“Drawing/doodling can help us to focus on the task at hand. Listening or reading with pencil in hand leads to a 29% better memory recall. Draw/doodling offsets the effects of ‘selective memory blockade’.” ~ Journal of Applied Psychology, February 2009
A few years ago, I was walking along the streets of Summerside, PEI, when I spontaneously began to make some funny noises with my mouth. The sounds were a combination of gibberish and rapping. As I allowed myself to explore and play with these sounds some more, I eventually sank into an eccentric and rhythmic beatbox that I thoroughly enjoyed! It was then that something unexpected happened. A thought appeared in my mind: This is doodling! This is what children do when then draw, except I am doing it with my mouth!
I then realized what doodling really is, the many different ways we can and do doodle, and how doodling is the key to unlocking our gifts and dreams!
Here are three stages to the creative process that I feel are instrumental to people of all ages. They are certainly important in child development, and point to the importance of creating room for free, unstructured play.
Stage 1: Doodle
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” ~ Dr. Seuss
Doodling is playful experimentation and exploration that sparks the creative process. It is a means of opening to, and dreaming up, new possibilities.
Doodling is powerful because its very nature is one of lightness and play. We are not attached to any outcomes, and abide in a present moment state of flow, and in the joy of expression. This flow, joy and lightness loosens the mind and allows us to freely open to inspiration and the unexpected—we open to the unseen world of potentiality!
Doodling allows us to explore and express ourselves through the formless. We access that part of ourselves that can never be contextualized, never be contained, never be structured. This formless state within, this potentiality, is the origin of our dreams and creativity, and it is the state of being children embody and teach us to re-embody—to re-member!
Doodling can occur in many ways. We can draw and paint. We can sing and use gibberish. And we can move our body in a free-flow way just like we did when we were children. We can create from our own imagination, or we can create from others and our surroundings. How we doodle is the structure. But what we are aiming for is the feeling of flow, and the experience of playing with our imagination and intuition—the formless state within.
As we free ourselves in playful improvisation and submit to the here and now, we access the deeper realms of the unmanifest, and move into stage two of the creative process.
Stage 2: Dream
“Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.” ~ John Updike
The dream stage is where doodling begins to take shape in the form of ideas, concepts and vision. Doodling synthesizes and crystallizes into new thought and possibilities.
An example of this is when I write music. I pick up my guitar and instead of trying to write a song (outcome oriented), I allow myself first to improvise melodies and lyrics (process or doodling oriented). And in the free-flow of strumming and singing (and without the need to sound good or have proper rhyming words) a song suddenly begins to manifest – take shape in my mind – often along with lyrics.
The song and the lyrics are the dream. By giving myself over to the doodling process, the dream finds its way to me, not the other way around.
The more structured stage of dreaming naturally emerges out of the less structured stage of doodling. It is a natural evolution – the formless place of the unmanifest, when given room to breathe, emerges into form. This is emergent learning. It is a natural and organic flowering of creativity.
Getting back to my beatbox on the streets of Summerside…after doodling with my voice a while longer, an idea – a dream – suddenly popped in my head. I had a vision for a new playshop whereby I would teach the importance of doodling, along with the many ways we can doodle beyond drawing. I thought about how doodling is an embodied state of imagination, how it births the creative process, and how we, as a society, need to value it more, and the many reasons why we don’t.
And then another dreamy thought emerged: A title for my playshop – Doodle, Dream and the Dance of Co-Creation. Aha! I loved it! I was excited! And it all came about because I allowed myself to doodle! I freed myself to play in the formless.
Stage 3: The Dance of Co-Creation
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” ~Desiderius Erasmus
Creativity is imagination in action. It is where you make your dreams tangible and visible in the world, and co-create with Life.
Building upon my example of writing music, after the dream of the lyrics and melody take shape in my mind, the next step for me is to refine the music, and make it concrete. I do so by writing the verses, chorus, bridge and other elements of the song, and then by recording it. In terms of my playshop, I had to jot down the learning objectives, activities and description, and market it on my website.
The dance occurs when you collaborate, or co-create, with Intelligence of Life. By stepping into your joyful dreams, Life meets you more than half way by bringing you the resources, opportunities and ideas to make your dream a reality. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “…the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”
In my case, the very day I posted the playshop description on my website, someone emailed me stating that they want me to lead it at their convention. This was what I would call a synchronistic moment. Synchronicity is simply Life winking at you. It is the Universe’s way of validating your choices and path, and of entering into the dance of co-creation with you.
Dancing Within and Between the 3 Stages
It’s important to understand that the dance of co-creation is experienced in all three stages. There is a dance of doodling, and a dance of dreaming as well, because in each stage we are inspired by something larger than our individual self; we surrender to flow, and allow Life’s impulses and rhythms to move us physically and mentally.
Another point worth noting is that you don’t always move directly from stage 1 to 2 to 3. Sometimes you may doodle and then dream, and then doodle with your dream. For instance, if my doodling opens me to a new song idea, I may playfully experiment with that song and doodle with it for a while before going to stage three and making it concrete.
Stages overlap. They blend and interweave, and therefore, are not separate from one another.
Bottom line, creativity is not a linear process. It can be messy and unpredictable. That’s why being in a flow state is important—so we can be open to the unpredictable twists and turns of the creative path.
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Nurturing the Dreamer. Unlocking the Dream.
Letting children doodle, dream and dance is one of the best things we can do, because it nurtures their soul, and because the world needs new soulful dreams.
The world needs new dreams, but we must first nurture the dreamer. We need to let children lose themselves in playful experimentation – in doodling – and we must understand the power and productive element of what others may see as frivolous, unproductive action.
We place so much emphasis on the need to create structure, and learn through it, but we do not realize the cost to the human spirit. We do not realize how much our need to have outcomes stifles the creativity and gifts of the child.
The freedom to experiment and explore is the foundational process to activate new dreams and the creative process. By allowing children to move through these three stages we help them find meaning and purpose, and strengthen their self-esteem. We support them to feel empowered, and to birth a new vision of possibilities for themselves, humanity and our planet.
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Check out Vince’s book: Let the Fire Burn ~ Nurturing the Creative Spirit of Children, A Children’s Book for Adults