Do you find yourself drawing lines on the sides of your notes, or drawing a picture of a stick figure in a canoe going over a waterfall while you listen to your boss drone on and on? Do you write your name in a thousand different fonts, or write your name with your last name’s crush?
Growing up, odds are you called this “doodling.” Today, doodling has become quite the phenomenon. Doodle books, doodle courses, doodles on Google… they are everywhere. But then again, those “doodles” look nothing like the stick figure doodles you drew in your history text book, right? But does that make them any less of a doodle? What qualifies as a doodle, really?
Definition of Doodle
A doodle is, by definition, a scribble or mindless drawing that gets released from your pen and hand when your mind is otherwise preoccupied. This is pretty common during school, meetings, and when you’re on the phone, which are all times when you are listening to something actively. Generally speaking, doodling has floundered between being a sign that you’re not paying attention, to meaning that you’re fully engaged and your brain is processing information, to nowadays meaning that you have great artistic skill and you should make an adult coloring book to make millions!
Today, we have moved away from just accepting doodling as something we do when we’re thinking to something we do because we are artistic. This has become so much of a phenomenon that I heard on the bus the other day, “That’s not a doodle!” when a little kid showed his friend his notes. It was, in fact, quite a fantastic doodle of a little boy fighting a stick figure dragon, and on the page were his science notes. You can pretty much guarantee that kid is going to remember those notes for his science test!
But this raised the question for me: Do we now get to grade what is and what is not in fact a “doodle”? Wouldn’t our new definition of the word actually contradict the traditional definition? It doesn’t make much sense to tell someone that their doodle isn’t in fact a doodle because they didn’t put thought or effort into it.
What is this telling our kids and even ourselves about our creative ability? What if we say “That’s not a doodle” next time our kid shows us a drawing? Because it’s not artsy enough, or because they don’t have a knack for drawing, we’re going to qualify their mindless doodle as “Not a Work of Art.” A doodle, by definition, means that anyone can make one. A doodle, by definition, means that you don’t put effort into it.
When you start putting effort into it, and that’s totally great if you do, that’s when it becomes an art and something we should critique. But creative doodles are just every brain’s way of expressing something, no matter how well the hand can interpret it. Don’t judge a doodle by others!