I’ve always been a doodler, filling the margins of my school textbooks during English class, the blank lines of a phone book as I stayed up until sunrise; laughing into my blanket, discussing the trivialities of education and youth. I love doodling, because it sees our subconscious brought to life, pressed into a blank page, given a chance to exist, to be seen. To doodle is to prevent ourselves from slipping into the beckoning arms of a daydream, to lie on the cusp of thinking too little, and thinking too much. It’s an unfocused depiction of all that falls beneath our physical, mental composition.
Doodling has been proven to be productive, too. Samuel Beckett, Sylvia Plath and Ronald Reagan were all notable doodlers — scribbling geometric shapes, patterns, and caricatures as they went about their daily meetings, considered the flow and power of their written words. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that doodlers have an increased ability to memorize, to hold onto information. According to a study held at The University of Plymouth’s School of Psychology, participants who doodled throughout a presentation were reported as having a 29% stronger memory than their non-doodling counterparts.
So there you have it, doodling is just as productive as it is calming — but I think perhaps there’s more to it than just that, a level of untapped insight.
I think the way we doodle says a lot about who we are, our tendencies for anxiety, our perspectives of the world, a way for our thoughts to overflow, spill out and make room. Spirals, for instance, are one of the most common doodling go-tos, seducing our pen to move in an unfocused circular motion, soothingly, round-and-round-and-round-and-round. It gives us some arbitrary level of control, allows us to silence the stressing tone of our inner voice.
Next time you find yourself caught up in the tide of a jotted spiral, take note of something: whether it’s moving inwards or outwards – for I think it’s relevant, reflective of our state of mind.
Are you constricting yourself, spiraling toward an inevitable center? Or do you create the center, begin there, only to move indefinitely outwards until you hit the edge of your sheet of paper, until you’re no longer able to continue? Indulge me for a moment and consider the spiral as you would your life, your daily routines. Do you view your situation, your jobs, relationships and surroundings, as being repressive — preventing of progress? Do you see your deadlines, chores and daily mundanities as things which restrict your movement?
Or do you view these elements as a foundation on which to build, structure from which to grow?
If you find your pen moving inwards, notice the dull anxiety simmering from within as you near the center. As the circles are forced into shorter, sharper, cursive lines. Now stop, and switch it. Take your pen or pencil and form a simple dot, move outwards, feel the infinite possibility radiate from your sheet of paper, soak in the blankness and relish the power you have to change it, to define it — to expand upon it.
Our lives are unwritten, our futures are blank, and we are nothing but ink being pressed into lines and shapes and patterns and textured, unfocused scribbles. If, indeed, our lives are spirals, do not focus on the center, do not move towards it, dictated by the marks of your past.
Look at the entire page on which you doodle, focus on the possibility, on its potential — and grow.