Our brains only have a limited amount of thinking space. Every try to hold onto a phone number? You can manage, but add one more scrap of information, maybe when you need to call, and your brain will probably send up error messages. Researchers have discovered that sketching allows you to download your thoughts onto paper and boost memory and creativity.
Upgrade Your Thinking
Our thoughts can easily outgrow the capacity of our short term memory. Drawings and sketches are there to augment those ideas and capture the thought process as well as the idea.
Throughout history, people have used all sorts of tools to express ideas, from arrangements of sticks or stone, sketches in the sand, or scribbles on napkins. Even the ancient cave paintings are a form of visual note taking.
Amplify Your Memory
Sketches and brief drawings can intensify our imagination. When we sketch, these nebulous concepts can take physical form. New features and relationships can sprout up.
Words, too, are capable of expressing new ideas but often these are limited to the language we speak. Drawings have the advantage of adding visual and special relationships. I often find when I’m plotting a new chapter or short story, I prefer to do it on plain white paper, complete with arrows, spirals, and bursts.
Even non-art types can jump on this bandwagon. Sketching has benefits beyond simply creativity. Information you draw or doodle has a greater recall than the same information written as words.
Explore New Ideas
Sketching creates a “thinking space” which allows our brains to experiment with ideas. When we draw, we map our ideas directly onto paper, allowing our imagination to play as we go.
Juhani Pallasmaa, a Finnish architect, put it this way: “A drawing does not reproduce the tree as it manifests itself in the objective reality. The drawing records the way the tree is seen or experienced.”
You have the tree as it appears on paper, the image of the tree in your mind, and also the muscle memory of drawing the tree — all three coexisting together.
Next time you have a notion knocking around in your skull, grab a napkin and sketch that idea out. You just might preserve the nuances of your thinking.