Comic diary tips

This is my comic diary collection – seven volumes and counting. I started this habit over five years ago when I went on an excellent course at the Royal Drawing School in London led by Emily Haworth Booth. The homework in week one was to make daily life into a comic for one week – and I am still going!

One piece of advice that Emily gave the class was to try and make ordinary every day things interesting – and it’s true that these do tend to make the best stories. I am writing this as most of the world is on lockdown because of Coronavirus, and if you’re not already keeping a comic diary, now is the perfect time to start. Nothing like this has ever happened before, and although these times are very difficult they are also very interesting. Your diary doesn’t have to be funny of course – it’s a good way of processing sad or worrying things too. Don’t forget to add the date. Sometimes it’s nice to add notes about things you smell, hear or taste too, and how you feel – it’s all good material for future story writing. I used some of my comic diary memories to make a special comic called Shed Job, all about learning to play my great-grandfather’s fiddle. You can read it here.

How do I start?
Have a quick think about today – what would you like to record? If it was something boring, try spinning it out over several frames to make the boredom funny. Draw yourself a few frames with pencil, and get started. Don’t try to make it too polished – just get the memories down, you will find them fascinating in the future. I use a pencil (that’s my favourite pencil on top of the book pile) but I know a lot of people prefer fineliners. I usually add a faintly inky wash afterwards, and sometimes a bit of colour if it helps. (If you look at the cat abscess comic below, the pus was yellow but I have made it black and white to spare you the horror!). There are lots of people making comic diaries all over the world – one I particularly admire is Summer Pierre.

What if I miss a day?
It doesn’t matter! When I first started, after a few months I missed a few days, which turned into weeks and then months because I was so worried about the gap. But then something happened that was so funny I got started again, and now I don’t worry if I miss a few days.

Should I share it?
It’s your diary, so you can keep it as private as you want! Share some days and not others, or not at all if you prefer. Every year February 1st is Hourly Comics Day, and people all over the world post comics about what they are up to hour by hour. Search the hashtag to find some examples.

Scroll to the bottom to see some examples of funny things that have happened to me over the last few years, from attempting to learn a magic trick to solving a mystery on the beach…and some compliments at the opticians.

You can also find out more about my diary-keeping habit in these videos: