The Zen of Doodling

Exploring “Creation Meditation”

Start with a shape, a circle perhaps?  Or maybe begin with a line, straight, zigzag, or a series of turns, twists and loop de loops?  Add onto what you started with maybe a pattern…Circle, line, circle, line, dots.  Punctuate with a triangle- just for fun.  Take those lines for a walk and see where they take you, putting off any specific destination in mind.   Work with in a small area like 2”x 2.”A calendar block, the back of a business card, or a post-it note is perfect.  A small space provides comfort lest you prefer journeying in a vast wilderness of white space. 

Work in pen so you won’t be tempted to erase.  Fill in some shapes if desired. Put letters, numbers, keyboard symbols, and words in your tool box.  Keep working until you feel an end point.  Then leave it.  Come back later and look at it with fresh eyes.  Often you will be charmed by a doodle that you didn’t like initially.

The rules are simple- no erasing, no judgment, no starting over. Let your hand go where it wants to go.  This is merely a creative exploration to see what comes up.  As you progress with this practice, maybe add recognizable objects.  I seem to be fond of birds, teapots and tea cups. Sometime my random shapes become objects without intention.  Odd cars and animals have been known to appear and I delight in building on to them.

 If you are a writer you can doodle with words and letters.  Start with one word and through a stream of consciousness; add more words that might relate.  Feel free to put them upside down, sideways, smaller, bigger, thick or thinner than the original word.

This exercise functions in some ways like Julie Cameron’s morning pages.  Allow your pen to express what it needs to express. Doodling has freed me to examine myself, my fears and my willingness to explore.  It allows me to have a little fun without worrying about outcome.

I started this practice because I no longer had time to do my visual art daily due to all my writing and home improvement projects I had undertaken.  Inspired by the book, If You can Doodle, You Can Paint, by Diane Culhane; I knew I had the time to do at least a daily doodle!  My day planner had an unused square.  First thing in the morning after I planned my day, I started doodling in that square before I got out of bed.

After several months of this, I have fallen in love with these quirky expressions to the point doodling has become a favorite art form.  As with any practice it has evolved.  I have developed more of a style with reoccurring themes.  Some of these have wound up as part of larger art pieces, and some I am going to expand into pieces in their own right.  Some have inspired stories, but the vast majority remains “creation meditations.”  This detachment from outcome can lead me to places I never would have gone.  As a result, I am less inhibited in my creative process. My doodles have gone wild inhabiting my journal, notes, or wherever there is a fallow piece of white space.

I doodled all through high school and university courses to help keep me focused.  Remembering this, when I taught a middle school, I allowed students my doodle during lectures when they did not have to take notes.  For many people like me, lines provide an anchor.  Now much later in life, I have again allowed myself the pleasure. 

Try it!  Buy yourself some special pens.  I am especially fond of the fine line pens from Jet Pens if you don’t have a local art supply store you can visit. 

Happy doodling!

PS- see more doodles on my new instagram feed @almostdailydoodle. I’m also blogging at One Sweet Earth.

10 thoughts on “The Zen of Doodling

  1. Hi Alanna,
    Just wanted to take a moment that I find your blog a source of respite during these challenging times we’re all facing, thank you!
    Also, in a previous message to Raymond, I had mentioned that the two of you might like the movie, “Maud,” starring Sally Hawkins. Alas, Raymond replied that you had both already seen this film. 🙂
    I hope you both have an enjoyable July 4th holiday in the days ahead, too!
    All my best,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Peter for being a fan. Raymond says you make documentary films so you know the need to express. Speaking of films, Maudie is one of my absolutely all time favorites. Such a fabulous storey with such well done acting.
      I hope you are staying well and in good spirits during this time. Writing and art saves me.


  2. Alanna, There’s something about the way you write… just reading the words makes me feel calm and peaceful; those dawdles have a similar effect. So congrats.
    I think we have a few things in common, mixing writing, visual art and music. My new blog Artists On Art is an attempt to bring them together and hopefully engage with likeminded others.
    BTW, do you know our beloved Australian artist/cartoonist/philosopher Michael Leunig? Couldn’t help thinking of him when you mentioned your birds and teapots. Try googling Leunig and Mr Curly ~)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bruce, What a great gesture to take the time to comment on my writing in such a thoughtful way. It’s rare I receive feedback on my writing after I turn it loose into cyberspace. I’m glad its had a positive effect on you.
      AND…Thank you for alerting me to the work of Michael Leunig! I just spent way to much time on his website laughing away. Any guy that loves birds, teapots, and an odd duck is a favorite of mine! I will be returning soon.

      When I first checked out your blog I thought whoa, kindred spirit here. I get what you are trying to do and will be looking forward to more posts!

      Liked by 1 person

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