Doodle Outreach

Give Me Details!

on April 13, 2017

I may have blogs scattered all over the internet, and notebooks and random sheets of paper scribbled here and there, and a few over-flowing DropBox accounts, but my themes stay consistent over the years.

I began today’s conversation about eight months ago in a blog post for The Therapy Booth. In it, I was complaining that when my friends were expressing themselves, especially over social media, they were being too vague for my liking.

I’m been contemplating this again lately and looking at how it relates to creativity.

I’ve doodled with hundreds of people over the last several years. I have stacks of note cards from Doodling with Strangers sessions, all from personal questions shared with strangers. For a long time, I remembered the majority of the stories behind the doodles. Now there have been so many and over so much time that I don’t remember as much anymore, and, when I share the pictures, there’s something vague about them without the details, without the annotation and the person’s heart.

This is not true all of the time, however. I have left blank doodle books in public places and have found great pleasure in whatever interpretation I see in the personal pictures (prompted by 365 Days of Doodling). But I like to know a little more. I very much like intimacy.

For example, if you saw this picture, only a few of you – I imagine – would relate to it at all. But if I tell you the story behind it, something might come clear. Or clearer.

The prompt was to make a non-dominant hand doodle of a story I liked to tell. It’s me meeting Gabriel Byrne in the seats at a Phil Lesh and Friends show in San Francisco and acting like a dork. Here I am, quoting my favorite Gabriel Byrne moment in movies: from the peak scene of The Usual Suspects. “There’s no coke,” he says, and there at that Dead show, I sat down next to him and said, “There’s no coke.” And he just kind of slowly nodded his head up and down. He was stoic and tolerated me and birthed my favorite story to tell. What a joy that I now have it in a doodle! And now this picture makes sense to you, too. It’s a good story.

I also think of one of the most brilliant lyrics ever written, by Bob Dylan, in the song Sara. The verse goes:

I can still hear the sounds of those Methodist bells
I’d taken the cure and had just gotten through
Stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel
Writin’ “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” for you



Maybe a little vague in the beginning, but so super specific in the second-half, not to mention there’s just something about the rhythm of that phrase and the way it wraps around from the the third to the fourth line just blows my mind. And no one else but Bob could have written that line and it be true. That is some searing bad-ass specificity.

When I make up songs, some slice of the moment it’s being written shows up (well, it’s Friday night and there’s cinnamon on the stove … ).

I have to write from my own life. I have to doodle my personal details, a Grateful Dead tank top, my wave-shaped rings and bracelet from Maui. I want to see this in others. I want to hear about what happened that set you off and how do you feel now and what color is it, and does it remind you of anything, and how does your neck feel, and what do you really want? What does your emoji look like right now?

If there is a creative invitation it’s this: juice the details of your individual life. No one else will hear that fan blowing the same way you do right now. Tell us about your moments. Whether a simple emoji doodle or a song about heartbreak or happiness. No one is you nor will ever be you again, and that is why you must create, too, and do so specifically. Please don’t leave me hanging in the vague! And I won’t leave you there either.

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