Lynda Barry on Keeping a Diary

The point of the daily diary exercise is not to record what you already know about what happened to you in the last 24 hours. Instead, it’s an invitation to the back of your mind to come forward and reveal to you the perishable images about the day you didn’t notice you noticed at all.” — Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry on various "Daily Diary" practices - via Tumblr

Lynda Barry on various “Daily Diary” practices – via Tumblr


In a recent Tumblr post, artist, author and professor Lynda Barry discusses the many variations on her diary-keeping exercises. As opposed to a place for simply logging one’s most recent 24-hour haze day after day after day, Barry’s diaries “teach you to hear, see, and remember the world all around you.

“The point of this practice is to begin to notice when we notice something.  It’s akin to a certain sort of ‘waking up’ – and becoming present in a different way than we usually are in our day to day lives.  We catch ourselves noting something that has caught our eye or our ear. We begin to realize these flashes of awakeness [sic] –(which can oddly feel also like dreaming), are happening to us all day long…” (Barry)

To highlight some of the diary-keeping parameters that might help you throughout our workshop and in the future, here’s a short list of what to include in your diary/journal/notebook [as quoted from Barry’s drawings above/below]:

  • things that you noticed when you became present — that is to say when the hamster wheel of thoughts and plans and worries stopped long enough for you to notice where you were and what was going on around you…
  • things you did
  • things you observed
  • things you overheard
  • drawings.

Barry’s Tumblr is not only an excellent source of notebook-keeping wisdom, but also full of incredible golden nuggets of inspiration from around the web and world at large. For now here’s a page from her most recent book, Syllabus, which was published just last year. As always, Barry poses insightful questions with multiple, perhaps unending, answers. I invite you to spend some time reflecting on the questions posed here in your workshop journal. And remember: There are no wrong answers.

Lynda Barry, “Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor.” Drawn & Quarterly (2014).

 

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FRIDAY FREE-WRITE: Writing the Unseen…

J.J. Abrams says his unopened mystery box from childhood represents “infinite possibility,” the sense of potential that hangs in balance with the unseen.

Grab your notebook! Trap your characters inside of a mystery box–a car, a freight container on a moving train, a basement, a kleenex box on a desk–any space, at any scale. Describe the setting and tension as accurately as possible without ever finally revealing exactly where they are.

Not feeling it? Revisit a piece of your writing and think about the unseen or off-screen details that haven’t been exploited. Exploit them.