Are You a Doodler?

During a long telephone call, do you pick up a pen or pencil and begin to draw (make pictures) on a piece of paper? In school do you, or did you, draw in the margins (along the sides of the pages) of your notebook while listening to your teacher and trying to take notes? Do you draw on your notepad (sheets of paper fastened together for taking notes) during business meetings? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you’re a doodler.

Doodling is drawing without really thinking about what you’re doing, usually while doing something else, like talking on the phone, listening to your teacher, or sitting in a business meeting. And many people do it.

The word “doodle” has an in interesting history. According to Wikipedia and other sources, it first appeared in the early 17th century – early 1600s. It meant fool (stupid person) or simpleton (someone with low intelligence). Not a good start!

Before the American Revolutionary War, British soldiers sang a song – Yankee Doodle – to mock (make fun of) the army of the American colonies. They often called the colonists “Yankees”, so when they sang that song, it was like saying “stupid colonists”. Maybe that’s why the colonial army fought so hard!

In the early part of the 20th century a new meaning emerged (appeared). Doodling became an activity that you did absentmindedly (without thinking) while doing something else, like listening to your teacher. And someone who doodled was either wasting time or being lazy.

In 1936, doodling’s reputation (people’s opinion about something) took a turn for the better (improved). In the movie Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, one of the characters uses scribbles (drawings made very quickly) to help himself think. And he called them … doodles.

Today it seems that doodles and doodling are becoming cool. Google doodles appear on its home page on special days. They are delightful (fun) changes made to the Google logo (a small design that identifies a company) to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous people.

Last year Sunny Brown proposed (suggested) a new definition for doodling. She believes people should think of doodling as “making spontaneous (unplanned) marks to help yourself think.” She and others believe that doodling helps the brain to focus on (pay attention to) our thoughts. And that it helps us organize our thoughts, remember them, and share them with other people in a way that’s easy to understand.

I’m a doodler. I may do some of the doodling I described at the beginning, but it’s usually the kind that Sunny Brown describes. I often carry a notebook so I can doodle to organize my thinking about something. In fact, I doodled to organize my ideas for this blog post. I often use a special kind of doodling called mind mapping. When I was in graduate school, I mind-mapped much of the reading I had to do. When I teach, I often fill the board at the front of the room with mind maps and other kinds of doodles to help my students understand what I’m talking about. In my office, I keep a pile of large sheets of paper for mind mapping close to my desk, and I have a mind-mapping app on both my iPad and laptop.

Many great writers, artists, and scientists have been doodlers. The doodles in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, for example, show a brilliant (intelligent, creative) scientific and artistic mind at work. Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and several other American presidents were doodlers.

Are you a doodler? What kind are you, the absentminded kind or the kind Sunny Brown describes? Or, like me, both?

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you can find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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14 Responses to Are You a Doodler?

  1. Dan says:

    Hello Warren,

    Thanks for this interesting and informative post. I would like to remeber that for me reading this post and try writing down something it’s important.
    And I have got the chance to put into practice what I pick up during my listening and reading activities.
    Said that I am gonna try answer your question.

    I do not know whether I am a doodler or not.
    That is because I only use a pen at the workplace to make a report of my workday; things like how many copies I have produced, waste, stops, and so on.
    I am probably a doodler as I think everyone else unless you have some kind of brain damage. I just do not have the chance of doodling.

    I find that curious that you carry a notebook for doodling. Isn’t that something kind of extreme.
    You know, kind of an addiction. So, you are like liutenant Columbo, when he takes out his notebook.

    What about you all guys?
    reading you, bye!

  2. Peter says:

    Dear warren ,
    By mind mapping I believe you mean brainstorming
    I guess mind mapping is a fancy word for that .
    I gotta say ,we don’t see eye to eye in regards to doodling.
    We do doodling ,everybody does
    If some great thinkers happened to be doodles it duesnt justify the theory.
    I mean ,we doodle subconsciously.
    You doodle without even noticing it ,so how come it will help your concentration or focus.
    I m afraid I can’t see your point here.

    Sorry pal,

  3. Betty says:

    Dear Warren

    Thank you so much for this very important article.  It is very important for me.  I want to tell you why it is important but I do not have time this morning.  

    My daughter is going to fly today, to very close to where you live.  That’s why, I do not have time to write too much right now.

    Please allow me to come back to write more later.

    I just want to say, now that my daughter is going to study in the part of the globe where you and Jeff and Lucy grow up and being educated, I hope, one day, she will become witty and respectable like you all.

    Thanks again,

    Love to you all.

    Betty 🙂

  4. Myo ko ko says:

    Hmm, Warren,
    In a least sense, I was a doodler,
    By “I was”, I mean I was a totally doodler back in my school days.
    You see, scratching in the margins of notebooks is sometimes a sort of killing the boring time for a student.
    And of course students are entitled to doodle, aren’t they? 😉
    I think I doodled absentmindedly.
    But it is a pity that “doodling” is connected in part to laziness.
    That may be the reason that now I no more see myself as a doodler, and never find myself doodling.
    It is sad that I can’t watch the “Sunny Brown’s suggestion” video clip due to slow connection here.
    Quite interesting post, Warren.
    So much thanks for whipping this out for us.
    As Peter once said, (not exactly, but something like this) we have these learning materials sorted out by our three great teachers for us to learn.

