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"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul,
and paints his own nature into his pictures."

Henry Ward Beecher

It is well established that much of our creative expression is birthed in the unconscious mind. To use creative expression and solutions in your everyday life, it is necessary to dip into the unconscious at will. Doodling is one way of doing this.

Creative Doodling

Doodling allows the unconscious to render in symbolic expression. Symbols have universal as well as personal meaning. When you are stuck for an answer to a problem or looking for creative innovation, the technique of doodling will unleash the hidden symbolic powers of the unconscious mind.

Symbols are a universal means of expression. Regardless of culture or geographic location, certain symbols have similar if not exactly the same meaning across the human spectrum. Carl Jung pioneered the investigation of symbols as archetypal attributes of the collective unconscious. He realized that the universe projects itself to our unconscious minds symbolically, utilizing imagery to transmit ideas that language cannot. Symbols are the universal language.

Doodling essentially allows our intuitive feelings to express themselves in pictorial symbolic form. Interpreting these symbols can help to unveil meanings that are not apparent to our linear mind. A symbol conveys an entire thought in one image. Language depends upon a linear procession of symbols to convey a thought. While doodling, words may form themselves, and these should be accepted. But, for the most part, doodling allows the unconscious to come to the surface without judgment or critical analysis from the conscious mind. To practice the art of doodling do the following:

  • Focus on something that you are attempting to create or resolve. Hold the initial idea or desire in the mind and allow yourself to go into a blank stare or soft focus, preferably on a neutral background (the sky, a white wall, neutral carpet). As ideas and feelings come to the mind simply doodle them onto a piece of clean white paper.

  • Allow yourself to focus exclusively on an idea and discuss it with a friend. While you are discussing it doodle on a piece of clean white paper. Continue to doodle as you talk and listen. Don’t interpret or inhibit what you are drawing.

When doodling just allow your hands to follow your impulse. It’s best if you can go into a mild trance and disengage the conscious mind. In some disciplines this is called automatic writing. The difference is that automatic writing tends to focus on words in sequence. Here we simply want to the engage the unconscious mind in an imaginary way and record the images that are brought to the surface.


When you are finished doodling set the paper aside for a period of time. When your mind is fresh look at what you’ve drawn. You will begin to get feelings or ideas. You may even see actual structures in the doodles. You may have unconsciously drawn the solution to your problem as a structure.

Doodling can also include numbers. Numbers are far more than a convenient measure of the physical world. In ancient traditions they were considered to be the primal organizing principle that gives structure to the universe. They are powerful creative symbols. By studying the creative power of numbers we can get in touch with the archetypal concepts that are revealed in each number.

Some people are prolific doodlers when they are talking on the telephone, sitting at a meeting, attending a lecture or sitting in any passive environment. This doodling can reveal important and profound information about how the person was feeling at the time, or, according to Jung, latent emotional conflicts or unexpressed feelings. In truth, no one can interpret our doodling except ourselves. Though certain symbols appear to have universal applications in the deep collective unconscious, how we experience these symbolic expressions in our own life is unique to each of us.

Your subconscious mind is attempting to contact you all the time. It is usually blocked by habitual conscious thought patterns or emotions. It can also be drowned out by the mundane mental trivia that we repeatedly hash over. Learn to allow its conscious expression, preferably every day.

Those who seek to nurture the creative process need various ways to tap the unconscious mind. Doodling is a simple easy technique that can be practiced daily. There are many good books that have explored the various universal meanings of symbols. One I recommend for symbolic imagery is The Secret Language of Symbols by David Fontana. Rich with pictures this is an exhaustive and complete study of symbols throughout human history. Another book which is a superb expose on the symbolic meanings of numbers is A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael S. Schneider. This is an excellent, very readable “voyage from one to ten.” Highly recommended. Both books will get you in touch with the universal language of symbols and numbers. From there you can interpret your own doodling's in a way that has meaning for you.

© J.L. Read, 1997. All Rights Reserved.
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This site is dedicated in loving memory
to its creator, Janet L. Read
1949 — 2000


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