Get Your Creative Juices Flowing with This Visual Thinking Exercise

By Lexy Praeger

When it comes to visual notetaking, sometimes the hardest part is putting pen to paper. Our brains are so used to working overtime to fit complex concepts between thin blue lines, that a blank page scares us. We have ideas in our head, but we don’t know how to represent them visually on paper. We’re not all artists, and we’re terrified to stain the space with our own personal touch. But instead of thinking between the lines, it’s time to think beyond them.

On a YouTube video binge yesterday, I stumbled upon a hidden gem by Dave Gray called “Squiggle Birds.” Inspired by his friend Chris Glynn, “a fine teacher who teaches fine things,” Gray demonstrated a fun way for us to break through these fears and find comfort in the blank space. Squiggle Birds is the first step to letting your ideas fly.

If you’re feeling adventurous and have five minutes to spare, I recommend giving it a try by following these three simple steps:

1. Grab your Unruled notebook (or a blank sheet of paper) and your favorite pen.

2. Start off by drawing a bunch of quick, random squiggles all over the page. Don’t think too hard. Just let your pen go.

3. Finally, transform each squiggle into a bird by adding a beak, an eye, two feet, and a tail. Once again, don’t think too hard. Throw in a few features, and let your mind fill in the rest.

Look at those birds! I won’t quit my day job just yet, but keep an eye out for them in the abstract exhibit at your local art museum.

I was so excited about Squiggle Birds that I had to share it with some of the other Garage residents. I rallied up a group of random student-entrepreneurs from diverse academic backgrounds, ranging from engineering to business-related fields. At first, they hesitated to squiggle freely, glancing at each other for direction. But once they took that initial leap, the creativity rushed in, and their ideas came to life. They let their instincts take them and embraced the blank space, giggling to each other about their silly creations.


Sometimes all you need is a blank canvas to let your mind do its magic. And who knows, maybe your best ideas could come from an arbitrary squiggle and a little trust.


Link to Dave Gray’s YouTube video:


Lexy Praeger3 Comments