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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Doodle Wall

I am a chronic doodler. I constantly shock and surprise those around me with the extent of my doodling. If I could doodle in formal business meetings (without looking like a twat), I would. I doodle during seminars, I doodle during training, I doodle during meetings with colleagues who know me, I doodle during teleconferences. I fill pages and pages of my notebook with doodles.
This doodle obsession of mine is quite strange. I have never met another doodler as compelled as I. It is not a new thing either – as far back as I can remember, I doodled or drew whenever I was listening in class. In high school, I was the girl with the amazing decorated school diary. Sometimes I would be told off for doodling, but most of the time my teachers ignored it.
This is my doodle wall:

Yes, my entire cubicle is plastered with doodles. There’s nothing else to do with them really, and I already give a lot away. I know that it’s unprofessional and distinctly UNCORPORATE, and the law firms that I have worked at would never tolerate such behaviour (or office decoration). Until I’m in a senior enough position, or have aspirations to get there, or I leave Government (who are so tolerant!), I plan to take advantage of the joy that doodling gives me.
It’s not all bad, and this is what I try to tell people who look down on me and my doodling:
At a famous world economic forum, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared on a panel with Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and the rock star Bono. After the panel, a journalist wandering the stage came across some papers scattered near Blair's seat. The papers were covered in doodles: circles and triangles, boxes and arrows. Blair was widely criticised in the media for his doodling, which supposedly signified he was “struggling to maintain control” and “not a natural leader” but more of a spiritual person, “like a vicar” (Oh yes, love the UK tabloids).
A couple days later, No. 10 Downing Street finally weighed in. It had done a full and thorough investigation and had an important announcement to make: The doodles were not made by Blair; they were made by Bill Gates. Gates had left them in the next seat over. If Bill Gates did it, surely I can too?
According to NPR.org, and various neurological experts, doodling is the brain’s way of staying ‘awake’ when it is under stimulated. When the brain lacks sufficient stimulation, it essentially goes on the prowl and scavenges for something to think about. Typically what happens in this situation is that the brain ends up manufacturing its own material. This means daydreams and drifting thoughts.
The function of doodling, according to Andrade, who recently published a study on doodling in Applied Cognitive Psychology, is to provide just enough cognitive stimulation during an otherwise boring task to prevent the mind from taking the more radical step of totally opting out of the situation and running off into a fantasy world.
Andrade tested her theory by playing a lengthy and boring tape of a telephone message to a collection of people, only half of whom had been given a doodling task. After the tape ended she quizzed them on what they had retained and found that the doodlers remembered much more than the nondoodlers.
In other words, doodling doesn't detract from concentration; it can help by diminishing the need to resort to daydreams.
It explains a lot about my childhood and how I was always in trouble at school. I was always doodling or chatting or doing other things while the teacher was talking. My grade one teacher told my parents to get me tested for ADHD- they did, but apparently I could concentrate for long periods when I was interested in something, so I didn’t fit the profile. There’s another dimension too: sensory stimulation in itself helps us to engage and maintain focus. Maybe this explains why I have so much difficulty not sucking on my finger or pen while concentrating, and how I am still liable to revert to the habit of nail biting occasionally.
Are you a doodler, or do you disapprove of us creatures?


  1. I don't doodle anywhere near as much as you but I do doodle. Mine tend to be repeated patterns or lines.. yours are amazing :)

  2. I doodle occasionally - but seeing as how much of what I do with my time is laptop/iphone/ipad in hand I don't do it so much any more. And I only do the one doodle over and over again (a flower). Nothing as epic as your awesome doodles though.

  3. Wow your doodles are good! I'm more of a scribbler hearts and stars is all I can manage ha ha!

  4. That is an impressive collection Lisa! They are awesome- I want to doodle like that!
    I'm not a doodler, but only because I'm useless at it and I get annoyed at my ugly doodling. If I could doodle like that, I'd do(odle) it all the time!


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