Thumb’s the Word

by Nancy Casey

If you are making marks on paper, is it writing? You would say yes, if the marks were words, all in a row, organized into paragraphs and having a meaning that other people could read about.

What about scribbles, do they count as writing? Is drawing a form of writing? Doodling?

Today, do a little experiment with yourself and see what you think. You will start your page with drawing, and then, optionally, add written words to it. What will you draw? Your thumb! Yes, your thumb.

Before you get started, draw a line at the top of the page where you can write a title when you have finished.

Lay your non-writing hand on or near the page where you can see it, and begin to draw your thumb. Plan on making 3 or 4 drawings of your thumb.

Here are some tips:

  • Use ink, not pencil. If you give yourself a chance to erase, you’ll get caught up in the idea of perfection. You’re not trying to make a perfect rendition of your thumb. You’re trying to find out what it’s like to look at something and mark up the paper because of what you see.
  • Try looking at your thumb and drawing it without looking at the paper. This is called “blind contour drawing” and many artists use it as a warm-up. The results are interesting and sometimes amusing.
  • Make an entire thumb-drawing without ever lifting your pen from the page.
  • Make your drawing with only dots. Or curlicues.
  • When you have “finished” a rendition of your thumb, look at it some more and add something else to your drawing.
  • Make a 5-second drawing of your thumb.
  • Instead of drawing your actual thumb, draw all the shadows you can find in and around it.
  • Instead of drawing your whole thumb, zero in on a small part of it and only draw that. Maybe even use a magnifying glass.
  • After you have drawn your thumb a couple of times and you feel quite finished with thumb-drawing, draw it one more time.
  • As long as you are looking at your thumb and marking up the page, you can’t mess this up.

When you feel as if you have drawn enough, add some words to the page. You can write in the empty spaces. You can write straight over the top of your drawings.

You could write about what the experience of drawing your thumb was like. You could comment on what your thumb looks like. Maybe you were thinking about something that didn’t have anything to do with drawing or thumbs as you drew, so you could write about that. Perhaps you are reminded of a story that has a thumb or two in it.

Do you think drawing and writing are two versions of the same thing? Or two entirely different things?

When the page is full, give all your work a good looking-over. Make small changes if you like. When a title idea floats to the surface of your mind, write it at the top of the page.

Write the date on the page too, along with a signature or your initials.

Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help with your writing, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center. Covid-permitting, in-person Write-for You classes at the Recovery Center will return in the spring.

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