4-Panel Daily Diary – CMP Community Challenge Based on Lynda Barry’s Syllabus
For a 7-day stretch, members of the Creativity Matters Podcast group at Facebook are trying out the 4-panel diary approach from Lynda Barry’s Syllabus. Even if you are not in the group, I encourage you to give this approach to daily recording and daily documentation a try sometime. Try it for a span of days (like a week) to see how it feels and how it works for you. I have done this on and off many times, and I always feel more awake, alert, and aware when I am consistently and deliberately recording my days in this way.
Here are some notes I shared with the group in preparation for this community project. I thought these notes might be helpful for others, too.
- This daily-quadrant journal approach is based on the idea in Lynda Barry’s Syllabus… there are videos you can watch if you want a timed guide. It’s generally viewed as a 4-6 minute daily practice. (Depending on where you find the directions, you will see a slight variance in timing guidelines.)
- If you want to spend more than 4-6 minutes, that’s okay, too.
- In one of the videos, Barry talks about the fact that you do this the “next” day… record from the day before. When doing this for yourself, that does not have to be written in stone. If you want to jot things down throughout the day… great! If you want to sit for 5 minutes at the end of the day and do your four panels about the day, great!
- There are 4 typical section to this style — did, saw, heard, and a sketch. I consider the top two sections (did and saw) to be the most important (for me). I also often try and do the “What I heard” box… If you don’t feel comfortable or confident or inspired to do the sketch… don’t. That portion of this process is very tied in for people who want to be illustrating life or working on visual stories. You are not being graded. You can skip it if you want.
- This is NOT an art project. (Your “diary” does NOT have to be pretty.)
- This is a writing project. And a noticing project. And a documentation project. Don’t let making this pretty overshadow the emphasis on opening your eyes to what happens in your day and capturing those moments.
- You do not have to write in any “full” or grammatically correct way… your list(s) can be as detailed or as abbreviated as you want in terms of capturing the list items. [You may be surprised, however, at the details that jump out at you and the descriptions you capture.]
- Lynda Barry gives you a guideline for “how many” for each list (7-10)… use that at your own discretion. (In other words… you are not being graded.
- Share your daily diary. This can be incredibly hard because this IS a personal list and personal recording. Sharing, ideally, should be for accountability – not comment.
- You can also use post-it notes or creative photography to mask the actual contents of your pages when taking a photo to share.
- Don’t be too precious about the process. Focus on noticing, remembering, and recording.
- Commit to 7 days. At the end, you can see if you feel like it helped lock you in more firmly to your days.
- This is not a replacement for morning pages, journaling, or freewriting you already do each day. This is a different process… but for some, this is a comfortable way to begin daily recording — or to try and hold on when things are moving too fast or to remind oneself of the richness and texture of EACH day when you need to remind yourself of that.
- Don’t overthink it. Don’t succumb to any feeling of pressure for making your list(s) compare with others… what you see, do, and hear is YOUR reality… and valid. This is NOT a competition.
- Episode 264 (and the show notes have lots of Lynda Barry links)
- Episode 177 (an older episode)
- Page 2 of this PDF shows the general format…. the top 4 boxes are the standard setup
- Lynda Barry’s Syllabus — I have been a fan of Barry for a long time, but Syllabus had a lot to do with me finding my way back to my podcast in 2016.