One of the reasons I wanted to return to Lynda Barry’s Syllabus is because I wanted to re-visit her daily diary method.
For this exercise you set aside 6 minutes and then spend 2.5 minutes listing things you did yesterday, then 2.5 minutes listing what you saw, then 30 seconds listing something you heard, and then 30 seconds drawing a quick sketch of something you saw.
I like the specificity of the of the exercise and how it helps me work at paying attention to the details in the world around me. After doing this for awhile I start to look for things for tomorrow’s daily diary. All of this helps build the attention muscles of the brain* (*brain may not have real attention muscles).
For example, here are some random papier-mache monster heads (Krampus!) I saw at the beer store yesterday. I can add that to my list of things seen, and maybe use it for a 30-second sketch.
In 2020 when I first read Syllabus I was not meditating. Now that I am I see how much mindfulness is built into Barry’s exercises. Her technique for getting the brain to slow down its chatter so the artist can pay attention to the page is to slowly draw a spiral.
Focus, draw a spiral, slowly, making the lines as close together as possible without touching. She starts the following writing exercise (a variation of the daily diary page called an x-page) with the spiral and a systematic awareness/relaxation technique to draw the artist away from their chatttering mind and into their body. (The embedded video is nearly a half hour – here’s a ~10 minute version.)
One of the mindfulness techniques I’ve adopted (also found in yoga) is this systematic scan of the body to locate tense spots, ease the tension, and to slow down the chattering mind. I also use the body scan as a way of helping me intentionally relax as I work on falling asleep at night.