When I began to write for DIY MFA, my second post, “Resolving to Draw More,” welcomed the New Year (remember 2019, that sweet time when small annoyances seemed important and everyday joys passed by unappreciated?). It included this fact: “You need three things to draw: paper, pen and ink. Or just two, if you use a pencil.” This is still true, but in these times of loss and uncertainty, it’s perhaps more compelling now than it was when I blissfully encouraged writers to take up doodling. And if you doodle, I encourage you to doodle on.
In October 2020, two years to the month since I started writing for DIY MFA, my book, Doodling for Writers, released. It’s a tiny bundle of joy collecting a lifetime of my love of drawing, aimed particularly at helping writers let doodling into their writing life. This month I did my first online doodling workshop. As a teacher for 40 years, I’m more accustomed to in-person classes, but it was wonderful to share my doodle love with people in other places. Also, the webcam enabled me to do close-up drawing demonstrations, which made the intimate nature of my doodling practice more accessible to other people. I need to take some time now to figure out where this is going. Either way, I will doodle on.
Like everyone on the planet, I’ve been holed up at home since March pondering what matters. Fretting about each breath. My generation was reared on shame, fed endless tripe about how we must always strive for more rather than be content with what we have. Especially women. And people of color. And queer folk. Or people without excess wealth. We were never enough. Or too much of the wrong thing. Either way, shame and discontentment with the self were in surplus.
I watch the generations that have come after mine and am hopeful for the future. They are my children. They are my students. My friends. They reject the burden of shame. They reject the myth of moreness. Of otherness. They embrace small joys. They are the Butterfly Effect.
What does any of this have to do with doodling?
In April, I’ll turn 60, so I think I can say with certainty that it takes me a really long time to figure out how to live a joyful life. Doodling is what I do, what I’ve always done, to help me engage with a world that overwhelms me. It’s a tiny gesture that keeps me tethered to humanity. For most of my life I have not acknowledged the boundless wonder of drawing. It’s been a lifeline for me, yet I haven’t allowed myself to accept it as my calling, because, well, it’s such a trifle. Surely there were other things I should be doing. Like lamenting some unmet expectation. Or becoming someone real, like a doctor or a beauty queen. A person of value as determined by some mysterious other who knew better than me about how to be me.
Well, eff that.
I resolve to draw more. To mingle words with doodles. To explore the vast universe of small blank pages. I resolve to share my joy of doodling. To invite timid doodlers from time to time to join me on this grand adventure. I resolve to always be encouraging. I resolve that this is plenty enough to build a beautiful life for today and however many tomorrows I have left.
This post is an opportunity for me to say farewell as a regular columnist singing the praises of books with pictures. I’ve loved having a reason to give a deep read of the amazing books I’ve reviewed for this column, but 2021 needs to be about paring down my life so I can focus on living what’s left of it with joyful conviction. Not to be an ostrich, hiding from the world, but instead to strive to be the hummingbird that Dr. Wangari Maathai spoke of during her amazing life as an activist in Africa:
“We should always be like a hummingbird. I may be insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching the planet go down the drain. I will be a hummingbird, I will do the best I can.”
I’ll leave you with some doodles from my book as a well wish that you resolve for 2021 to venture into the doodleverse and that you fret not one bit about drawing badly by mistake. Heed the wisdom of Miles Davis and Bob Ross. And me. And Doodle On!
Poet/cartoonist, Rebecca Fish Ewan’s passion is mingling text with visual art, primarily in ink and watercolor, to tell stories of place and memory. Her hybrid-form work has appeared in After the Art, Brevity, Crab Fat, Survivor Zine, Hip Mama, Mutha, TNB, Punctuate & Under the Gum Tree. Her illustrations and essay, “The Deepest Place on Earth,” were published in the Literary Kitchen anthology, Places Like Home. Rebecca has an MFA in creative writing from ASU, where she has been a landscape design professor for 25+ years. Rebecca grew up in Berkeley, California, and lives with her family in Arizona. Books/chapbook: A Land Between, By the Forces of Gravity, Water Marks, and her new book, Doodling for Writers, which released October 2020.