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Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor

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"I began keeping a notebook in a serious way when I met my teacher Marilyn Frasca in 1975 at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

She showed me ways of using these simple things — our hands, a pen, and some paper — as both a navigation and expedition device, one that could reliably carry me into my past, deeper into my present, or farther into a place I have come to call "the image world" — a place we all know, even if we don't notice this knowing until someone reminds us of its ever-present existence.

I wasn't quite 20 years old when I started my first notebook. I had no idea that nearly 40 years later, I would not only still be using it as the most reliable route to the thing I've come to call my work, but I'd also be showing others how to use it too, as a place to practice a physical activity — in this case writing and drawing by hand — with a certain state of mind.

This practice can result in what I've come to consider a wonderful side effect: a visual or written image we can call 'a work of art,' although a work of art is not what I'm after when I'm practicing this activity.

What am I after? I'm after what Marilyn Frasca called "being present and seeing what's there."

This book is a collection of bits and pieces from the many notebooks I kept during my first three years of trying to figure out how to teach this practice to my students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison."

200 pages, Paperback

First published October 21, 2014

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About the author

Lynda Barry

46 books1,031 followers
Lynda Barry is an American cartoonist and author, perhaps best known for her weekly comic strip Ernie Pook's Comeek.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 455 reviews
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
February 26, 2019
Maria Popova’s wonderful review of this wonderful book:


which I am using in my Teaching of Writing in Middle and High School English class this term. The book is actually a kind of syllabus and notes with drawings fromher and her students for you to use as artist or teacher.

The section of the course it particularly pertains to is an assignment for my students to create a visual essay on a topic of their choice using drawing and words. It could be narrative, it could be memoir, but I asked them to work in the direction of—not didacticism, but—persuasion, so my students are writing and drawing about the virtues of mixed race relationships, veganism, or opposed to online courses, and so on. The topics are less surprising than the multi-media approaches I am seeing, thanks to Lynda Barry’s helping free them to be creative, to invent, to relax and enjoy.

In the last several years after a life of making comics and doing comics workshops, Barry has created 100 Demons, What it Is and this great book. She is sharing herself as artist and teacher with the world, maybe especially students, but I know lots of adults using this book to get creatively back on track.

You can take classes from her online:


But here’s a little taste someone posted on YouTube:


This is the book, via book tube:

Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,115 followers
November 26, 2018
This is an amazing graphic treatment of information about Lynda Barry's classes, from exercises for noticing to actual syllabi. I stole a bunch of ideas for various storytelling uses (giving her credit of course) and plan to pull some in to my storytelling class in May. This is one I need to buy.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,342 reviews440 followers
October 21, 2014
Caution: This book may make your eyes hurt.

Ok. So. I'm fairly sure this is meant as a Learn/Teach Creativity guide-like piece.

It's Barry's notebook from her time as an art teacher.
This is a book of notes, drawings, and syllabi I kept during my first three years of teaching in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The chronology is rough and mixed up in places but all kept by hand on pages of either legal pads or in standard black and white marbled composition notebooks" (p. 3)

It's a messy compilation of her notes, ideas, lessons to tap into students' creativity, ways to tap into her own creativity plus pictures gah-lore.
It's packaged as the aforementioned composition notebook so could get confused with Marissa Moss' Amelia books...and, come to think of it, would probably be just as entertaining, though for different reasons.

If you've got a learning style that syncs up with the optically-overloading format, this book will teach you fun ways to learn, to teach, to reach those creative moments where you thrive, etc. I appreciate it less for the lessons to be learned and more for the love of note-taking and scribbling. I can't say that some of my own notebooks look dissimilar, though much less colorful.

If you do not have a learning style that matches the contents of this book, it is still crazy fun to look at, though, again, be warned: it could hurt your eyes. And maybe your brain.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,868 reviews5,034 followers
March 20, 2022
I looked through this rather quickly, as their was a wait list at the library. It isn't that sort of book; it's meant to be lingered over and thought about and ideally, art or writing projects done along with the prompts.

