It's a habit that extends from the classroom to the boardroom, and those who
partake have little control over it.
Not an illicit behavior but the time-honored tradition of doodling.
Words. Geometric shapes. Squiggly lines. Think of any image, concrete or
abstract, and there's a good chance someone's doodled it.
"It's like freedom of expression without a goal. We do it simply for the
pleasure and hopefully we're not judging ourselves as to how it looks,"
says Katherine Q. Revoir, a San Francisco-based creative mentor and author of
"Spiritual Doodles & Mental Leapfrogs: A Playbook for Unleashing
Spiritual Self-Expression" (Red Wheel/Weiser, $16.95). "There aren't
a lot of things in society that aren't judged on how they look."
Laura Newman, a public relations specialist in New Canaan, figures she fills one
to three legal-size pages with her doodles daily. In her case, it's random
words and letters, squares and geometric shapes. The words have no
significance, yet she can't stop writing them and embellishing their shapes.
"I have to force myself to get the pen out of my hand," she says.
"It's almost like biting my nails. I feel this need to move pen to
It hasn't been hard to find habitual doodlers; our own newsroom has several.
Their creations, they say, are both subconscious and random, usually geometric
and not something they think much about. They also say that, despite
conventional wisdom, they are listening pretty intently while the subconscious
impulse takes over.
"It's like a release outlet and it actually helps me sometimes, thinking of
things that someone hasn't thought of yet," says Charlie Ponger, general
manager of interactive for Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc. "I'm
always thinking of things from a different perspective, not thinking of
anything new about drawing."
Joe Fucigna, coordinator of the art department at Norwalk Community College and
a member of the Stamford Loft Artists Association, says he consciously draws
and subconsciously doodles.
"Your mind is relaxed when doodling and you can have the opportunity to
stumble upon ideas," he says. "But you also look at people who doodle
and they doodle the same thing all the time so you wonder if they stay within a
He doesn't believe his own doodling has led to any grand ideas in his art career
but thinks it must provide seedlings. "If people looked at their doodling
and looked at it just for the sake of visual thinking, they might be surprised
at how well they do it. In many ways, we all draw. It's one of the first things
we do as children."
Doodling is a right-side-of-the-brain activity, the half associated with
creation and intuition. What is important about ride-side exercises, according
to the author Revoir, is that they temporarily shut out the more analytical and
regimented left side. "Doodling is such a great thing for people who don't
think they are creative to be creative," Revoir says. "The truth is
that we are all creative but we don't take creative risks and we don't try out
avenues of creative expression. People say, 'I'm not creative,' or 'I'm not an
artist.' That's just not true. We're creative about how we get out of bed in
Fucigna also likes the freedom it represents. "A lot of it has to do with
pattern and repetition but I don't think there's any pressure on anybody
because doodles aren't thought of as anything important," he says.
They can be important to someone like Mike Kahlowsky. He is certified by the
National Society for Graphology, works for writematch Profiles International
in Florida and has studied writing habits for 10 years. He says random sketches
can tell as much about a person as his penmanship.
"When you find someone doodling, it can because they find it a fun method
to relax and release energy," he says. "They are doing things on
their own terms and there's no rules."
By examining a mindless drawing, Kahlowsky can derive information about
someone's physical condition, health, whether they are under the influence and
their integrity level.
For instance, he says someone who doodles heavy-handedly isn't releasing enough
energy through natural ways, or is stressed. Round shapes typically indicate an
easygoing, flexible personality, while straight lines signify an analytical,
rigid mind. Someone who draws the same thing over and over might be compulsive.
Boxes are often a sign of organization.
"There's a lot of different angles you dive into when you analyze a
doodle," he says. "It's not linear, it's the overall picture."
It might also be a matter of stunted creative development.
Revoir says that during adolescence, people trade their outlets of creative
expression for a will to conform. Ask a 4-year-old if she can sing or paint,
and the answer will invariably be yes. Ask a 15-year-old and the opposite
response is almost a given. The author believes this has to do with good
intentions gone awry. A youngster may paint a purple tree only to be told trees
aren't supposed to be purple.
"We arrest ourselves at that place," she says. "If we ever go
back and want to draw again, we will start again at that place where we left
off. That's why most adults will draw a stick figure."
Copyright © 2004, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.