In this week’s SCBWI’s Bonus Read: Discover Your Artistic Side: Nourish Your Muse In Different Ways, Suzanna E Henshon, PhD encourages writers to develop the right side of their brain (creative side) through drawing. She says that writers often use only the left side of their brain (logical side) while writing their books, but they could be creating a better story if they took time to experience the story non-verbally as well. Ideas might be sparked, more depth may be given to the characters – especially for picture books. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are as a visual artist, attempting to draw scenes and characters will only help the writing process.
This struck a chord with me and I’d like to share one of my experiences with drawing.
A few years back, my son did not like to draw. He was only 5 at the time but he had already decided that he wasn’t a good drawer. Why is it, that drawing is a skill that people don’t feel they need to develop – as if we either have it or we don’t? This got me thinking that I want to help him to develop his drawing skills and become more comfortable expressing himself with pictures. So we started Noodle Doodle Dinner (inspired by my favourite picture book author Mo Willem‘s “Dining Room Dinner Doodles“).
What is Noodle Doodle Dinner? Every Wednesday night, each member of our family has a doodle sketchpad that we get out while we eat our dinner (there are usually noodles in the meal on those nights – otherwise we simply call it Doodle Dinner). At the beginning, we decide on a common theme that we all work on at the same time. At the end of the meal, we pass the books around to see what everyone has created, it is usually very funny how each person interprets the theme.
Our themes can be simple like Christmas or Halloween or family vacations, but they are usually different things like drawing LEGO or 3D rubik’s cubes or characters from our favourite books. And occasionally, we play a game where each person has to pick a random thing that we all have to quickly draw and we repeat until our page is full.
The rules to doodling are that you use a single utensil (a pencil or pen) and that you cannot erase – there are no mistakes. And most importantly, have fun!
Since we’ve started this tradition, ALL OF US have become more comfortable with drawing and have improved immensely. In fact I would say we all quite enjoy it now.
I believe that this experience with drawing has helped with my writing. As I am now comfortable drawing, I drew several of the scenes as I wrote my first story and later in I drew pictures in my dummy book. The feedback I was given on this first picture book submission was that I did a fantastic job of allowing the pictures to tell the story. It helped to create suspense in the story with a surprise at the end. Maybe after a few more years of doodling, I will be ready to illustrate my own book, but for now I will leave that to the professionals!