I have a confession to make. I'm a doodler. There's nary a notebook in my possession that doesn't have scribblings of some sort in the margins—and the content thereof really runs the gamut from birds and the occasional Cookie Monster...
...to delusions of grandeur that amount to little more than elaborate wastes of my time.
But is it really all a waste? Psh. Hardly. According to NPR, many of America's great minds were prone to doodling—from presidents like Lyndon Johnson to business moguls like Bill Gates—and apparently that's a good thing. Our brains hate being bored, and doodling is a terrific way to keep them stimulated and prevent them going into daydream mode, which is a high-energy cognitive process. And it's really hard to get your brain running again after you blow a considerable amount of time fantasizing about what you'd say in your Oscar speech. So in its own way, doodling is important to our mental well-being. (Unless you really are someone in the performing arts industry who's in the running for a golden statuette, in which case, daydream all you like.)
Doodling is a great way for great minds to start hammering out their ideas, as you can see in this online exhibit from the American History Museum and the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. The most recognizable object on the list is an early design for that foot measuring thinger you use in shoe stores—but hadn't you always wondered where that device got its start?
And even in some fabulously rare cases, people are paid to doodle. This was the case of New Yorker cartoonist and illustrator Saul Steinberg who was paid $11,000 by former Smithsonian secretary S. Dillon Ripley for a series of scribbles. Steinberg created a series of 36 drawings, all of which were done on Smithsonian letterhead, each one cleverly incorporating a tiny engraved image of the Castle. You can see an example of his work below and read more about the Smithsonian's first, and so far only, artist in residence here.
This is why we need to celebrate National Doodle Day. Yes, there's seriously a holiday celebrating that thing we do during meetings. Okay, okay, not exactly. National Doodle Day was established in the UK in 2004 as a fundraiser for people affected by epilepsy or neurofibromatosis, a neurological disease that affects the growth and development of nerve cells. Every year, a host of celebrities—and regular folk too—sends in their doodles, which are then auctioned off. The US picked up on National Doodle Day in 2007 and has scored the doodles of luminaries from Carol Channing to President Obama. (Obama's offering netted $2,075 at auction.) To learn more about the United States' iteration of National Doodle Day, visit their Web site here.
Feeling a little more comfortable about that thing that nobody really talks about? I hope so. So go on, scribble in secret no more and indulge in a little doodling today.