, I am part of the SwingColumbus competitive and performance teams. The Hawkeye Swing Festival event (where we won first place for the team competition!) has chosen an awesome photo to spotlight on their homepage.

HOMG legs. Click the image for the full-size browser version.

Empowering Myself via Side Income

Been a while. I’m in the midst of a financial revolution, you guys. Mainly, I have decided I resent having to pay my student loans and registration fees for conferences and swing dance events out of pocket, and I want to do something about it. While my side book business is bringing in marginal amounts each month, I can’t control what readers find interesting and worth buying.

Which, by the way, if you’re interested in a sample of my work, I just released a new short story that is free for Amazon Prime members, under my pen name. Otherwise, it’s $1.99. Would love to get your reviews on Amazon if you happen to read it! Reviews are so key for authors to reach more readers.

All that said, I’m becoming serious about forming a side business that brings in consistent work and funds. It’s something I’ve always planned to do (following my father’s example). The idea that I rely on one source of income is, frankly, terrifying. Who knows what might happen, what if I can’t work at my normal day job for some reason? What if I decide one day to have children, and I don’t want to pay for daycare? Can I set up a business now so that if I want to leave my day job, I have that as a backup?

So I’ve begun to put my feelers out there. I have an account on where I promise to sketchnote some things for you. I’ve already got a couple bites, which is encouraging. I’ve also put up a mini-critique on as a user experience designer. The idea is I would gather testimonials so when I begin to charge clients for more realistic amounts, I have customer credibility.

I also bit the bullet and enrolled in the Earn 1K course by Ramit Sethi. The lovely Veronica Erb  pointed me in Sethi’s direction a month or so ago. He’s a personal finance expert who understands that it can be difficult and/or impossible to change spending habits. So, if you know your habits, what you need to do is generate more income to cover those habits. Anything you can automate in generating that income is highly encouraged.

This isn’t to say I’m not making enough money at my job. I suppose I am, especially since I’m situated in the midwest. I’m more concerned that with all my activities, I want to get rid of my student loans as soon as possible. But I don’t want to use my paycheck because I already have the majority of that budgeted out. I’m doing my best to be responsible with my monies, and hopefully, profitable.

So if you know someone who is looking for a sketchnoter, an eBook formatter, or a website critique, send them my way. I’ll keep you updated on this crazy journey of entrepreneurial life.

Six Month Recap

Hey! So yesterday marked the year anniversary of my employment at WD Partners. I figured this would be a good time to reflect on some of the things that have happened recently, or at least since my last post in January.

Sketchnotes Field Guide for Sale

First, the Sketchnotes Field Guide book has sold fairly well! That’s exciting. People have been encouraging and enthusiastic, saying they were able to apply the methods in the book immediately, whether they read it or glanced through the pages. That is exactly the sort of thing a how-to author wants to hear. Feeling very grateful to all our readers, and to my co-author, Charlene McBride, for being such a great partner.

Our process to create the book, I’m realizing after the fact, was unconventional. We agreed to write the book together back in August 2011, and had a finished product in January 2012, without ever having met in person. The entire book was written via Google Docs, email, Skype meetings, and uploaded images. We used the same process when we joined forces with the fantastic Veronica Erb to run the Let’s Sketchnote! workshop at Midwest UX 2012. But wait! I’m getting ahead of myself.

Swing Columbus Performance Team

I joined the Swing Columbus performance team last fall, in November maybe, and the first quater of 2012 was a flurry of dance practices and competitions. We placed first at the Dayton Smackdown team competition, and the larger Hawkeye Lindy Festival team competition. All that hard work was worth the smiles on the faces in the audience, regardless of the outcome, but it was definitely nice to take home the trophies.

Speaking Engagements

On May 4th, I spoke at the Stir Trek conference about the topic Sketchnotes for Developers, i.e. Everyone. This was my first solo hour-long experience, which was nerve-wracking enough. Throw in the fact that I drew my entire presentation on 5 x 8 index cards and used the iPevo document camera to project the content on the movie screen (yes, movie screen. My handwriting was larger than the length of my body sometimes). Yeah. There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong. Such as me not having a lamp to illuminate my slides, among other things. Luckily a swing dancing friend was attending the conference and appeared at the movie theater with a tri-head floor lamp. It was fantastic.

