Guide to Doing Nothing: Dante Carlos

Words & Images: Dante Carlos

June 01 2016

As we began exploring the idea of “finding our calm,” we realized that sometimes the easiest way to relax is to simply do, well, nothing. In order to figure out the best and most therapeutic ways to do nothing, we reached out to friends in various corners of the country who are doin’ it right.

If you’ve ever been trapped in a boring lecture or a meeting that really didn’t need to happen, you’ve doodled. Some say it’s a bad habit, but sometimes it’s the only escape from absolute tedium. And, apparently, one of the dictionary definitions of doodle is ‘to do nothing’. Recently, doodling has been the subject of some mainstream love, from the TED stage to the pages of The New York Times. There is plenty of research to back up the claims that doodling is good for you: it helps you focus and makes you more creative, which is all well and good, but I say keep it simple. Focus on the task at hand, or not. You are ‘doing nothing’ after all.

To start, grab some paper. An old notebook, a (preferably paid) bill, an already-tainted-with-“A+H-forever” desk at the library… any surface will do. There’s less pressure when drawing on something already used, and doodles aren’t necessary precious works (don’t tell that to your kids, though). The only qualification is that your material is close at hand.

Next, find something to draw with. Your favorite pen, the free pencil you got at the dentist last week, your coworker’s fine-tip Sharpie that you haven’t seen and don’t know what he’s talking about – whatever tools you can get your hands on. You’ve got to be quick with it; speed is the key when doodling. Also – and this is essential – no erasing. You’re not trying to get embraced by the marketplace, you’re simply enjoying your own creative process and, more importantly, zone out.

Carelessly scribble. Listen to Boards of Canada. Apply for a credit card. Call your mom and ask her how her week’s going (we all know moms love to have a good monologue every once-in-awhile). Layering the doodle on top of a banal task is really what makes it a doodle — it’s not a sketch, it’s not a drawing. Maybe you’ve been putting off a particularly tedious task because – you just can’t bear the thought of it. You’ll be surprised how many perfect circles or surfing chickens you’ll be able to draw while on call waiting.

The aim of the game is not art, the aim of the game is nothing. Draw nothing, think nothing, do nothing. It may sound simple – but anyone who has tried to clear their mind of all thoughts knows just how difficult it can be. And although we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be Zen masters, doodling promotes same sort of attentiveness as the practice of mindfulness: an open and active focus on the present. Presidents do it, scientists do it, authors do it, kids in the back of their seventh grade Spanish class do it (“Uhh… no lo sé”). It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the highfalutin think pieces about why you should doodle, but at the end of the day it’s just putting pen to a page and letting your mind wander. You’ll be amazed what happens when you try to do nothing (even when nothing happens.)

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