Things are still kind of a mess because of the hurricane this weekend so my office was closed today to all but “essential personnel.” Since technical editors, believe it or not, are not essential personnel, I got the gift of a day off. First I was dutiful and did some editing at home and then I put that work away and thought, what do I really want to do? I could clean house or do some writing or work in the yard or plan meals or do some research on writing markets. But today is a gift and for once I wanted to do something for the pure fun of it. So I doodled.
To tell the truth, there is has not been a single day as long as I can remember that I have not doodled. I have wondered at times if it is some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I think it really took hold in grade school. I was soooo bored. I didn’t know back then that there were alternative ways to get educated, but looking back I realize that I experienced school as mind-numbing boredom, the kind that could make a person want to separate from her body and fly out the window or split into multiple personalities.
It wasn’t that I was not interested in learning. It’s just that I got the concept the first time the teacher said it and often had to spend weeks listening to the repetition of information I already thoroughly understood (sort of like watching the news this weekend about the hurricane). I read the stories in the reader way ahead of time and finished my busy work fast. So I had these long tortuous stretches of time to just sit there. Sometimes I would sneak a book, but also I was a restless kid who liked to move around.
St. Bernadette School was very strict and the penalties for fidgeting were severe – you might have to stand in front of the class for an hour or go see Sister Walberga, the principal. Getting out of your desk to stretch your legs was unthinkable. Fortunately, I found a way to compensate and keep insanity at bay: doodling. It kept my hands busy and my mind occupied more effectively than watching the second hand click 60 times around the face of the big brown school clock, and usually I could get away with it. It made me look busy.
The doodling continued through the years. My junior high and high school notebooks, and yes even my college notebooks, were thick with doodles. There were words in there too because I was always writing notes. I would rarely read the notes but I needed to keep my hands moving. After I got married, I worked as a technical illustrator at a boat engineering place where my husband also worked. One day he opened a technical manual and found a doodle in the margin. One like this:
“You really shouldn’t draw in the technical manuals,” he said. I know, I know. The problem is I can’t help it. It’s such an entrenched habit, like the girl in the Hans Christian Anderson story who became obsessed with her red shoes and couldn’t stop dancing. Well maybe not that bad. I do other things. It’s just that, if there’s an empty gap of time, be it 10 seconds, and if there is a pen or pencil handy, I doodle. If there is not a pen or pencil handy I find one.
I especially liked drawing on Post-its, and my husband would sometimes see Post-its doodles hung on people’s office doors and in their cubicles. Sometimes I’d leave them on airplanes or in public restrooms. I began to feel like with such abundant output I ought to be doing something with my drawings other than throwing piles of them in the trash. I worked for one company for 11 years and when I left, my co-workers gave me a nice luncheon where they gave me a big flat gift. They had stolen a bunch of Post-it doodles out of my desk drawer and gone to Kinko’s and gave me a beautifully framed collage of them. It was a joke but it was also one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received.
So here I am, still doodling. I’ve kind of accepted it as an integral part of the fabric of my life. At my current job I keep a nice set of markers, some color pencils, some Sharpies, and of course gobs of Post-its. My latest co-workers have accepted my weird habits as they always do. Now I’ve started bringing the art of doodling to the next level – scanning them and bring them into my Gimp software (excellent freeware by the way) and doing fun things to enhance them.
I’ve always had the dream of maybe illustrating a children’s book. My children’s publishing research says that publishers choose illustrators for the children’s stories they publish and the writer has no say in who illustrates her story. What???? Well, it does seem to work. There are lots of absolutely wonderful children’s books out there that have been published by this method.
I will probably illustrate some of my own stories just for fun, publisher or no publisher. The thing about doodling is it has to be done for the pure fun of it, half unconsciously, in the flow. It cannot be done under pressure. It is one area of my life reserved for the pure heck of it. Is there something you do just for fun?
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