16 July 2021

#AntarcticLog: Feeling Dumb and Doodling – My Superpowers  

Posted by Shane Hanlon

#AntarcticLog is a series of comics by Karen Romano Young. You can find the originals here

Every #AntarcticLog starts with a doodle: an image that comes to me while I’m reading or listening to or otherwise learning something; an image that leads to a story I’m about to tell in comic form.

Doodle is a word that means a lot to me.  Doodlers, by traditional definition, are time-wasters. Doodling isn’t exactly a form of art, more a lazy expression that supposedly takes attention away from whatever or whoever is at center stage. The doodler has often been seen as a bad audience member.

Au contraire! Doodling has been shown to demonstrate whether a researcher is thinking clearly about his or her scientific principle… doodling is an activity shared by some of our most respected thinkers and leaders… and having the tools and permission to doodle has been shown to aid learning.

I wrote a whole book about this for kids. Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles described the personal journey of a doodler who realizes that she masters her attention issues when she draws. That’s my journey, too, and the science supports it: maybe, instead of demonstrating inattention, doodling proves someone’s effort to stay in the room, to focus, and even to create systems for new information.

Doodling has been useful to me for another reason: at heart I don’t feel I’m that good an artist. Telling stories visually is what I want to do, though, so I call my art doodling.

I save myself from being crippled by shyness in another way that these comics describe: feeling dumb is my superpower.  I’m not DUMB, I just haven’t learned something yet, or I find something difficult to understand.  If you’re an interviewee (usually a scientist or expert of some sort) that’s your cue to help me translate your complex ideas — not just for me, but for an audience that may be younger, nonscience, or just cautious like me.

This is how #AntarcticLog achieves broader impact for scientists — by opening doors to the stories science tells to people who wouldn’t otherwise be in the room.

Karen Romano Young is a writer, artist, deep-sea diver, and polar explorer. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram