The essential nature of doodling.

I have a nice Faber-Castell Fountain pen called an Ambition. You used to be able to buy 'Resolve' in capsule form. So please tell me, why can’t I buy a bottle of Determination or a can of Tenacity!? I’m not sure whether it is my age, or the fact that I have so much time on my hands but I have found myself thinking 'What have I achieved?' and at the same time 'What did I expect to achieve?' and 'What does anybody expect to achieve?' for that matter ! I often wonder what other people are thinking – I don’t mean what they think of me, I mean what do other people think about - especially people who do repetitive manual tasks for a living. A university friend of mine had a summer job at a sweet factory. The woman who worked next to him on the line had been doing the same repetitive process for 15 years. After a week or so he was going crazy and asked her how she stayed sane to which she replied 'I write poetry'. What about the rest of the world? I may be grossly underestimated them but I somehow doubt that our binmen are composing epic poems. Maybe they are just OK doing the job and settle into the routine of it.


The problem for me is that my mind is rarely that stable. I worry, I watch and I wonder. I wonder why the woman sitting in front of me on the bus, is swiping left with her left thumb while her right hand is monotonously shovelling crisps into her mouth which she seems to absorb rather than actually eat. It’s a mechanical process which I suspect happens fairly frequently given the fact that she’s already taking up two seats. What is that old chap looking out the window with a big smile on his face thinking about? Is he remembering something? Or looking forward to something? And most importantly what am I so interested in what they’re doing? The truth is I'm intrigued by people and what they are interested in. Often on the radio I hear people reminiscing about how they have been fascinated by let's say insects from an early age; from the moment they found a caterpillar on a lettuce leaf whilst having lunch at Granny‘s house. As a consequence, they have dedicated their lives to the study of insects and are now THE leading expert on interspecies symbiosis and been conferred the honour of being the youngest ever Emeritus Professor at Saint Bonkers College, Cambridge.


I admire their commitment and determination. However when I then discover that the second volume of their definitive study of the Lakeland poets has been published to critical acclaim, AND that they have a black belt in origami, my admiration starts heading, via envy, towards hatred as I inevitably compare their achievements with my exploits. What have I done? I play guitar pretty well and, principally self-taught, I speak pretty good Italian – I never say fluently but good enough to hold a serious conversation about R.D.Laing which I once did, and I can hold my own in banter at the bar which I have done considerably more often. But what I really lack is focus which is particularly ironic as I have a Masters degree in photography. But yes I do lack that singular interest. Now I could try to counter this by saying that having several interests makes me a more balanced person. Unfortunately it immediately brings to mind comedian and solicitor Arnold Brown who said being Scottish and Jewish means he’s a perfectly balanced person with a chip on each shoulder.



I read once . . . . I've read more than once actually, but I did read on one occasion that the reason we doodle is because it is a means of distracting the element of the brain that does not want in any shape or form to be concentrating on the task in hand. This seems to make perfect sense to me. It does however raise a question: what if the part of your brain that is concentrating sees the doodling bit having fun and playing about? Suddenly doodling will seem a lot more attractive than doing the VAT returns, and as a consequence, the concentrating bit wanders to the dark side and suddenly your entire brain is doodling. You are now a full-time doodler, or more to the point, I am a full-time doodler!


I can console myself with the words of Kurt Vonnegut who said 'I tell you we are here on earth to fart around and don’t let anybody tell you different.' But then HE did also manage to write some amazing stuff. So it goes.

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