The Power of Doodling
By: Alison Hertz
When Tracey asked me to create a blog post for the Summer Sparks Challenge, I knew that I had to share the power of doodling. I am a writer and an artist and over the years whether I’ve considered myself “a writer who likes to draw” or an “artist who enjoys writing” has flip flopped many times. What has been consistent throughout my life is using the art of doodling to both help spark creative flow and to “see” my characters and my story develop.
Whether or not you’ve ever used your writing tools (pen, pencil, computer) to doodle, it’s not too late to start. There is no drawing skill required for doodling and you might surprise yourself. You may have seen Sunny Brown on TED talks about the Power of Doodling and if you missed it, you can click on this link: https://www.ted.com/talks/sunni_brown. Her point and mine is that the act of letting your pencil flow across the page gets areas of your brain active and helps you tap into your creativity mind.
I have three different ways for you to use doodling when you sit to write a picture book or any other genre of your choice:
#1 Before you write, doodle. Sit down with a piece of notebook paper and just draw loopty-loos down the rows – this is a pre-cursive exercise that a child learning to write might be asked to do in school. Create rows of circles, wiggles, zig-zags, and arcs. Draw slow flowing lines across your page while your mind thinks about your characters and your story. Let your mind wander and don’t think about what your pencil is creating on the page. See your story unfold in your mind. Then begin writing.
#2 See your Character – What is she or he like? I don’t just mean physical characteristics like glasses or curly hair (unless these are essential parts of this character). I’m referring to how your character represents him or herself. Does she stands in a slumpy position or does she stand confidently? Doodle. Does he have something sticking out of his pocket that is a hint of more information about this character? Doodle. Does your character look down at his toes afraid of the world or look to sky ready for any challenge. What does your character eat? Doodle it. What does his bedroom look like? Doodle it. Who are his or her friends? What does your character like to do? Doodle all of these things. Doodles are super loose sketches for your eyes only. None of these things might end up in your book but all of them are important to getting to know your character.
#3 See your Story – Write a scene and then doodle something from it. Doodle an object, character, action, or setting from that scene or the next one. These doodles are for you so if you draw an oval to represent one character and a rectangle to represent another, that’s fine. This isn’t an art contest and it isn’t about how realistic you can draw a setting for your scene. Stick figures and geometric shapes are totally acceptable for doodling. Whatever you draw will not only help you see what is showing in the scene, “seeing your story” will help you reduce or tighten your word count. For Picture Books writers – if your character is wearing a hat, your text doesn’t need to describe it and if he or she is standing in a kitchen or a playground or anywhere else, your text never needs to describe your setting because the illustrator will show it. For Chapter Book and Novel writers – when you doodle a setting, you might realize that there could be a WHATEVER behind the WHOEVER doing something that will foreshadow a part of the plot. Think about books like Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME, with all of the details for the story wrap up tucked throughout the story. Let doodling help you find where you can tuck in those details. See your story.
There are many books like John Truby’s THE ANATOMY OF STORY and Jordan E. Rosenfeld’s MAKE A SCENE that teach writers how to tell stories the way movies do; one scene at a time. The best written stories are the ones that allow us to jump in and live the story, see it all around us, be a part of it, and get to know the characters. Doodling (even blobs and stick figures) can help you to see your characters and your story before you write and while you write.
Q&A about Alison…
Did you always want to be an author?
I began writing stories when I was nine years old at summer camp. At the end of each day, I would jot down a few sentences about the crazy activities we did and then make up different endings.
When did you start drawing?
I have been drawing since I could hold a crayon. My teachers in elementary school thought that I wasn’t paying attention in class because I was so busy drawing the characters on the posters that decorated the room. Hey teachers, I was listening. I was just drawing, too.
What is your favorite media to work with?
I love to draw with blue colored pencils. When I studied architecture and city planning in college, we were taught to sketch with non-photo blue so it would not show when we made copies. When I studied toy design, I sketched everything in blue pencils; beginning my drawings with light blue and working darker as the drawing became more defined. Now I use my blue sketches as the bottom layer in Sketchbook Pro on my computer.
Where do you come up with your story ideas?
I’ve always worn many hats. I have been a circus performer, toy designer, camp director, teacher, author, illustrator, and a mom. There are many stories to create from my own experiences as well as from the silly things that I see happening around me everyday. If you don’t see stories unfolding around you, spend some time anywhere that kids hang out.
What made you decide to try to get your stories and your artwork published?
I want to share my stories with lots of kids. The more giggles, the better. I also would love to hear that my stories inspire kids to read. Reading takes you on adventures and educates your mind about anything and everything you ever wanted to know.
Circus? Toy Designer? Really?
Yes, I performed in the circus when I was 12-16 years old and yes, I designed hundreds of toys that were sold in major retail stores. I believe in Carpe Diem – Seize the Day. If there is something you want to learn to do – do it. Maybe you want to play piano, learn to speak Spanish, hike the Grand Canyon, learn how to play tennis, … If it’s legal and it’s safe, go for it.
Alison is the author of:
FIND ALISON HERTZ:
I host a daily drawing challenge called
Doodle Day and the group and daily prompts are on Facebook. Whether you are someone who doesn’t think they can draw a straight line with a ruler or a professional artist, Doodle Day is a place to get the create juices flowing and it just might spark your next great idea. CLICK ON THE DOODLE DAY LOGO to join Alison’s group and get loads of prompts!
Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:
Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2: The Power of Doodling by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can! by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World? by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!