As a student, I’ve never tried scribbling on the margins of my textbooks while listening to seemingly endless lessons. Maybe I should have, then I wouldn’t have been nodding off so much in class; and I might’ve learned more.
Doodling, by definition, is an aimless action, historically connected to foolishness. Doodles don’t have a specific or standard framework, and range from abstract, random designs to more complex drawings. Classically, doodling occurs during long lectures or tedious meetings. As such, it has been given negative connotations, and seen as a sign of inattention.
However, studies have shown that doodling isn’t just a useless pastime. It can be a tool to enhance memory and attention. A study by psychologist Jackie Andrade in 2009 showed evidence of better information recall among subjects who doodled while listening to a long, dull voicemail message. It is postulated that doodling engages the brain’s default network, just enough for it to still pay attention. Our minds are designed to process information continuously. Without sufficient stimulation (i.e. boredom), our brains go off-track by making up more interesting material, like daydreams or fantasies. In addition, paying close and continuous attention is mentally exhausting. Doodling can alleviate this by letting our brains take a break without fully going offline.
As a self-care tool, doodling is a simple method of channeling our emotions through visual language. It provides a do-it-yourself alternative for turning our positive, negative, or even destructive feelings into constructive artwork. As a stress-reliever, it is a spontaneous act, allowing us to vent and concretise our thoughts at that particular moment. It can be an aid for self-discovery, giving us insight and opportunity for introspection. According to Cathy Malchiodi, this method of creating connections between our thoughts and feelings helps bridge the gaps between our narrative and sensory memories, and provides guidance in our lives.
When applied to creative thinking, doodling is a conducive part of the process. It can help us understand difficult concepts, serve as springboards for more complex ideas, or act as blueprints for future work. It also gives us freedom to experiment and innovate. For visual artists, doodling can be a simple tool for warming-up before more dedicated artwork. There is no pressure to create something refined or even representational. There are no rules; and the results are more personal and unique. By making that first mark on paper, without the burden of perfection or anxiety from self-critique, that fear of the blank page can be overcome as well.
For fountain pen users, doodling is an ideal method for enhancing note-taking and expressing ideas or emotions through visual interpretation. Given that the instrument and medium are highly compatible for making that vibrant line or eloquent mark, it would be a great pleasure and welcome distraction to just doodle away.
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Written by Lekz Umali
Check out her art on Instagram!