You’ve Got to Draw the Line Somewhere: Doodling for Writers

November 23, 2020 § 7 Comments

By Dinty W. Moore

I have always been a doodler — in grade school, high school, hiding in the back row of large college classrooms, eventually in faculty meetings, and often just to pass the time while waiting in a doctor’s office. Having a pencil or pen in hand and some paper, or for that matter a little free space in the margins of a magazine, has always been calming for me, meditative, and amusing, all at the same time. So I was pretty darn excited to hear that Rebecca Fish Ewan had a new book out, Doodling for Writers. How do these little scribbles of ours improve our writing? In more ways than I imagined.

I was especially pleased by the book’s release because Rebecca wrote a stellar craft essay on the graphic form for Brevity and has been featured more than once — see here, and here — on the Brevity Blog .

I was so tickled that I decided to doodle a picture of her to celebrate:

And it was the most horrible doodle ever doodled. Worse even than the drawing I did of my friend Jackson’s Labradoodle:

But Doodling for Writers is nonetheless a clever, lively, funny little book, and the advice is sound. On pacing and voice, for instance:

“Voice and breath are inextricably linked. In poetry, line breaks indicate a breath. In prose, it’s, commas, that, signal, inhalations. When I draw, I become more aware of my breaths. The lines I lay down on the page keep pace with my breathing. If I want calm still lines, I slow my breaths, which in turn slows my heart rate, which then calms my hand so it can give me the line I need.”

Fish Ewan offers up a wonderful chart detailing the links between perspective in drawing and literary Point of View. She has excellent points and pointers as to how exploring our characters in ink can help us learn more about the folks we write about in our memoirs. The prompts throughout the book are brilliant!

I like also that she regularly advises tossing out the rules, like the one about how to draw heads, which never worked for me, unless I was trying to draw the head of a pig:

The real message of Doodling for Writers is that one corner of the creative brain can stimulate another corner, that drawing, or doodling, can happily stimulate the writer’s mind, and that, what the heck, writing can still be fun (like drawing.)


Dinty W. Moore is the editor-in-chief of Brevity and he drewed these pictures all by his self.

§ 7 Responses to You’ve Got to Draw the Line Somewhere: Doodling for Writers

  • sarehlovasen says:

    These sound like great tips! I’m not very good at drawing however I really enjoy charcoal art because I think it’s a lot more forgiving. I also enjoy coloring and sketching out maps of my books.

  • Ms D. says:

    As a longtime teacher, I had many students over the years who were doodlers. I always enjoyed seeing the doodles in their classnotes. It didn’t mean that they weren’t paying attention, it meant that they were using their doodles to free a part of their mind so that the other part could listen. I always had students draw political cartoons (I taught history) and they were some of the best pieces of work certain kids did all year.

  • I love the idea of tying doodling to writing…but of course once you think about it! Can’t wait to read the book

  • Grace Segran says:

    My favorite part is the bio. “and he drewed these pictures all by his self.” Quintessentially Dinty.

    p/s: and it matches the Dinty I saw in action the other day at “Skylit: The best of Brevity” launch party.

  • Indira Govindan says:

    Would the converse apply: If you can doodle, you can write?

  • JAARA says:

    I was a doodler in high school and college, maybe it is time to return if it may improve my writing.

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