Doodle Your Way Out Of Writer’s Block

When you can’t think of what to write, step away from your computer, and doodle. Yes, step away, and doodle. You heard me correctly. (Said in a kind gentle way.) Now, grab a pencil and a piece of paper, and start to doodle your way out of writer’s block.

Doodle Your Way Out of Writer's Block

 

What Is Doodling, and How Can It Help Your Writing?

Doodling, on page 391 of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, is to scribble mechanically while thinking about something else: marks written absent-mindedly.

And a scribble is, well, a scribble. The same dictionary said a scribble was: to write or draw in a hurried, careless way.

But, the dictionary is not always right. A scribble can also be done in a careful way, and a doodle can be made with careful thought.

Sunni Brown, in her book The Doodle Revolution, created a new definition for the word doodle, “to make spontaneous marks to help yourself think.”

I agree with Sunni Brown, doodling can help us think.

Now, lets doodle our way out of writer’s block with spontaneous marks.

Draw a line, squiggles, and think about what you ate for breakfast, think about the wind blowing in the window, think about the seven litter boxes you have to clean or think about how you forgot to floss your teeth last night.

Doodle Your Way Out of Writer’s Block

While you are drawing random shapes, lines, squares, kittens, circles, trees, or stick people, you will find your mind has stopped being blocked. No more constipated brain. Moving your hands, making lines will literally unclog your brain.

I haven’t been writing. There has been a question mark on my computer. So, today I took a felt pen and a piece of paper and started to draw random shapes. Making the marks helped me think. Doodling my way out of writers block. (I am not sure what a sad face, two legs and no arms says about my writing, but drawing helped me think.)

Pamela Hodges – Doodle Your Way Out of Writer's Block

Lynda Barry in her graphic memoir, Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book, writes,”The worst thing I can do when I’m stuck is to start thinking and stop moving my hands.”

I agree with Lynda, moving our hands will help with writer’s block.

You Only Need Two Items to Doodle

  1. Something to write with. Perhaps a pencil, or a crayon, a pen, or lipstick.
  2. Something to write on. A piece of white paper, or blue paper, maybe the back of an envelope, or a receipt.

How Do You Doodle?

  1. You can doodle random shapes. Square, circles, lines. Straight lines, round lines, fast lines, slow lines.
  2. Make a mark on a piece of paper with something that leaves a mark. You could draw just lines, or shapes.
  3. This is not a drawing lesson. Of course, if you want to draw your protagonist, even as a stick figure, you can. Then maybe you will see how they will get out of the burning building.
  4. You can draw a realistic picture of your cat. Or maybe you want to doodle cat ears.
  5. Move your hands. Make marks. Remember to breathe.
  6. Let your mind wander as you draw. Then get back on your computer and write.

How about you? Do you doodle? Have you ever doodled to get out of writer’s block? Let me know in the comments section.

PRACTICE

Doodle for a few minutes, and then go back to your Work in Progress and write for fifteen minutes. Did doodling help you unlock your scenes? Did you find a way for the cat to get out of the tree after you made spontaneous marks to help you think?

Share your doodles in the comments. And then write.

xo
Pamela

About Pamela Hodges

Pamela writes about art, creativity, and reflections on life with six cats, two dogs, two birds, and seven litter boxes. She would love to meet you at ipaintiwrite.com.

  • Harsh Rathour

    Hello sir, I am in 12th grade; & it’s very difficult to write as there’s no time to write & even if I sit to write, only my syllabus & studies goes on in my mind. I am not able to focus much. But still on Sundays I just sit & write for a short time. Thanks to you, I saw the webinar & got to know how to manage my time & ofcourse this doodling works..
    It works for me. I think of something, then i draw about it, i think about my fights with my friends, then daily cycling.. I draw all this & suddenly from somewhere I get a topic to write.. It just unusual.. It really helps..