    I feel pity for those guys out there who don’t have a chance of hearing about this lovely Blog and great podcasts!
    I can’t just think of how resourceful our is when it comes to getting in touch with the “living” and daily-used English!
    So, thanks, thanks, thanks again! my teachers. 😉

  5. meme says:

    Dear Warren,

    Nice article, what i have to say that I’m a absentminded doodler , Especially i doodling during meeting,lecture and when teacher talking abt any kind of boring subject

    back in school when my teacher caught me doodling during her talking she got mad of me and made to stand up and ask me what she were talking abt a few minute later, SO sometime
    i’m with her line sometimes i don’t and that was sooo embarrassing!!!! when i was in school and college i’d love doodling on my notebook and my book studying and i was witty with it 😉

    BUT now i LOST my passion and The desire to scribbles Y I DON’T KNOW ??????!!!!
    LIKE I don’t know how can i start to doodle,

    FOR me i LOVE google doodle i’s soo inspired and keep me posted abt any new doodle
    and make me up to try again >>>

    for give me if my word not structured , becuz i’m not good on writing

  6. Peter says:

    Are you saying that your daughter is going to U.S.
    You sound 20 sth to me in spirit
    How old is Ur daughter ?
    U must have married as a child

    An even-keel ,optimist women like yourself who always gives off a positive vibe never go over 20 sis.

    Yours ,

    The buffoon :))

  7. sirjoe777 says:

    Dear Warren,
    I used to be a hard doodler particularly when I was a student…
    A friend of mine–who was a painter–took some sheets where
    I wrote and doodled for making something like the Georges Braque’s “papiers collés”…
    I never seen her masterpieces, to be honest… This technique to do something without thinking,
    for example dreaming without sleeping, is called “active imagination”:
    it could be a sort of psychoanalysis but sparing the voice…
    I have to say that now, at my age, to do everything… “absentmindedly” is my steady habit,
    particularly hearing–and not listening to–my wife talking…
    Thank you very much for your graceful lesson!

  8. Peter says:

    Meme ,
    You should give yourself more credit !!
    You express yourself here , right?
    You get your massage across ,in a way, that we all understand
    It means sth ,doesn’t it.

    My dear friends
    Nobody expects us to write like our dear professors.

    Trust me ,we as students of this perfect program ,are doing great!!!

    Keep up the good job guys

    Indeed eslpod is a blessing in the sky!!!

    Yours truly

    The deadbeat:))

  9. Peter says:

    Dear warren ,
    I didn’t mean to Do a dump on you
    I enjoyed the post,I always do
    I just disagree with the Idea
    Hope you are not holding it against me.
    I mean ,no hard feelings

    I m being honest , that is all

    Thank you bro for helping us to Fullfil our dream

    Peace out !!

  10. Dan says:

    Hi Betty’s daughter,

    Can you take a day off please to go on a mission to ESLHeadquarters?
    Carry with you a photocamera and take a picture of Lucy so we can finally see her;I can’t stand it anymore!.
    Just kidding Lucy must remain the mystery woman.

    I wonder if Jeff is a doodler. I bet that he doodles cats..

    Guys, have you seen the latest pic. of Mars? that’s beautiful!

    Thanks bye!

  11. Betty says:

    Hi Peter

    Thank you for your kind words.

    In fact, people’s hair can go grey, but their writings do not have to go grey.

    My life is very colourful and so my heart is cheerful.

    I have seen many people lived well over half a century and they talk and behave like happy little children.

    People mature outside so that other people can tell roughly how old they are – God’s intention to make things clear.

    But God decided to leave people’s heart untouched.  It does not grow old.

    You can’t see people’s hearts deep inside the bodies.  But I can tell you, hearts never grow old.

    All the best

    Betty 🙂

  12. Betty says:

    Hi Dan

    I would like to answer for my daughter because she is trying to recover from jet lag.

    Sorry I have to use God as an example to describe Lucy.

    Many people said they believe that God exists because they have received help from God.

    No one has seen God and no one has a picture of God.

    I believe that Lucy exists because I have received help from her.

    I have not seen Lucy and I do not have a picture of Lucy.

    Thanks Dan, I always enjoy reading your message and then think of an answer to your questions.

    It’s a good English game for me.

    Oh, thanks for telling us about the Mars, I checked the news and I saw the Mars.  It is beautiful, and it is the first time I have a view of it.

    All the best

    Betty 🙂

  13. Dan says:

    Hi Betty,

    Good luck to you daugther with everything she is doing, by the way, I would like to know her name.

    I think we are living exciting times: Just the fact that I am able to communicate to someone the other site of the globe “have you seen the latest picture of Mars”

    My hat goes off to the Curiosity’ team at the JPL.

    Can’t wait to see what they will discover on the red planet.

    I am used to reading online papers, and with all the negative news that we get daily this is uplifting.They made me proud to be a human being.
    Congatulations also to the Chinese. I have noticed they are bilding their own Space Station.
    Hey guys, did you know that it is possible to actually see the I.S.S. with the naked eye? Ihave seen it many times, and it is very nice.

  14. Ziba says:

    Dear Warren,

    Thank you for the interesting topic. Before I know about doodling, I thought that it was a bad habit, but your article changed my mind.

    Yes, I think I’m a doodler. Most of the time when I’m talking on the phone or listening to a person carefully and there is a pen and a paper I draw something on the paper. If there is not any pen and paper I play with anything that is accessible, like the glass of water on the table or a tissue in my hand and so forth.

    I have to add something. that is when I’m shy to talk a person, doodling helps me to be calm and relax.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading the article.

    Thanks’ again Warren,


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