So how do we go from scribbling away with youthful abandon to the arduous wielding a pen to sign on the dotted line of mind-numbing bureaucracy? Usually, in the vain hope, it will cushion us from yet more of life’s arrows? The tabloid headline describing this kind of travesty would read something like “It’s the arrows what dunnit!” Or, perhaps more accurately, the irrational fear of said arrows. As the Great Bard put the question in it full grandeur:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep;
Those slings and arrows chip away at our creative instincts to the point where we become used to seeing the world in narrow, polarised terms. In fact, subconsciously, we’re waiting for the next arrow. So things feel black and white; up and down; good or bad, no fertile calm middle for those creative seeds to take root and grow. The ensuing “wait, react, forget” cycle is the epitome of fear itself. It has no sense-making, feedback loop and therefore no capacity to deal with the whys and wherefores of those pesky arrows. Eventually, we convince ourself there are only ever two reasonable options available to us when dealing with uncertainty – fight or flight.
With baby steps (i.e. scribbles) even the most debilitating fears can be tamed and managed. It is not about the pursuit of perfection. It is about diving into the mess, doing and taking control of our perspective in order to build confidence from within; the only sustainable source freely available to us. Once our creative core becomes blocked or stifled, it can take a great deal of courage to unlock the stuck state. The good news is, making a few simple lines or scribbles on a page is enough to reanimate the neuronal connections in our brain, and firing up the creativity engine again. What fires together wires together; meaning neuronal connections that are frequently used become stronger. The masterpiece will follow and will be a surprise because it is beyond and comes about by owning our here and now, one line, one dot, one connection at a time.
Doodling is the route to a smoothly running motor and once we get it started it’s easier to keep it going. Think of doodling as a tiny flame inside our mind in the same way our heart generates a pulse through our body. We’re not always aware of it but it is there flickering and beating away. Sometimes it may flitter and flutter and not work the way it should, but it can never be extinguished while we’re alive and moving. It’s there when we need it; crayon or not. We can always pause to look up and notice the clouds; bend down and smell the roses. As with all the good things life offers, you can’t really beat the joy of “close and slow” and handcrafting our wellbeing the way our cave-dwelling ancestors did.
“Nothing will stop you from being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake”
- John Cleese
When we reconnect with our creativity it reduces the level of stress and trauma stored in the body. It also builds confidence because we are better able to conceive of and navigate the next set of uncertainties. Creativity also helps to ground us by connecting the mind and body to the here and now. This is why we often prefer to mop the kitchen floor rather than taking that phone call; opening that letter, or worse still reaching out and asking for help. At least when we’re mopping the floor we’re focussed and doing something.
Consistently repeated activity leads to structural changes in the brain’s neuronal network. This process, known as neuroplasticity, also describes our capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn and shapes the network of hyperconnected highways, roads and lanes on which our creativity flows. The same process also happens to control how we perceive pain whether the source is physical, emotional or societal. In terms of brain function, there is no difference. So the pathways that were created through the experience of chronic pain can also be re-wired through creative activity. So next time you’re not feeling too good, why not make an appointment with Dr Doodle?