Tuesday, February 26, 2019

How Note-taking Helps Me As a Creative

I have a thing with taking notes.

As a big non-fiction fan who geeks history and science, I jot down every interesting details. Stacks of notebooks pile up over the years.

I enjoy making my own history timelines. Which Chinese emperor was on the throne when Queen Victoria reigned? What was going on in England when Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel? It's fascinating to piece together my own jigsaw puzzle.

A Notebook from Year 1000 to 2000.

Sometimes I pick a very specific timeline to research.

A notebook about the US Founding Fathers.

And I get intrigued and try to make stories out of them.

Comic samples and sketches.

The truth is, I couldn't find the right story within them most of the time. I'd tell myself: It hasn't worked...yet. But it will come. One day.

It means knowing A LOT of trivial facts – which makes for great conversation starters.

It means watching movies and go: Why did they store the Robonaut in the Kibo module? Isn't that suppose to be in the US Lab?

Sketch-notes on the International Space Station.

It means knowing which picture books depict which time eras. Maybe one day it can come in handy at a school visit. Who knows?

Learning history through picture books & graphic novels.

It means creating images for fun from my timelines – because it feels right.

Illustrations on the modern history of information and communication.

And sometimes, in those very very lucky times, a publisher has a project that matches up precisely with my deep passion, and that's when I know I'm ready for it.

"Frenemies in the Family", written by the brilliant Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Maple Lam,
published by Crown.

Interior pages of "Frenemies in the Family".

In the end, you just have to trust that all the dots will connect one day. And honestly, even if the dots don't connect, the journey of learning and creating is rewarding in and of itself.


Maple Lam wrote and illustrated MY LITTLE SISTER AND ME and WHERE IS THE TREASURE? She illustrated FRENEMIES IN THE FAMILY by Kathleen Krull, WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A TOOLBOX? by Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, and TWO GIRLS WANT A PUPPY by Ryan and Evie Cordell.

More about Maple at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


  1. I soooo get your passion! A ‘friend’ once told me I was “chock-full of useless information”. They just didn’t know. It’s my super-power!

  2. Such beautiful work. I LOVE seeing inside the construction process. Thank you so much for being so detailed!

    1. Thank you, Shella. Glad you enjoyed it. :-)