    • Good Morning Harsh Rathour,
      Thank you for taking time away from your studies to say hello. How wonderful that the webinar helped you manage your time. Time to study, cycle, be with friends and write.
      Thank you for letting us know doodling has helped you.
      All my best,
      xo
      Pamela

  • Love it. This post so excellently epitomizes my new writer friend, Pam Hodges. I remember the line: Life was made to be fun. Thanks for writing. Thanks for doing the work and for encouraging writing.

    • Good Morning Arlen,
      How nice to meet you here on a Tuesday morning. Thank you for your encouragement. It was so nice to meet you in Nashville at The Tribe Conference.
      I hope you have a fun day. May all your doodles bring you joy.
      All my best,
      xo
      Pamela

  • Reading this over coffee this morning brought back some happy memories. as a child I would fill composition books of just doodles, nothing great or exciting but shapes that connected and swiveled this way or that. Then when that was done I found myself doing math problems ..When I finished the doodles I’d color the drawing. Kinda like kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. Was so much fun. I still find myself doing that…. just sitting at my desk when the words wont come and just draw, still a lot of fun.

    Thanks for the memories.

    • Hello Debra Johnson,
      I am so happy the doodle story brought back happy memories. And if I could I would drive over to your house and give you another composition notebook. Because the things we did as children we can still do. Math problems, yes, doodling and coloring, no. You are very welcome to share any of your doodle drawings here.
      It is always nice to hear from you.
      xo
      Pamela

      • Thanks Pamela Hodges. Those were some of the happier days of my childhood, I wish I had kept them as well. Have a great doodle day. ( think I might use that as my signature as well ” Have a doodle day” lol. Great conversation opener.

        • Oh Debra,
          I love this.
          Have a doodle day!
          xo
          Pamela

    • LilianGardner

      I love kaleidoscope colouring, too. Sometimes the doodle is worth framing. Ha! Ha!

      • LilianGardner, yea it is a lot of fun. That’s why when colorama came out I bought it. So many shapes and designs to color. I love it.

        It sends you in a whole other world. Sitting and mindlessly drifting as your hand moves over a page great therapy at times. Have a good doodle day.

        • LilianGardner

          Thanks, Debra, you too, have a colourful doodle day.

  • Danica Marie Fernandez Comenta

    I have never thought of this. Just a few weeks ago I learned from a video I watched that the way to get rid of writer’s block permanently is to allow yourself to write trash. I found that helpful. But your suggestion to doodle seems to be more enjoyable to do; and even the thought of doing it makes me feel more relaxed and free. 🙂 I think it will help release your natural creativity and fun, two things you may need to get back to writing.

    • Hello Danica Marie Fernandez Comenta,
      Thank you for your concern about my not writing. Today I will write trash, and doodle. And I will put a smile on the sad face and give myself arms. Maybe that is why I haven’t been writing. I had no arms.
      Thank you for sharing your smile with me. It is hard not to smile when someone else smiles.
      xo
      Pamela

    • Kenneth M. Harris

      Danica, that’s such a nice story. I never have thought about writing trash. I do remember that one of my former class mate wrote a trashy novellas and used another name. She needed money. Would you believe, she was able to have that novella published. I would never recommended it because it was very, very, trashy. Ken

      • Hey Kenneth,
        I totally thought writing trashy meant writing an imperfect first draft. Not writing something of poor quality, or a bit naughty. Words always amaze me. We all read the same word, but it can have more than one meaning.
        xo
        Pamela

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  • Nice article. This is why I always have loved to draw and write cartoons. It feels to me the two go hand-in-hand. Whether I end up using the cartoon for a project, or just use it as a springboard to a writing assignment, it always seems to get the creative juices flowing for me.

    • Hi Kevin Spear,
      Thank you for your kind comment. How fun. You like to draw and write cartoons. I agree they do go hand-in-hand. I love to draw and cartoon as well.
      Most of my ideas for stories come from my drawings, or from my cats.
      Do you have any cartoons or drawing you would like to share?
      xo
      Pamela

      • Sure, Pamela. Here are some notes out of my sketchbook. I usually take a sketch, polish it up and post it on my site at http://kevinspear.com.

