Write Slow, Draw Fast

Most of us know that keeping a journal can be greatly beneficial to our mental health. I have kept a journal off and on for my entire adult life. It has been wonderful habit to have and has helped me through hardships, especially way back when I was a young adult. Journalling was a tool I often used to get to know myself more and figure out what I wanted for myself and my future. During times of confusion and turmoil, I’d whip out my journal and would take much time and care to write down any unpleasant incidents that occurred. And I jotted down my feelings in order to help me process these events.

However, I found that when things were going OK and I was not feeling down or in extreme anxiety, my journal transformed into a to-do list where I simply scribbled down items to shop for and other mundane tasks that needed accomplishing. Or, if it was not being used as a to-do list, it stayed closed and hidden away in my desk drawer. In short, my journal was really only a repository for my negative thoughts and feelings. Writing was only something I used in times of trouble. Again, I am extremely grateful that I had this aid to help me in times of need. But I felt it would be beneficial for me to have something more, another way to note my daily life the rest of the time. I wanted this something to help me avoid getting to that dark emotional situation where I even needed my journal to keep me out of negativity in the first place.

It was an ordinary day back in 2019 when I started drawing an event that had occurred in the morning. I’m not sure what prompted me to doodle, but it took me less than five minutes to scratch out a bunch of lines and speech bubbles with a sort-of stick figure that represented me in the middle. It was a mess but it made me feel better. I did the same thing the next day, drawing sharp and squiggly lines to represent my irritation around that same event. And after that I felt better again. The event I mention was not bad, it was not huge, it was just one of those frustrations that happen in daily living (like traffic). In the past I would have let my anger simmer, but I found that when I drew my emotions, I was able to let them go. And in letting them go, I believe I avoided these little annoyances from piling up and eventually making me think they were bigger than they actually were. So, I started an almost-daily drawing journalling habit. This worked for me, I could draw fast because it didn’t need to be pretty (in fact it was a whole lot of ugly). I could lay down my thoughts, feelings, events that occurred, etc. in 5 minutes or so — something I could not do by writing (I am a very slow writer).

This regular drawing practice has helped me tremendously. Through this technique I am better able to stay positive, grounded and am more equipped to avoid the darker moods that like to sneak in. With a more sunny outlook, I am also able to realize that I have a lot to be grateful for (before this the feeling of gratefulness often eluded me). I find it easier to create pictures than write words. I find that I can carry on this habit more easily since it takes me less time to do so. And it’s a way more healthy way to deal with bad feelings than eating half an entire cake (which I have done before).

Do you have a practice that gives you comfort, a chance to connect with yourself, process feelings, or even bring joy despite less-than-ideal circumstances? If not, I invite you to find one, or simply do what I did and start doodling. Who knows where it might lead?

Visual Artist and Art Instructor