This article is for the visual practitioners who are connected with me (i.e. folks learning and/or already engaged in visual process work with groups and/or individuals: i.e. graphic recording, graphic facilitation, graphic coaching and the like). In particular, this article is for those who notice they have hesitancy about the visual way of working, even more particularly about working large and being SEEN.

Tell Tale Feelings Of Uneasiness:
However, as useful as working visually is, for some people there are interesting issues that need to be softened and ideally resolved in order to effectively learn and perform it. Some folks notice that the mere thought ofclip-nervous standing at a wall using large sheets or paper (or whiteboards, flip charts, etc) for ALL TO SEE, causes uneasy feelings inside. Feelings that if left unchecked will sabotage your learning curve and curtail your effectiveness (keeping you in the seemingly safe territory of only working in little notebooks, on your digital tablets, or doing isolated work in your quiet studio).

It Ain’t “Interactive-Visuals” If It Ain’t Interactive:
When working with one or just a few people, it’s totally fine to work on smaller sheets of paper or tablets. Just as long as what you are creating can be seen and easily interacted with. However, if you are working with more than interactive-graphics a few people, in my opinion you MUST broaden the size of the medium you are working on so the folks you are working with can SEE and INTERACT with it. You must GO LARGE (either in large paper, foam core, whiteboards and/or projecting your tablet onto the wall). If you don’t you are undercutting the whole purpose of the Interactive-Visuals medium in the first place. What you are doing might be cool, but its not Interactive-Visuals, cause there ain’t no interaction.

What Lies Underneath:
Having been through my own growth curve in this work and having trained hundreds of people, I have great compassion for what lies under the reluctance to work big. I can guarantee that if we dig a little, we will find sort of past incident, most likely in a public setting, which was unpleasant. Maybe even embarrassing, humiliating or in some cases traumatic. I have found, as the SHIFT-IT Coach, that it’s very worthwhile to bring that past incident into the light of day so you can dissipate its charge and get on with the business of learning and performing your visual craft. After all, it’s the modern era and you have a mission to fulfill, dang it!

Some Examples:
In a past Magic Marker Mastermind (an advanced training program for Visual Practitioners) all of the participants found, that to some extent or other, they were leery of large wall work. So we carved out some time at one of our retreats to address this shared dilemma. And what we found was an interesting range of past incidences occurring in different settings and ages that were interfering with their now ability to get up to the wall and make their marks.

3people-chattingEach had some initial inner dialogue that they had no problem getting into (was right there on the surface): “I’m Not An Artist”, “I’m Not Good Enough”, “I’m an Imposter”, “My People Are Out of Proportion”, “It HAS To Be Useful”, “Its Not Valuable Enough”, “People Will Be Disappointed”, “I’m Not Competent Enough”, “I Can’t Be Spontaneous” and “Not Sure How This Fits in My Identity”.

These thoughts were interfering with their ability to just get up at the wall and practice. As I say repeatedly to my visual skills mentees, learning how to do Graphic Recording. Graphic Facilitation, or Graphic Coaching work is like anything, the “only way out is through”. You aren’t going to think your way through it — you must DO your way through it. The more you do, the more you learn, and the more you develop your chops.

Don’t Let The Resistance Win:
However, if someone has a disturbing incident from their past, that is unknowingly interfering, they will resist getting up at the wall to get their development hours in. And they won’t progress. So I have gotten very good over the years in unearthing those incident(s) and soothing it/them, so we can get on with the task at hand. I do not give up easily, as their Future Self (who wants them to be doing the visual work) brought them to me to get over this. And I’m not going to let their resistance win, without trying my best.

Garden Variety Resistance:
tenderrootMost resistance connected to visual work is garden variety (i.e. easily removed). I’m not saying that to discount the vulnerability that my client exhibits (as I treat vulnerability very tenderly) but rather to reassure you that its normally quite easy to overcome resistance to working visually in the larger ways, once you understand what is REALLY GOING ON (and WHO WITHIN YOU is objecting).

