Last year I was looking for a daily creative practice that I could stick to. I was not much of a sketcher or morning pager. I needed something kind of short and sweet. Then I noticed the 2’ blank square in my 2020 day planner. Not much going on there but a few spillovers from my to-do list. I committed to filling up those square every day with a doodle or something creative. The ground rules are to use pen and have no judgement on what I come up with. Spontaneity is key.
Fast forward over a year later- my day planner practice is my creative kick start to the day. Not only does it get my pen to the paper in a nonthreatening way, I have created an artifact of my life to look back on though this crazy time of Covid and political craziness. Mostly I create a daily doodle, a weather report, a cartoon, quote, poem or something about my life with words and/or pictures. It’s been an evolving practice. Some have become finished pieces, most I don’t appreciate until I look back at them.
This year, 2021 I couldn’t find the same day planner so I made my own. I purchased a simple blank spiral sketchbook and glued some decorative paper. I customized it for words of the year and monthly goals and then grid out each week as they come along. At first I measured but now I just eyeball it letting the lines be as wonky as they want to be for interest.
My planner is now less about what I need to do but how I need to be…creative and fully alive, paying attention to the inspiration each day has to offer. I highly recommend trying out this daily practice.
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.
PS- see more doodles on my new instagram feed @almostdailydoodle. I’m also blogging at One Sweet Earth.