How You Get More from Doodling

Zentangle Our Lemonade Days

I don’t know how things work in classrooms now with all the technology available. Do students still use notebooks or do they just record the lecture in their mobile devices? Hmm, I wouldn’t like that at all. When I was teaching, I didn’t allow my students to have their phones, ipods, or laptops out, except for very few and select instances. Gadgets weren’t as rampantly used back then, so I didn’t want some students to have an unfair advantage over the others by using one.

Since I homeschool my kids, they can’t clue me in either on what learning in a traditional classroom is like these days. In our eclectic homeschool setup, my daughter doesn’t have to take down notes. She does copywork, but she doesn’t note down important details when I’m explaining things to her. I think that’s a pity because I’ve found note-taking to be a very beneficial skill.

I was great at taking down notes. Classmates were forever borrowing mine to photocopy back in the day. They were practically written in shorthand, but were mostly legible, so the borrowers patiently put up with my penmanship.

I do have a nice cursive, if I do say so myself, but it’s hard to maintain it when you’re trying to catch and jot down all the salient points that the teacher is saying.

My chicken scratch wasn’t the only thing they had to deal with when using copies of my notes. I doodled in between actual note-taking, so they were treated to a lot of swirls, flowers, butterflies, paisley patterns, and Spencerian script practice lettering along the margin.

Doodling was frowned upon in my school. Notebooks were to stay neat. Also, I suppose if you were supposed to be listening to the teacher and taking down notes, but were doodling instead, it would seem as though you were being inattentive.

Doodling advocate Sunni Brown, however, proposes that the activity is more than just mindless drawing. She says it’s deep-thinking in disguise and is an effective problem-solving tool. There is also research that indicates that doodling actually aids memory retention.

Now, I may not have an eidetic memory, but I was the kind of student who remembered what she learned in class. If I had been paying attention, I would have been taking notes and doodling. Even if I never got around to reviewing my notes, I would still do well in tests.

Outside the classroom, doodling often helped me pass the time. I don’t have any remarkable drawing skills, but I have to admit liking the results of my doodling, which tended to look psychedelic. I had the habit of starting from a simple shape and then building up from that. You could tell that I was partial to swirls, polka dots, and paisleys. That was my natural doodling style. It was certainly a surprise to me to learn that there was a name for it: Zentangle®.

Described to be a purposeful and structured style of drawing similar to doodling, Zentangle® supposedly supports a mindful state of being (as opposed to mindless doodling). It is said to be a meditative art form that promotes relaxation and stress-reduction as well as improves mood and self-control.

Like my doodles, Zentangle® consists of repetitive patterns of straight lines, dots, curves, and shading. The Zentangler is allowed to be as creative and free-form in her use of these patterns.

I looked at examples of Zentangle® images and, wow, there are really gifted Zentanglers out there. A lot of the pieces I’ve seen are really intricate. Some people are even selling their creations.

My own doodles are pretty simple, and like I said, I’m not really particularly gifted when it comes to drawing, but I can come up with a pretty picture from putting together patterns of simple swirls, dots, and lines – nothing that anybody would want to pay money for, but the satisfaction derived from the creation process and the pleasure from the result make pretty good compensation as well.

I don’t know about traditional schools, but doodling totally passes as an art lesson in our home school. I introduced the concept of Zentangle® to my daughter and now she enjoys putting together easy patterns, usually inside alphabet letters. I’m grateful that she finds it engaging and that I can include it in my list of suggestions for replying to declarations of boredom. Also, she likes to include drawings and small craft projects in her letters to her pen pals, so for the next batch of mail, she’ll be enclosing their names done in Zentangle®.

Zentangle Midge

I think most people would cotton to the activity. It is simple, creative, and soothing. If your feelings are in some kind of turmoil, you might want to try some aimless zentangling and see if you’ll calm down. You can check out this Pinterest board for some easy patterns to get you started.

There’s obviously more to doodling than meets the eye. Are you a chronic and pathological doodler like me? What’s your doodling style? Have you tried zentangling before? Did you find it enjoyable? Go ahead and share photos of your efforts.

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