The wonders of the daily diary

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Two white doors lying flat on the road

I have kept a diary almost every day since I was 11 years old. At the moment, as I’m doodling along with Lynda Barry, I decided to give her version of the daily diary a go.

This starts with a simple 4-minute exercise, recording the things you did, saw, and heard during the day, followed by a 30-second drawing. Later on, Barry introduces all sorts of variations on this basic structure. Some versions allow you to spend longer on the drawing, some have no words included at all.

lynda daily diary
Daily diary instructions. A page from Lynda Barry’s ‘Syllabus’.
File 19-12-2015, 11 00 53
Eating rock cakes

The focus here is on small concrete details. What you saw, what you did, what you heard. I’m used to writing at length about all sorts of abstract things: my plans, moods, worries, hopes, wishes and dreams. The shift in focus was refreshing. I found myself noticing and celebrating small moments in the day that I might otherwise have skated over: fixing a hole in a t-shirt, buying a big bag of chocolate minstrels and eating most of them, making cheese on toast with sliced cherry tomatoes.

A more interesting diary of a very different sort will spontaneously show itself if we begin to put bits and pieces of everything that concerns us through the day in one place: the composition notebook.

File 19-12-2015, 11 00 31
Hanging the laundry

Writing down snippets of overheard conversation presented a challenge: I tend to filter out what people are saying around me. Perhaps it’s a polite English thing. Perhaps it’s a response to the strangeness of being unwillingly invited into people’s mobile phone conversations as they walk down the road. I’m not sure. But once I tuned in, I discovered a treasure trove of bizarre communication:

“I really want those blue Manolos but I know he’s not going to get them for me.”

“I feel normal but I feel a bit emotional with it.”

“Are you afraid of the skeleton?”

File 13-11-2015, 11 04 48
Busker with bobble hat, Oxford Street

Having had a “words only” diary all my life, it is a wonderful experience using pictures to record my day. Here’s a video of Lynda Barry talking through a timed version of the 4-minute diary. Why not give it a go?

I’ll be posting my daily diary and other exercises from Syllabus over on my tumblr page, Divyam’s Doodles.

2 Replies to “The wonders of the daily diary”

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