That said, I do think for home use, for people looking for inspiration or education, that the exercises in Barry's What It Is might work better. This is indeed a syllabus, and it would be great help if you were teaching this sort of class/workshop, but the projects and exercises seem intended to carried out with a certain degree of ignorance, with a teacher guiding the process and not revealing the goals until afterward. I'm not certain how well they'd work if you read the book and know what the underlying ideas are before you start creating.
Profile Image for Diz.
1,606 reviews99 followers
February 7, 2022
The layout is unconventional and the text is mostly handwritten, so it takes your eyes a while to adjust to the way information is delivered, but once you get used to it, there are a lot of interesting ideas here for art education. The exercises presented here help students to make art without being judgmental, to understand that art takes time and regular practice, to realize that actively looking is an important part of the art process and so on. I really like how activities across the weeks weave together as things that students do earlier in the semester come back as material to work with in later assignments. Basically, I'd love to take a course like this.
Profile Image for Brigid ✩.
581 reviews1,818 followers
June 23, 2015
Apparently I forgot to mark this book as "read" after I finished it. Oops. Well, anyway! This is a really, really great book. Very inspirational for creative people of any kind (or anyone who wants to be creative, but is afraid of not being "good enough"). It's really funny and helpful and I highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Sasha.
250 reviews20 followers
September 22, 2021
An absolute delight. I wish I could take a class with Lynda!!! She has inspired me to draw more moving forward ✍🏼✍🏼✍🏼
Profile Image for Jay Green.
Author 4 books237 followers
October 6, 2019
Not for me, I'm afraid. If you want advice on creativity as a writer, look elsewhere. The focus here is on drawing, not writing. There are some small crumbs of inspiration on looking afresh at the world, but not in descriptive terms that a professional writer might use. It's really a beginner's guide to finding creative sources.

It did, however, put me onto the work of Iain McGilchrist, whose book The Master and His Emissary is well worth a read even if you remain sceptical of his hypothesis. For that, I give it one star.
Profile Image for Nelson Zagalo.
Author 10 books333 followers
February 7, 2022
Lynda Barry recebeu a MacArthur Fellowship em 2019, com 63 anos, com a seguinte menção: "Inspiradora do envolvimento criativo através de trabalhos gráficos originais e de uma prática pedagógica centrada no papel da criação de imagem na comunicação". Acabei de ler o seu livro "Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor" de 2014 e fiquei completamente convencido do enorme valor desta professora da Universidade de Wisconsin-Madison da área de Criatividade Interdisciplinar. A sua forma de estar e trabalhar com os seus alunos é uma inspiração para quem quer que acredite no poder da arte e criatividade humanas.

continua no VI:
Profile Image for Allie.
1,406 reviews38 followers
May 14, 2017
I decided to mark this one as read, because I think I'm actually going to keep reading it forever.

I love Lynda Barry's books, especially Picture This, and I have passively audited some of her classes via her tumblr. This book came out as I was reaching my apex of feeling antsy, uncreative, and tired (at least I hope it's the apex). I feel really renewed in my desire to create stuff, largely unconcerned with how good it turns out. I need to make more. I need to draw more. I need to use materials I'm unfamiliar with, and ones I'm extremely familiar with. I just need to push myself to do something.

I really like this book (and really responded to it) because of all the assignments. The book is filled with a lot of interesting things to do/draw illustrated with the work of her students. Easy stuff! Stuff I can do! Blammo!
Profile Image for Elizabeth A.
1,853 reviews111 followers
December 28, 2015
Book blurb: For the past decade, Lynda has run a highly popular writing workshop for non-writers called Writing the Unthinkable - the workshop was featured in the New York Times magazine. Syllabus: Notes from an accidental professor is the first book that will make her innovative lesson plans and writing exercises available to the public for home or classroom use.