In the example of the Mastermind gals, a range of incidences were uncovered, from a period as a new cheerleading drill captain (15-17 years old), a spelling/math bee debacle (5 years old), an unfortunate job placement (early 20s), a range of ‘holding back’ incidences (over the course of childhood and adulthood) and a painful severing of friendships when university was chosen (not the shared path of the high school clique). Its these kinds of early incidents that the sub-conscious mind is associating with the present day dynamics of working visually, getting up at the wall, and being seen.

Soothing and Moving on With Your Markers:
Making the subconscious connection to an earlier time in your life when you felt similar things is often all that is needed to break the fear spell. And doing a little bit of soothing and educating of your younger self.

  • For the cheerleading drill captain, she reassured her younger self that “using visuals is not about being the best, it’s about being the best leader I can be”.
  • For the spelling/math bee contestant, it was “do your best, practice, claim your own uniqueness” (she has apparently spelled something ‘uniquely’, now it was time to claim her unique style different from the norm).
  • For the employee who was previously in a job placement where they didn’t understand or value her interest areas, it was “look for places where visuals do fit” and “look for more knowledgeable opportunities”.
  • For the woman who had a propensity for holding back throughout her life, it was “when you try at the visuals you do feel good”, “you probably won’t be the very worst one at it” and “let yourself just explore it”. By the way, this woman’s output, like all five of these women, was very good.
  • For the woman’s who’s decision to pursue the visual calling reminded her of her earlier decision to go to university (which inadvertently ostracized her from her friends) her soothing was “you survived it”, “you carried on”, “you stood on your own two feet”, “ you made new friends”, and more specially “you are in the wrong place and you can choose to go to a right, better place and it will be ok”.

Spontaneous Visual Notes of the Gremlin Rescues:
Hopefully with these examples you can see the range of the past incidences and how each one beautifully connects in with each Process Professionals block in developing her current visual chops. Once the block is identified one can see the similarity between the old situation in the past and the new situation with working large with the visuals. And how the triggered of the old stuff leads to healing and progression in the now.

Below are the spontaneous visual notes I took (at the wall!) as we worked out way through this collective Gremlin Rescue:



A Note About More Serious Resistance:
To conclude this quick article, I’d like to mention more serious resistance to working visually. I have encountered some folks who have more traumatic incidences that interfere with them learning how to work visually in a large way and being comfortable in this highly visible medium (and also using visible methods like websites, video, social media, etc. to get the word out about their new skills and business building).

clip-lighteningFor victims of trauma (war, accidents, childhood domestic abuse, adult domestic abuse, assault/attack, rape, etc) many aspects of life are a challenge on one’s healing journey. And, not surprisingly, learning to work and be comfortable in the large formats of Interactive-Visuals can be harder for you than others. This work is very public and visible and can trigger vulnerable feelings in those who are still healing.

Exercise plenty of compassion, love and understanding for yourself and your reactions. And seek out the services of a qualified coach, ideally in conjunction with a trauma therapist too, when/if you are ready to progress to participation in public venues requiring large formats. You may find the smaller scale formats (notebook recording, digital recording and studio work) a safer more comfortable place to begin to integrate visual skills into your toolkit.

Public Courses and Private Coaching:
FYI: should you resonate with the subject of this article, just a reminder that this topic is one of my specialty areas. Depending on the nature of your resistance my Public Courses and/or Private Coaching are ways to engage with me on your own resistance issues and most other issues connected to building a thriving professional process related practice.


  1. Ann on

    You’re singing my song, dear! Remember how you would come up behind me at the wall and whisper “Bigger! It needs to be bigger!” ? I see that I have let resistance win by sticking with sketch notes… I’m going to break through this in 2015… that’s a new goal I will declare, thanks to your article and encouragement.

  2. Christina Merkley on

    Will declare? How about you just did! Yes, its an interesting dynamic isn’t it … hiding, deeking or showing up. Working visually just points things out to us about ourselves, at least that is what I find! Nice hearing from you Ann. I’m changing around the Magic Marker offerings. Retreats ala carte now. Perhaps I’ll be lucky to SEE you at one! Much love and support. Your transparency and commitment is fabulous. xo

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