Since starting university I have discovered I was quick to pick up the old habit of doodling during important sessions and lectures, just like I always did at school. Many people have continued to comment on my doodles and it often comes across as though I haven’t been paying attention to the session. I wanted to write this article to challenge that notion.
Doodling is an act that comes with many negative connotations, which I believe are mostly unfair criticisms. I am not an unintelligent, or absent-minded person, but doodling comes naturally to me and I doodle a lot more than people deem appropriate.
In school I was always told to put my pen down when the teacher was talking and I also got told to cover pages in my book with a blank sheet of paper during inspections because my doodles were not appropriate alongside my notes. No matter how hard I try the temptation to doodle has always been there. I often don’t even think about it, or am not even aware I’m doodling, until someone points it out. For me, it’s not a bad thing, I’m being creative.
But having said that, over the years I’ve seen and heard so many negative comments in regards to the act of doodling and as I said before I think it’s unfair.
Take a look at the most common definition of ‘doodling’ and see how you feel about it: “To doodle officially means to dawdle, to dilly dally, to monkey around, to make meaningless marks, to do something of little value, substance or import and to do nothing.”
I find this rather offensive. The definition is full of negative verbs and it makes the ‘doodler’ seem incompetent and therefore it’s no wonder why doodling is disapproved of among teachers and lecturers alike.
In my opinion my doodles are never ‘nothing’ or a ‘waste of time’ or even ‘an act of disrespect’, and I would never define myself or anyone else who doodles for that matter, as an ’empty minded person’.
If doodling is to do nothing, then creativity and visual learning does not exist and I’m sure we can all vouch that is untrue.
Humans, since the beginning of age, have always been visual learners and have always found the need to represent ourselves and memories through drawings. Take the early cave paintings as a prime example of how pictures were, and still are, used to communicate ideas.
Since the earlier definition of doodling, an alternative definition has been announced by the Oxford Dictionary explaining that: ‘Doodling is really to make spontaneous marks to help yourself think. People who doodle when they’re exposed to verbal information retain more of that information.‘ Now this is a definition I approve of, and believe everyone should be aware of. Doodling isn’t just an act to pass time. It’s a learning strategy, just like making notes.
To me, drawing pictures during important meetings or lessons does not mean I am not paying any attention.
I can listen and still draw; it helps me feel productive and I still learn, even if the evidence on my paper suggests to my teacher/ lecturer otherwise.
Encouragingly, through research, I have discovered that doodling does in fact help people think, remember and learn. And although it’s imprinted into us that doodling is something we do when we lose focus, the truth of the matter is that it’s a pre-emptive measure to stop us losing focus. Having discovered this, it has encouraged me to stand up and express my outrage when people address my doodles as an example of lack of concentration. I hope it helps you too, if ever you face negative comments in regards to your doodles.
If you doodle, be aware of the fact that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Those who doodle are not rude and I wish that everyone, past and present, who has ever commented on my tendency to doodle were aware of that fact, because I am not disrespectful.
Realise that a high percentage of the world are in fact visual learners and that you aren’t a minority that’s been victimised due to scribbles on a piece of paper.
Stand up for your creative expression. Be proud of your doodles! (As long as they aren’t harmful or rude to others.)
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