        • Kevin,
          Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and drawings. Your characters have so much life in their expressions. And I doubt I will every forget now how many stomachs cows have.
          xo
          Pamela

  • Kenneth M. Harris

    That’s so funny! I do remember doodling. I have not thought about it in many years.
    It was in my first intro to Fiction class. The instructor would spend an hour selecting each one of us to give her a word. We sat in a circle and each one of us had our pad and the instructor (I won’t mention the name) would ask each one of for a verb. I remember making circles, small, medium, large, extra large and extra extra large until she call my name. When I was selected, she asked me to pick a verb. I said CIRCLE. She looked and said Circle? I laughed so hard and then the class laughed as well. Actually she got a kick out of it. What a memory. Thanks to you all again. It’s such a pleasure when I can comment. P.S. Pamela, I am definitely going to doodle when I can’t move further in my writing. You are such a nice person to talk to. KEn

    • Hello Kenneth M. Harris,
      Thank you for sharing your fun doodle circle memory. I wonder if the drawing of the circles helped keep the memory?
      How is your writing? I hope you are having fun writing, and doodling if you get stuck. Maybe you will draw more circles.
      xo
      Pamela

  • Anna Teodoro-Suanco

    I knew my high school teacher was wrong when she took my notebook page of doodles and ripped it in front of the class because she thought I wasn’t paying attention. But when she asked me about what was discussed, I gave her the right answers. You see, doodling was my way of taking notes. Weird, but it worked for me. Now let’s see if it works for writer’s block. This should be fun!

    • Christine

      Likely your teacher was having a bad day — too many not paying attention — and she really reacted. Maybe she should have made you ‘read’ your doodling notes to the class. 🙂

      • Ah, great idea Christine.
        Reading the doodled notes.

      • Anna Teodoro-Suanco

        Thanks, Christine. Back in my day (some 35 years ago), teachers loved acting like they’re having a bad day everyday. That’s one thing that made them unforgettable, and I love them nevertheless.

    • Anne,
      Oh dear. Your teacher was so mean. Not only did she not understand the value of doodling. Doodling during a lecture helps retain the information, but she did it in front of the class. Double naughty.
      I hope you have fun doodling. And, please share your doodles here. I would love to see what you doodled. And did doodling help with your writing?
      xo
      Pamela

      • Anna Teodoro-Suanco

        Thanks, Pamela. I would love to share what I doodled, but that class act happened over 35 years ago. Haha! I’m sure teachers nowadays are more open to doodling than before.

        Doodling sure helps a lot when I’m brainstorming or just plain thinking about almost anything. It helps improve my drawing skills too!

  • Christine

    Well, Pamela, I have a problem. Maybe. Yes, I can and do doodle — but I can’t seem to leave my doodlings until I make some order out of them.
    No matter what I start out with by way of scribbles, they usually turn into flowers. Whatever lines or squiggles or circles I draw for the fun of it, I almost always turn them into blooms or bouquets. Once in awhile I do birds, rarely a landscape, but I can’t leave a random scribble just as is. Am I just a neat-freak type, or what ails me?
    I enjoy doing sudoku puzzles and often doodle in my sudoku books to illustrate them, so there will be blossoms and single stem flowers scattered here and there.

    • Hello Christine,
      This could become “Doodle Therapy.” The way I see your doodles, they are doodles with a mission.
      Some of your doodles might be roses, or some might be daisy’s. All is good in the world of doodling.
      There are no rules that says a “real” doodle can’t become a flower.
      Doodle on Christine.
      Your flowers brighten the world.
      xo
      Pamela

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  • LilianGardner

    You are fabulous Pamela! You always come up with something that prods us to try it out.
    I love doodling, but until now, I thought ‘doodling’ was roaming around aimlessly, without thought or plans.
    I doodle by drawing a flower; a round center and usually five to seven petals, and steadily add petals on to those seven, enlarging the flower until there’s no more room left on the paper. Sometimes I scribble random words and feel I could create a story with them.
    (P.S. I think I’ll have to consult my cat.)