I have read the entire book, re-read portions, and implemented some of the exercises already. Chock-full of ideas and exercises, there is so much I loved about this book. Whether you think you are creative or not, if you have tried to journal and failed, or if you simply want to look at a fun, colorful journal of a creative teacher, give yourself the gift of getting your hands on this book. This is a class I would love to take in person, but in the meanwhile, I'll keep thumbing through sections of this book.
Profile Image for Joe.
233 reviews40 followers
September 20, 2015
I used to fill up comp books with notes from books, scenes from movies, problems I was trying to work out, ephemera, and drawings. The drawings stopped a long time ago. Now I use my phone for the writing part. After reading Barry's Syllabus, I realize I want to go back to comp books. Thanks to Barry, I realized that I miss the tactile, meditative nature of pen on paper.

Syllabus is a book about teaching art, but it's also about the ineffable process of making art. That magic time when thinking disappears and some inner source takes over and your pen moves on the paper freely. If you used to draw but stopped because you didn't think you were any good, but you enjoyed drawing, read this book.

And if you teach visual art, and you're looking for some fresh ideas, this book is highly recommended.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 11 books88 followers
April 19, 2021
I’ve owned this book for awhile now. I can’t believe it took me so long to read it. I think it’s going to change my writing and teaching life.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
1,003 reviews67 followers
November 8, 2020
Lynda Barry's Syllabus was not what I expected – but that's a good thing. I bought this soon after it first came out in 2014, really focusing on how it might help me think about how to write and present a syllabus in a way that engaged students. Syllabus has the regular content of syllabi, as in this first photo, although it is somewhat idiosyncratically presented.

If this was all that Syllabus did, it would be interesting, but not worth more than a quick read. Syllabus is as much or more about teaching writing and facilitating creativity. As much, it's a philosophy/demonstration of teaching effectively.

Syllabus is drawn from Barry's syllabi, assignments, and student drawings from six of her classes between 2012-2014. If this book is at all representative of her teaching – and I believe it – her classes would be an exciting and engaging place to be. She does not just talk about how to write and draw, but provides a series of exercises and homework assignments throughout the semester that create a scaffold allowing this to happen.

Barry's students may initially think these assignments are silly – drawing tight spirals; coloring and leaving as much crayon on the page as possible; making lists of what they did, saw, and heard – and yet, she has designed these exercises to help her students pay attention, really pay attention, and let down their defenses that prevent them from taking the kinds of risks that allow them to be creative.

Teaching, even relatively straightforward teaching, is not necessarily transparent to students; what we see as intentional, they often see as busy work. Barry talks about what she is doing with her students: "Part of what we are doing in this class is NOTICING what we NOTICE and NOTICING MORE, but doing it in a natural way as we move through our day." (p. 83).

I see Barry's insistence on good process (e.g., spending enough time on drawings), her descriptions of why she's doing what she's doing, and her genuine love of her students' work as respectful. If I had Barry as a teacher, I would lap up everything that she said and open like a flower.

I want to remember and use the best of what Barry does in my own very different teaching.

All photos are from Lynda Barry's Syllabus.
Profile Image for Rachel.
828 reviews22 followers
August 27, 2016
I read this first in 2014 and it blew my mind as far as developing a notebook habit. Re-reading it today for my Humanities course and lord, let Lynda Barry watch over me as I try to impart some of this wisdom to freshmen. Fingers crossed!
Profile Image for Chris.
2,863 reviews205 followers
January 1, 2018
Excellent book about creativity and writing and drawing, presented in Barry's signature style of illustration. I've tried some of the exercises and am continuing to work on the 4-minute daily diary. Definitely one I'll be referring to in the future!
Profile Image for Michael S.
56 reviews
January 8, 2015
This is a great book, full of ideas and exercises. I will be stealing ideas for my own writing classes and personal practice.
Profile Image for Megan O'Hara.
179 reviews53 followers
September 11, 2021
i so badly want to curl up with Lynda Barry and take a nap and then draw our dreams when we wake up (please don't tell her this!!!) this book is so lovely and it made me want to write and draw and buy a collection of Emily Dickinson poems
7 reviews
June 13, 2015

I don't know that I've ever read anything as profoundly original as Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor, which I was both intrigued and confused by. Even before reading, I was bemused by the choice to fashion the novel, in both look and feel, after a composition book. The composition book serves as a central object around which virtually all of Barry's actives revolve and so is a obvious choice, but regardless, it was an inspired choice and would have encouraged me to buy this novel had I not already been required to. Its copious use of image is effective in creating a novel, if it can even be called a novel, that feels more like a portfolio than any kind of linear narrative. However, I often found myself feeling overwhelmed by everything I was looking at, with Syllabus's chaotic image layout. Sensory overload is really the only way I can think to describe it.

