EP 351: Thinking Differently With Writer Kris Windley

Aug 17, 2021 | Creativity, Podcast, Productivity

Tara McMullin is a writer, podcaster, and producer who explores what it takes to navigate the 21st-century economy with your humanity intact. Click here to support this work.

In This Episode:

  • Why writer Kris Windley decided to learn how to illustrate her articles
  • How doodling has helped her work with her ADHD
  • How she finds the idea or image she wants to illustrate for each piece
  • The metaphor she uses to think about skill-building

I’ve become a bit obsessed with the concept of “sensemaking.”

Really, I’ve been obsessed with it my whole life, I just didn’t have a name for it.

Sensemaking is the process of taking sensory information and situational knowledge and creating a framework for meaning and decision-making.

Okay, I know, that sounds kind of heady. But really, we do it all the time.

Imagine you venture into the kitchen after a long day in your home office. The kitchen is torn apart. You see dishes stacked on the counter, cupboard doors open, and pantry items covering the table. You smell a slightly chemical citrus scent in the air. Your spouse isn’t there to ask what the heck is going on.

Quickly, you deduce that they got the idea to deep clean the kitchen and had to step away for a bit. The job is almost finished but there’s still a ways to go and you’re hungry for dinner. You take the initiative to order pizza.

That’s sensemaking.

You went from “what the heck is going on here?” To “dinner is on its way” in less than 60 seconds.

Anyhow, I’ve always got my eye out for a new way to make sense of the world. A framework, a script, a visualization, a map, a diagram… I love these tools. And I make good use of them in my own head.

But my sensemaking tools don’t always make it out of my head.

In the last year or so, I’ve really started to recognize that I have a unique strength for explaining how I make sense of things and that my frameworks are helpful for others, too.

Score another for neurodivergence!

That said, it’s taken some practice find my public sensemaking rhythm. The way I write and speak has evolved quite a bit in a short time—at least from my perspective.

But the other thing that’s shifted for me is the ability to turn ideas into a visualizations and graphic representations. I’ve never thought of myself as very good at visual art or graphic design—even though I wished I was.

Then, I had a conversation with writer, developmental editor, and communications consultant Kris Windley. Kris told me all about how she’d been learning how to draw to support her writing—and that helped manage her attention & focus as she navigates ADHD.

I don’t think I can overstate how much this got my wheels turning. It wasn’t until January that I really got to work on the project finding ways to illustrate my ideas. But once I got started, I couldn’t stop!

Here 8 months later and almost a year after that conversation, I feel like I have a really powerful tool in my toolkit. And that that tool leverages a strength I had only been using at half-power.

This episode is a rebroadcast but, if you follow my non-podcast work, I think it will have new meaning for you now—as it does for me. And regardless, I think it’s really encouraging to hear about how Kris has intentionally and methodically introduced this new skill into the way she works!

Now, let’s find out what works for Kris Windley.

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