I'm being smashed between getting over being sick and Christmas preparations, plus working on an important quilting project so I haven't been posting like I wanted.
Practice, practice, practice also known as PPP is the best way to learn to balance hand speed with machine speed when free motion machine quilting.
I prefer to use pencil when drawing on paper, but I have found that using pencil for quilting practice results in having to stop and either sharpen the pencil or advance the lead on a mechanical pencil while in middle of doing a design. A pen works much better. Try to not get too tiny unless you like stitching very densely.
Believe me: Drawing designs out really helps. I ignored this advice when I first started. I wanted to stitch, not draw! But when I took up drawing the designs while at the doctor with my husband so much, I really improved. Can't draw, you say? Doesn't matter. I can stitch much better than I can draw. Some of the above doodles are quite rough.
The important part is just learning the design, making it more automatic and figuring out where to go next with your drawn line. You learn how to get from one area into another. It can help to draw basic quilt block shapes; square, triangles, etc. so you practice putting your design into them like a pieced shape.
How about you? Do you doodle your designs before you stitch them? I think it's fun! Try it and let me know if it helped you.