I also felt that this novel fell short from a narrative perspective, for lack of a better term. While it had no real narrative through-line, and it didn't need one, I still felt that Barry failed to create any kind of cohesiveness, which bothered me from the moment I began reading until the moment I finished. Syllabus worked best when it was working toward pedagogical ends, and there were many activities, like the ubiquitous spirals that peppered the novel, that she described which I hope to one day use in a classroom myself. But it too frequently meandered off into sections that were more memoir than anything else, or into pages that would have been more at home in an actual portfolio. Ultimately, it ended up trying to be, and do, too much.

Of course, Lynda Barry's philosophy in Syllabus was to not try to be anything, but rather let what will be come about naturally. She applied that philosophy to art, seeing potential in work that I admittedly would have discarded. So perhaps my problems with the novel and what I felt it failed to do comes from a fundamental disconnect with the philosophy behind it, though I do hope one day I can find some way to connect to it, because there was real value in it.

Profile Image for Aaron White.
7 reviews
June 3, 2015
As others have mentioned, Barry’s Syllabus is a compilation of, you guessed it, syllabi, notes, and assignments sheets. It’s this kind of messy, exploratory compilation scanned into a neat package à la the Kurt Cobain journals, or something to that effect. It’s very busy, almost schizophrenic at times. I wouldn’t call it a graphic novel by any stretch of the imagination. If its format has an official moniker, I don’t know what it is.

I didn’t really know what to make of it at first glance. The first ten or twenty pages stress to students the importance of journaling. As an English instructor, it’s a practice I believe in, but I’ve always had trouble getting students to follow suit. Barry’s syllabi are mostly drawings, some of them resembling sequential art, which is a great tactic. It’s hard to dispute comic’s hold on readers of any age, how they help create a sense of visual and spatial awareness and foster a love of reading. Traditionally, syllabi are contracts, and most of them read like dense legal parlance. Barry’s approach makes them accessible to students, even if, at times, they can be hard to read.

The book delves into much more than just an array of alternative classroom practices. It asks important questions about pictography, how pictures function as language, how our hands, images, and insight are connected. Much in the way Jonathan Gottschall explores the biological function of story, Barry wants to know the ways in which art sprouts from the human consciousness. I don’t believe her book comes to any sort of definitive answer, but it probably isn’t meant to. It sparked a lot of questions, nevertheless.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,136 reviews
July 21, 2017
I admit that I'm biased and went in with an abiding admiration for Lynda Barry already in place, but hot damn. This book is brilliant. BRILLIANT. Get thee to a bookstore and buy it. You can check it out from the library, but that is only postponing the inevitable. If it wasn't 9:30 at night, I'd go out and buy a non-photo blue pencil right now. As it is, I'm starting my 4-panel daily diary tonight--I've been bummed that I haven't been able to write as much as I used to, and this method is perfect. BRILLIANT. I covet Syllabus and found an even deeper love for Lynda Barry than I thought possible.

