The writing, the talking, the drawing

“I prefer drawing to talking.  Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies.”

I came across this quotation this morning from the architect Le Corbusier.  My sense is that this sentiment was issued somewhat cantankerously, and I know from firsthand experience that drawing is frequently not faster than talking, but it got me thinking about drawing, and writing, and people who are new to both. How common it is for a young person to crave time for drawing, and how attached we are to getting kids to write, and soon.

Several years ago I met with a mom and her seven year-old.  The seven year-old was fiercely committed to drawing at the time (two years later he took up painting and landed a local gallery showing).  Meanwhile, his mom was worried about his sloppy handwriting.  I watched him do a little of each, the drawing and the writing.  I suspected that he was indeed struggling a bit with the formation of letters, but he was also resistant to the act and it seemed that resistance was playing its own part.  When he was drawing, he had enormous patience with himself for getting a line or a mark just the way he wanted it.  If it didn’t come out right at first, he’d try again until he got it.

This child’s mom and I decided that it might be worth holding off on forced handwriting practice, because it seemed as though the motor function required to neaten up the writing and get it flowing more easily and less stressfully might well come as a side effect of her son’s drawing practice.

I saw these two again a year later. The now eight year-old still preferred drawing to writing (his temperament is such that I suspect he’d have agreed with old Le Corbusier about the talking) but the difficulty with the handwriting had settled itself out.  “I stopped bothering him about it,” the mom told me.  “It made sense that the drawing would help his hand get stronger and more used to forming the lines he intended.”  She smiled.  “I had to be patient, and trust him, and it worked.  Maybe I’ll learn my lesson from that.”

Not just…

The other day a friend used the word “just” when referring in passing to a couple of hours her son had spent drawing.  Well, she started to use the word, and then stopped herself.  She said “He was sitting there at his desk, just drawing, – I mean, drawing, and then…”

The little word had no bearing on the story she was telling, but her choice to adjust what she said got us talking about how the word “just” gets used in this way, and how much of a difference it can make to remove it. We use the word all the time to belittle things, and kids’ pursuits are a common target.  Drawing, in fact, is a common target.

This mom is at work cleaning up her language, spotting biases that sneak out in small ways, about what does and doesn’t have value, particularly in areas her son is committed to where she would never choose to spend her time.  Here’s to that.

Next time you’re tempted to say “stop doodling and pay attention”…

Yet another suggestion that things are not always as they seem. This reminds me of how many folks I’ve heard say that they can only focus on what someone’s saying if they don’t make eye contact, though we tend to assume it’s the opposite. Take a look at this summary of a study (published earlier this year in Applied Cognitive Psychology) about the effect of doodling on recall.

Art Starts Early

Well-known artisan Angela Adams recently told Martha Stewart that her thriving business started with childhood doodling.  There’s no telling what’s brewing when kids don’t seem to be getting much done.  You can watch the clip on Martha’s website. (Scroll down and click on Angela Adams Rugs.)