Decades ago, our middle child, Jared, was struggling to find out who he was, what was his purpose and all the drama of teen angst. We, his parents, were trying desperately to help him and ease his struggles. We took Jared to work with a learning specialist and discovered through a series of tests and conversations that what we thought were distractions to his ability to learn “normally” were actually helpful to him. We would tell him to turn off the rather raucous music he had on his radio and to increase the lighting so he could see better in his room. We thought we were helping when in actuality we were making it more difficult for him.
The learning institute told us the music distracted a part of his brain that needed that distraction in order for him to concentrate. We were also told that the attempt to decrease the light in his room was his unconscious attempt to help him read better. In fact, we even discovered that a colored sheet of transparent vinyl over the white pages of the books he was attempting to read helped him read much faster and decreased the strain on his eyes. Who knew? Parenting is often the hardest task we take on in this world!
When my husband, Dan, works on his computer, writes, answers emails, and does all he does all day in his 48 Days community, he often has U2 (Bono) as his background music. He loves it. I walk into his office and marvel at how he can concentrate with all that noise!
Each of us has our own “setting” that works for us. I know a well-known and very gifted artist who paints prolifically while turning up Mozart or Beethoven full blast to inspire him. We all learn and work differently. Recognizing that what works for you is very important.
I am very easily distracted. If I played U2 while trying to write or paint, I would be listening to the words instead of focusing on what I was trying to create. While I do like to have soft music in the background while painting, I revert to what Dan calls “elevator music”. It’s there, but you really don’t notice it. At times, even that bothers me and I prefer silence to help me concentrate.
Bob Doll, whose book Shut Up and Draw (A Journey to Creativity) will be released later this year (I’ll let you know when you can order it!) carries a small journal with him all the time so that if he is somewhere where he is listening, he can also be sketching or doodling. He says that someone invariably will nudge him to “pay attention!”
“But….here is an obscure benefit. Doodling or sketching helps to keep people focused, improves memory, and makes it easier to listen. Those with a wandering attention span find doodling or sketching helps to keep their minds on their task and improves retention. Drawing helps them pay closer attention even though to the average observer it seems like it does the opposite.”
Wow! Confirmation for what a learning specialist told us about our son 3 decades ago. I am reminded of a very old cosmetology textbook my mother had. As a child, I looked through the pages and saw doodles on many of them and sketches on blank pages. I wonder, now, if she was using her creativity to help her concentrate on what she was learning.
According to an article in the Harvard Health blog, 26 of 44 American presidents doodled or sketched while thinking. Theodore Rosevelt doodled animals and children. Ronald Reagan sketched cowboys and football players. John F Kennedy doodled dominoes! Studies have shown that doodling may be your last ditch effort to stay alert and listen and will often keep you from getting distracted, thus improving your ability to retain information. Wow! That’s an invitation to play for most creatives!
Bob Doll says that many times he has been asked if he learned to draw in school. He humorously answers that he certainly did. “During math class, during science class, during English class….”
It seems then that if you’re struggling to concentrate, find yourself stuck or feeling “incomplete,” a time-limited doodle expedition could be just the thing you are looking for. It will likely activate your brain’s “unfocus” circuits, give your “focus” circuits a break, and allow you to more creatively and tirelessly solve a problem at hand.
(Harvard Health Blog 12/26/2016)
I wonder if Zentangle designs, Neurographic Art, and adult coloring books have gained popularity because they are a needed, subconscious self-help antidote for survival in a world full of distractions, noise, and activity. Works for me!