Once upon a time, drawing was considered an essential academic skill. Necessary to explain visually the concepts being explored, the ability to render an image allowed a teacher to explain or describe a subject in more depth. Of course, the invention of the camera changed things, and the inclusion of drawing in school curricula fell by the wayside. These days drawing is considered a frivolous activity, yet it is anything but.
The act of observation married to the act of moving a pencil across paper leads to an increase in brain activity. According to Milton Glaser, author of Drawing is Thinking
, “When you draw an object, the mind becomes deeply, intensely attentive, and it’s that act of attention that allows you to really grasp something, to become fully conscious of it.
Add in the nourishment that the natural world offers, and nature journals become a winning hobby. Here’s how keeping a nature journal can give your writing projects a boost:
1. You’ll learn to see the details in what you are looking at. Over time, you will become attuned to the branching vein patterns of leaves, the rounded edges, and the nuances of color in overlapping leaves in the canopy overhead. Selecting colors to represent the reality of what you see becomes an exercise in precision and decision-making.
2. You’ll learn to determine scope and scale to suit your page and purpose. Will you zoom in and draw a blossom on a tree? Or will you back out and draw the entire tree? Either way, your thought process will involve planning and composition. How much do you want to show? Is a piece of the whole enough to represent your experience? These choices apply to writing as well.
3. You’ll learn how to see what is truly there in front of you, without bias. When you draw what you see, you learn to distinguish between what you actually see and what you imagine. Pay attention to the parts of the leaf that folds down, the flower petals that are chewed or misshapen. If you want to draw the ideal, then you’ll be making a composite of bits and pieces, but if you want an unbiased rendering, draw just what you see.
4. You’ll see small narratives playing out in the natural world.
Squirrels chase each other and cardinals splash in the bird bath. Pollen floats in the air and rain dribbles down tree trunks. Try making lists of verbs. In what may seem a quiet ordinary scene, you will be
surprised to find plenty of action.
5. Changing the channel and switching creative media can jump-start your creative juices and feed your writing projects. Sometimes it helps to take a break from a writing project and think about something else. Especially when you walk away from screens.
There is something about the natural world that refreshes the mind and spurs new ideas.