On May 31, I led the Let’s Sketchnote! workshop with Veronica Erb and Charlene McBride. We prepared for the conference by writing the pitch together via Google Hangout and Google Docs, scheduling via Google Calendar, and sharing our sketches via the iPevo document camera. From the first inception (via Twitter), to writing the pitch, to running the workshop, I never met them in person over the four months I collaborated remotely with them.  In fact, the first time I met Charlene (even after writing a book with her!) was Thursday morning about half an hour before the workshop was slated to begin.

Ladies and gentlemen, in case you weren’t aware, we are living in the future.

The workshop went so well! People were stopping all of us, sharing their sketchnotes and asking questions about their difficulties, the remaining two days of the conference. It was great.

Keep Moving Forward

Projects on the horizon include picking up my historical fiction again. The children’s book is laid out in full, just waiting on the final illustrations and layout. So that’s exciting. Other than that, this post is getting too long. Keep smiling, keep dancing. I’m out.

Living the Dream

Forgive the radio silence!

I’ve titled this post “Living the Dream” because I think it’s important to note that even though I love being a user experience designer, it was never my dream to become one. Not my childhood dream, anyway.

Honestly, I’m not sure any child dreams of becoming a translator, as it were. A professional who facilitates projects via their soft skills and documentation to ensure features within a holistic system benefit and hopefully delight customers.

My childhood dream was to be a writer. I have wanted to write books for as long as I can remember.

  1. Historical fiction books
  2. Picture books
  3. How to books.

I wanted to create content and have people read it, enjoy it, and feel inspired to make something themselves. As of last Friday, I can now say that I am in the process of doing all three: children’s book, historical fiction, and how-to. I am living my dream.

I keep saying it because I want to remind myself. I am living my dream. How many people can say that?

Before I talk about the new project, first let’s get you updated on the project I last blogged about.

The How-To Book

The Sketchnote field guide book is coming along really well! The beta readers are liking the context and structure; they have great feedback and I’m feeling really encouraged about this project. I have to say, without Charlene McBride’s collaboration, this project wouldn’t be nearly as strong as it is. The survey people filled out for me back in August is what brought Charlene to me, and helped us focus the book.

I’m so excited to share it with people! It will definitely be on Lulu (they allow royalty splitting), and maybe on We still need to figure that out. Keep your eyes peeled, though. We’re hoping to release it in January, just in time for conference season.

The Historical Fiction Book

Under my historical fiction pen name, I started a book four times before I felt like it was something worth writing. This fourth start has around 24k words, which is about 30% of the final word count. I’ve stopped writing because I realized I needed more research… ergo me dragging ten books home from the library about Ohio and the Civil War.

The Storybook

The new project I keep hinting at is a children’s storybook. I’ve loved the process of checking out thirty children’s books at a time, consuming them at a leisurely pace and asking 6yr old Binaebi what she liked about each one. I’ve loved reading the how-to-write for children books, learning the nuances between picture books and storybooks, the intentions of each, the intended age groups, and the parents that buy books for their children.

I’ve loved chatting about the project with my illustrator and collaborator,  who suggested we write about robots (because he loves them). I’ve felt inspired by his supportive enthusiasm when I insisted it be about a girl robot, and that it have something to do with dancing (because we both love dancing). The main character’s name is Beatrice, and that is about all I’m willing to share at this point. Maybe later I’ll leak some the sketches my collaborator has been sending me. They’re so adorable.

Anyway, at the risk of sounding like a broken record (does that idiom even apply anymore?), I just wanted to share that I’m living my dream. Why? I don’t know. I guess in the hopes that you might feel inspired to do something tonight or tomorrow that gets you one step closer to living your dream.

Genevieve Bell continues to inspire

Dianna Miller : Which areas of research do we still need to put more focus on?

Genevieve Bell : I think we have a great deal more work to do, which is good because I like research. We have spent a lot of time focusing on the obvious and the obviously sexy stuff – mobility, gaming, social networks, and of course the individual and youth. We have, as a consequence, neglected the other stuff of daily life – religion, spirituality, love, child-care, anyone over 40, who does the dishes, who puts out the recycling, community, the nation-state, changing ideas of citizenship.