Doodling My Way to Writing
July 15, 2020 § 8 Comments
By Shuly Xóchitl Cawood
When the pandemic shut the country down, I was preparing to release my new book. As my in-person events got cancelled one by one, I found myself sprinting, trying to catch the move-everything-to-Zoom train. I spent late March and all of April preparing for a totally different kind of launch. This also included creating a book trailer. Me! Who is not technically savvy! But lucky for me, the writer Amy Stewart has a great class on Skillshare, and I followed along. I wrote the script, learned how to turn an iPad into a teleprompter, fiddled with mics and lights and background, filmed myself (when the neighbors weren’t weed-whacking or mowing—and it seemed like one of them always was), and somehow I edited the video thingamabob and posted it online. It took me two weeks, but I did it.
In other words, I didn’t have much time to write.
And then suddenly it was May, and my book launched. I promised myself that as soon as it did, I would get back to creative writing. I’d been working from home, having long conversations with the dog (the only other one in my house from 9-5), and I decided that to help get myself back into a regular writing practice, I would take another class on Skillshare, writing-related.
Except I kept searching for drawing classes. Me! Who has never been a visual artist! I could barely draw a respectable stick figure. But I have always loved the idea of drawing—as evidenced by the big box I own of markers, colored pencils, watercolors, and sketch pads I have been carting around for over a decade (but rarely use).
I started a writing class on Skillshare, and then another. But I didn’t feel like writing—that door was shut and locked—so I turned to drawing hoping it might be the key.
I started with Mari Andrews’ class on Skillshare: Drawing as Self-Discovery: 5 Ways to Start. She doesn’t teach you how to draw—she teaches you it’s okay to draw, no matter the skill level. She starts things off easy—you have to draw a pie chart. Anyone can do that. I could do that. Another time it was a heart. I could do that, too.
I finished her class, and started some others, dabbling here and there in drawing. But any time a teacher started to show technique, I turned it off. I didn’t want to become a better visual artist and strive toward perfection. I wanted permission to just have fun.
Since then, I have been doodling. I doodle around a quote, I draw a comic, I doodle a list of things for which I am thankful. Are the doodles perfect? No way. Are they even good? Not really. But I don’t care. Did this help get me writing again? Yes, it has. I don’t know if it’s the freedom I found with doodling, or if it somehow works with one part of the brain that is tied to the writing part of the brain or if it’s all one and the same. I’m no scientist, and I haven’t done a dive into the research because why should I? All I need to know is that it’s working for me, I’m writing again and also drawing, and I sure am having fun.
Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is a writer of memoir, fiction, and poetry. Her latest book is A Small Thing to Want: stories (Press 53, 2020). Learn more about her at: www.shulycawood.com.