So how soon can I go up to Madison for a semester with her?
Profile Image for Mycala.
521 reviews
November 11, 2014
Lynda has once again knocked it out of the park. This book made me want to grab some crayons and pens and get to work immediately. In fact, true story -- I hadn't gotten halfway through the book before I ran out and bought some composition books. I used to fill them up like crazy with drawings when I was in high school, then went on to art journals. I missed my old composition book friends and have vowed to never completely turn my back on them again. Boy, have they gotten expensive and flimsy, though!
Profile Image for Hannah Garden.
994 reviews169 followers
August 22, 2018

this lady is a literal holy figure come down from the spiraling clouds to kazoom the little tin pans of our hearts, buttery cascading waterfalls of salty perfect singular art busting out that you never even would have dreamed omg excuse me but she is INCREDIBLE
Profile Image for JayeL.
1,791 reviews
August 26, 2016
I heard about this book when I listened to the Creative Mom podcast. This is not normally my kind of book, but I really enjoyed it. I was also very taken with the profound insights into the creative process and nurturing creativity. The book is taken from a curriculum from one of Lynda Barry's classes and the content still has those qualities. I liked Barry's idea of a curriculum, clear standards for the class that had more to do with production than perfect drawing. My favorite thing about this book is that it conveys the message that I was trying to convey with the Creative Prompt Project:

Just draw (or paint or sculpt or dance) and don't worry if it looks imperfect or childish. Experience the act of making something with your hands/body.

The book looks like a composition notebook, one of those black and white marbled notebooks seen in massive stacks at stores during the back-to-school season. Barry uses very humble materials. They are not low quality, but humble -- crayons (pg.87), non-photo blue pencil (), Flair felt pen (). The title page and verso are not very obvious at all, which caught me, as a librarian, off guard. There is no table of contents and no index. The text just starts with the question "Is Creative Concentration Contagious?" There is a method to the seeming madness, however, and the book includes a story about the class Lynda Barry taught.

As I wrote the review, I wanted to go back and read all the pages over again. There is so much to see on the pages, I think it is possible to get something new no matter how many times you look at the pages. One part I cannot get out of my head is something I knew, but could never put into words. I was very glad when Lynda Barry wrote it down for me. "We know that athletes, musicians, and actors all have to practice, rehearse, repeat things until it gets into the body, the 'muscle memory', but for some reason, writers and visual artists think they have to be inspired before they make something not suspecting the PHYSICAL ACT of writing or drawing is what brings that inspiration about. Worrying about its worth and value before it exists can keep us immobilized forever. Any story we write or picture we made cannot demonstrate its worth until we write it or draw it. The answer can't come to us any other way" (pg.163)

There are a lot of slightly scary (I am not a horror person) and disturbing images in this book; a lot of the images are dark. This books is probably not appropriate for 5 year olds, but is perfectly fine for the tween to adult set. Also, it is a good reminder that not all drawings (or quilts or other artworks) are pretty in a conventional sense. This does not diminish other aspects of the piece (pg.29). The encouragement to just be creative regularly is the point.

The book discusses drawing a lot - not theoretical aspects, but the sheer magnitude of work the students are expected to create. Yes, you get better the more you practice, but you also have an "experience by hand" (pg.31), which has value. Barry writes "...what if the way kids draw -- that kind of line that we call 'childish' -- what if that is what a lines looks like when someone is having an experience by hand?" (pg.31). When I work, there is definitely something I gain by having fabric in my hands. It may be because my paid work is just stuff appearing on a screen while my quiltmaking is more of a whole body experience.

There is so much that translates directly to quiltmaking; I almost couldn't take it all in. "I told them to color had in order to do it right. And go straight to use force -- thinking I was showing them a short-cut -- this took way the way of coloring they would have found on their own. By telling them just how to do it, I took the playing-around away, the gradual figuring out that bring something alive to the activity, makes it worthwhile, and is transferrable [sic] to other activities." (pg.89) I love this passage. It makes me wonder if there is joy in using quilt patterns. Sure you have a quilt when you finish, but did the making of a design that someone else has already made bring joy to the quiltmaker?

