Add Visuals to Your Writing (pt. 2)

Add Visuals to Your Writing (pt. 2)

Welcome to part 2 of the series!

Last week we spoke about the benefits of adding visuals to your writing. Not only for your reader (the point of your essay lands immediately) but also for you as the writer (distilling your thinking, building a brand, increasing your luck and overcoming perfectionism).

This week we get down to business. We will cover:

  1. How to use Procreate (new video product),
  2. A technique to create effective drawings, and
  3. Two strategies to generate ideas.

1. How to use Procreate

I am excited to announce my latest digital product!

Procreate for Writers - a video course that will help you reconnect with your inner illustrator and create effective drawings using Procreate (one of the best illustration apps out there).

This mini-course is based on my top learnings from hosting half a dozen creativity workshops over the last 6 months and helping more than 100 people create effective illustrations.

Who is this for? Anyone who would like to add illustrations to their work. Primarily for writers who want to create sketches that will complement their essays and books. But also for people who want to add illustrations to their next big pitch deck.

What’s included? The mini-course is split into two parts:

  • Part 1 consists of a 16-minute video and slide deck that covers the benefits of adding visuals to your work + my favourite technique for creating effective visuals. It also includes a Notion dashboard with images to kickstart your drawing journey.
  • Part 2 includes a 48-minute video demo and additional slides, where I take you through the 10 key things you need to know about Procreate. We also create an image together using Procreate's key features.

Discount code: Thanks for reading

Creator's Corner. As a token of gratitude, I am offering a 50% discount on the course to all my subscribers until the end of May. Enter CREATORSCORNER at checkout to receive the discount. If the course is above your budget after applying the discount code, please email me. I would like all my readers to access the content and I don’t want financial constraints to be a barrier to learning.

2. My favourite technique to create effective illustrations: The A/B method

To convey your point, try to illustrate two opposing images: Image A compared to Image B. It creates the contrast that you are looking for between wrong vs. right and before vs. after.

Why the A/B method works:

Remember the “Spot the 10 differences between these two pictures” game you played when you were younger? Humans are great at finding visual differences.

Follow these steps:

This is how I came up with my illustration for 3 As over 5 Bs:

The A/B method in action.

  1. Pull up a quote. I used a quote from Matthew McConaughey, which he used to describe how he reprioritized his life around three key things (acting, family and his foundation) when he realized he was taking on too much.
"I was making B’s in 5 things. I want to make A's in three things.”
  1. Draw a line in the middle to create room for the two opposing forces, A and B. You can always delete it again afterwards.
  2. Think about what the two opposing forces can be. Here it is clear that you want 5 items on the left (wrong) vs. 3 on the right (right). The 5 Bs can be illustrated by arrows that don’t shoot as far up in the sky (indicating distraction). The 3 As, on the other hand, can be bigger/stronger arrows (indicating focus).

See - not that difficult at all. Grab a quote, make a line in the middle, and get drawing!

3. Two strategies to generate ideas

If you want to generate ideas for your visuals, you need to allow inspiration to find you. This can happen in two ways: (1) by speaking to others about your ideas and (2) by fostering an awareness of the visuals that grab your attention.

3.1 Draw from Conversation

Over the last 6 months,

Angie Wang and I have hosted a number of workshops, where we’ve interviewed top creators like Nate Kadlac, Salman Ansari, Elizabeth Edwards, Leslie Sam Kim and Sairam Sundaresan.

One of our favourite exercises is called “Drawing from Conversation”.

Similar to writing from conversation (i.e. talking about the idea for an essay with a sparring partner), drawing from conversation gets you moving.

It’s fun and creative. By speaking to others, you'll think of things you would have never thought of slaving away by yourself.

Conversation is where we express ourselves most naturally. It removes potential blocks in the creative process. We gain confidence from people nodding their heads in approval and we get a sense of where to go next. Plus a bunch of additional ideas (two heads are better than one).

3.2 Draw from Abundance

Start collecting the visuals you love in a folder (or swipe file) for safekeeping. By creating an awareness of what you like, you will start incorporating your favourite influences in your work. David Perell refers to note-taking as “Writing from Abundance”. Consider your graphic library as a form of visual note-taking which allows you to “Draw from Abundance”.

Here is a list of my favourite illustrators:

Nate Kadlac. Twitter. Website.

Sairam Sundaresan. Twitter. Website.

Follow them on Twitter, visit their websites, and study their work.

Over time, you’ll have a bank of ideas to work with that you can remix for your own creations.

If you’re looking for a headstart, feel free to make a copy of my Notion dashboard.

To recap:

  • Use the A/B method to create effective images.
  • Draw from Conversation to test ideas and come up with new ones.
  • Draw from Abundance so that you always have some inspiration to fall back on.

If you want a deeper take on these concepts plus a live demo on how to use Procreate, be sure to check out Procreate for Writers.

That's a wrap.

Good luck with your drawing journey! I'm excited to see what sketches you come up with.

Thanks to Rik van den Berge for reading drafts of this essay.

Originally published at on May 18, 2023.