Monday, May 05, 2008

How to Expand Your Mind: Doodle

I'm a near-constant doodler. Now I discover that there's neurological evidence that doodling helps us think, solve problems, listen better, and keep better perspective. All of which helps out a lot when one is practicing boldness, creativity, and courage.

First, I discovered at White Cafe a review of a book, Keys to Drawing with Imagination by Bert Dodson. "Best of all, though (the book) contains delightful observations and insights, it isn't drowning in advice, but is mainly focused on fun, free-ranging exercises that plunge you straight into a world of creative experimentation."

The amazing doodly drawings resulting from these at White Cafe led me to go looking for any info on what doodling is coming from and leading to. What I learned in a nutshell in the 9 minute video, doodling: langage, gesture, and cognition, is: there's evidence that speech came, at least in part, from gesture rather than primitive vocalizations. And doodling is gesture. It uses motor skills.

The idea, simplistically put, is that doodling contacts and uses more of our own native creativity and communication equipment. In my experience, it just calms me down, allows for focus.

My first memory is of doodling. I was a toddler of late two or early three, out in the backyard squatting on a bare patch of dirt. I was wearing a sunsuit with a ruffly butt and making marks in the dirt with one wobbly little finger, the other arm held out in the air like an outrigger for balance. My mother and a neighbor were standing near.

I've always wondered why I remembered that. Now I have some support for the importance of making marks in dirt.

From the blog, Consider This: "Doodling taught me to say yes to the spontaneous me, no matter how dumb or clumsy the line was on the paper. By allowing one line to lead to another, by letting the drawing inform me instead of the other way around, I came to appreciate a vastly wider horizon of possibility for me and my world."

A few of my recent doodles: the intricate one below was drawn while listening to a novelist read a chapter of her work aloud for critical feedback, the orange gingerbread angel above is my notes of feedback on my own work, and the lines and circles were done in a class I was teaching while the participants are writing for a few minutes. Definitely three different states of mind.

Drawing the crowded one made it so much easier for me to listen to the reader. I felt as if all distracting thoughts were channeled onto the page and did not interrupt me.

Once many years ago, I wrote an article on root doctors for Sepia magazine. One of the healers I interviewed drew circles and spirals and swoops the entire time we were talking. It was entrancing for both of us.

It was pretty bold of the man to do it. I've found that in face-to-face conversations with clients, they sometimes look alarmed if I take up my artwork. Office supplies stores should sell signs that say Doodling Helps Me Think. Or maybe I could simply speak up.

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mamie said...

I'm glad to read your thoughts on doodling. I always translated it as boredom either from me or toward me. Now I need to re-think the intentions, both mine and those who are supposed to be paying attention. Great drawings, great post.

Peggy Payne said...

I think the breaks in eye contact are what unsettle people, that make it seem that the doodler isn't listening.

Glad you like my squiggles. It's probably the ultimate in narcissism to post such items.

Post some of yours on your site and let us know.

That goes for everybody who might be interested.