    • Hello Lilian Gardner,
      You are so sweet. Thank you for your kind words.
      Do you have a photograph of your doodled flower? I would love to see it.
      Well, a doodle could have plans, even within order there can be a doodely way about it.
      What does your cat think?
      Harper, the kitten, is on my lap as I type. She wants to know what your cat thinks too.
      xo
      Pamela

  • David

    … and for all you out there with doodle-block this is for you …

    Oodles of doodles
    Look like noodles
    Maybe resemble strudels
    A good doodle
    Might be a poodle
    Making a puddle
    And therefore befuddle
    Our desire to cuddle
    Cause who wants to cuddle
    A puddle making poodle
    And end up with a wet sleeve and shoe
    A different doodle
    Might be a caboodle
    With An interloper named Waldo
    Or lemmings rumored to follow
    Each other off a cliff
    Or a stick guy looking uber stiff
    Or a stick guy with a thought bubble
    Filled with oodles of footle
    A really good doodle
    Would be of a hand
    Actually drawing a doodle
    Now wouldn’t that be cool
    Or you can doodle a pool
    Or a stick guy on a stool
    Or someone shooting
    This blathering fool
    Spouting off ideas
    For you all to doodle

    … Hey, I’m just trying to help
    … … Now get back to your writing!

  • David

    … and for all you out there with doodle-block this is for you …

    Oodles of doodles
    Look like noodles
    Maybe resemble strudels
    A good doodle
    Might be a poodle
    Making a puddle
    And therefore befuddle
    Our desire to cuddle
    Cause who wants to cuddle
    A puddle making poodle
    And end up with a wet sleeve and shoe
    A different doodle
    Might be a caboodle
    With An interloper named Waldo
    Or lemmings rumored to follow
    Each other off a cliff
    Or a stick guy looking uber stiff
    Or a stick guy with a thought bubble
    Filled with oodles of footle
    A really good doodle
    Would be of a hand
    Actually drawing a doodle
    Now wouldn’t that be cool
    Or you can doodle a pool
    Or a stick guy on a stool
    Or someone shooting
    This blathering fool
    Spouting off ideas
    For you all to doodle

    … Hey, I’m just trying to help
    … … Now get back to your writing!

    • David

      OOPS! Sorry about the duplication …

      • Hey David,
        Not too worry. It is simply a Double Oodles of Doodles Day.
        Thank you for your playful Doodle poem. Very fun.
        xo
        Pamela

  • It’s so nice to read that something I do really often is recognized by other people as something that generally helps. I often doodle. Sometimes starting point is name of one of characters. i rewrite it million times, modify how letters look so it would more suit character personality, I’m adding zig-zag lines and lots of unimportant shapes. And somehow hidden in this chaos is an answer to the problem I was stacked on. 😀

  • Karthi S

    QTP Practical training

    Doodle is very impressive

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  • I Don’t Even Read

    Get yoself (no I spelled that right AutoCorrect) some fountain pens. Why did we ever stop using them? Pilot Vector mane, buy one.

  • M.Y. David

    I had a friend at university who would spend every lecture doodling his own vision of characters from Middle-Earth. I asked him if he ever wrote any actual words or notes and he said, “this is my note taking”. I would have really liked to have believed that it worked, but the degree we took was Computer Science with a specialism in Artificial Intelligence; suffice it to say that I (being a student of the note-taking variety) did well and he (a student of the doodling variety) did not. However, in terms of writing (which is a major passion of mine) I fully agree that doodling is a very good way to get those creative juices flowing. Thank you for the article, Pamela.

  • Java Practical training

    Nice one