Even The Greatest Ideas Start Out As Napkin Doodles

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This Curiosity article has been sponsored by Bamboo.

You've seen it in movies. The downtrodden protagonist, down on his luck, mindlessly scrawls some squiggles on his bar tab as he gives into hopelessness. Then he looks down, and bam. The a-ha moment he needed found its way to him via his careless doodle. Sounds too hokey to be true, but big, famous ideas start here all the time.

The Napkin That Started It All

Hey, every idea's gotta start somewhere, and that somewhere is not always on a blank computer document with a cursor flashing in your face. It's weird to think of world-famous ideas debuting on fleeting receipt paper, isn't it? Well, believe it.

  1. According to the Telegraph, JK Rowling wrote her first ideas for Harry Potter while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990.
  2. A few of Pixar's biggest movies were first sketched out on napkins during a lunch in 1994: 1998's "A Bug's Life," 2001's "Monsters, Inc.," 2003's "Finding Nemo," and 2008's "WALL-E."
  3. An after-work bar hang for Discovery executives resulted in the development of Shark Week. "Somebody in that nexus scribbled it down on a napkin. You know how that is. An idea in a bar comes from many fathers," a Discovery producer told the Atlantic.
  4. Seattle's Space Needle was first sketched on a napkin in a coffee house in 1959. Edward E. Carlson's building was finished three years later, just in time for the 1962 World's Fair.
  5. The design of Voyager, the first experimental airplane to complete a nonstop, around-the-world flight without refueling, first came about on a napkin during lunch in 1981.
  6. ...Maybe your next big idea? Get yourself away from digital distractions, and see what happens when you let your pen fly. Bamboo smartpads allow you to doodle on real paper, then digitally upload and share your creations with the press of a button. Napkins are fun, but a little permanence is nice for those million-dollar ideas... just in case.

Doodle For Your Noodle

Something about scribbling on paper gives us a shower-thoughts kind of clarity. Jackie Andrade, a psychology professor at Plymouth University in the U.K., believes doodling allows for a "subconscious incubation of the solution" because it takes you away from consciously thinking a problem.

Maybe a mindless doodle is just what you need to spark creativity. "Doodling is an enjoyable activity, and that positive emotion makes us more creative by opening us up to more exploratory avenues of thought," Jesse Prinz, a philosophy professor at City University of New York Graduate Center who studies doodling in the context of research on art, told the Huffington Post. "If you spend half an hour doing something creative, when someone gives you a problem you will think about it in fresh ways."

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