There are random and very interesting facts scattered throughout the book. "Every baby old enough to hold a crayon can already use and understand these 3 languages. Sometimes all at once." (pg.14). She is talking about the relationship between pictures, music and dancing. This struck me as really amazing. She also talks about the relationship between hands, images and insights referring to using what is at hand to make art. One example is a child in bed interacting with his/her blanket as if it were alive. Another example is a of a homeless man acting out Romeo and Juliet with a cigarette butt and bottle cap as the main characters. (pg.15). This section is too insightful to include quotes, which is why you should read this book. ;-)

One good reminder (pg.19) is that even though we don't like a piece of our artwork, it survives. This reminds me of finishing a quilt and being very glad to be done with it. Still, six months later, the quilt is one of my best. It is a good thing to remember that our work survives even if we don't like it. Barry also states "Liking and not liking can make us blind to what's there." (pg.23). I make no secret of not liking brown and having a hard time appreciating Civil War reproduction fabrics. Some years ago, I forced myself to look more carefully at some of these types of quilts in order to appreciate the piecing and the design. while I have a hard time imagining such quilts in brights and dots, I can appreciate intricate and exact piecing.

The book is filled with tips, many of which dovetail with what I am trying to do with my blog. One states "I know if I can just keep them drawing without thinking about it too much, something quite original will appear..." (pg.21). I think it is very important to keep working, even if you make a lot of crap, because at some point, something great will happen that wouldn't have happened if you hadn't done so much mediocre or okay work. One tip is to use smaller spaces. Lynda has her students fold 8.5"x11" sheets of paper into 16 squares and use those for their drawings. Friend Julie is making small square quilts as an exercise. Is this something that would jolt my creativity?

Words in the book described as tips become profound when I think about them. One such group of words is something that I tried to espouse in the Creative Prompt Project. "Daily practice with images both written and drawn is rare once we have lost our baby teeth and begin to think of ourselves as good at some things and bad at other things. It's not that this isn't TRUE but the side effects are profound once we abandon a certain activity like drawing because we are bad at it. A certain state of mind (what McGilchrist might call 'attention') is also lost. A certain capacity of the mind is shuttered and for most people, it stays that way for life" (pg.115). This quote, idea hits close to home. I know I do it. It is easier to do things I am good at. I don't do needle-turn applique' because it is hard and I have to work at it. I want the time I spend to mean something more than ravelly edges on a piece of applique'. Still, what am I losing with this attitude?

One aspect of the ideas in the text that really struck me was about images. Lynda Barry writes "I was trying to understand how images travel between people, how they move through time, and if there was a way to use writing and picture making to figure out more about how images work. (pg.49) This idea has been rumbling around in my head, including related to quiltmaking. We know that newspapers used to print patterns. We know that ladies would trade patterns. Now we have digital cameras and record quilt images that way. Still, we see images and they rumble around in our heads, morph and change before they become a quilt. Even when they become a quilt, changes are still possible.

The other thing about this book is the author encourages us to notice things. The composition book acts as a life note book. She encourages a small box to record things students did, saw, heard and then there is a space for a daily drawing. "what goes into your diary are 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 -- little things..." (pg.61). This happens to me when I walk and am not listening to a book. This book makes me think I should do that more often.

Partway through the text, Barry writes "sometimes right before class I'll see students rushing to finish the homework I gave them and I always feel sad. They'll get nothing from the work without the state of mind that comes with it. It's a thing Dan Chaon calls 'Dreaming Awake' - we can use writing and drawing to get to that state, but not by rushing" (pg.128). I think I get to this state when I am piecing a lot of the same types of pieces. It allows me to accomplish something in the quiltmaking world while my mind wanders off to other places to solve other problems. I don't think we have enough of this type of time. While I like to have a basic plan in place when I start a quilt, often I just want to try something and that ends up as a quilt, like the Swoon did. I think there was an element of this type of working in the IRR as well. Lynda talks about this when she says "It's a kind of picturing that is formed by our own activity, one line suggesting the next. We have a general direction but can't see where we are until we let ourselves take a step, and then another, and then we move on to the third"(pg.136). There is an element of uncertainty when working this way, but also an element of excitement, because the maker does not know exactly where s/he is going.

Fixed places are a concept I cannot completely wrap my head around, but if what I think the author is talking about is true, I can identify at least one group of fixed places relevant to my life. Lynda B writes "Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years" (pg.181). I wonder how fixed places affect our lives. The point about failure and success is well taken. You can't go back and we do look back on the past with rose colored glasses and forget the difficult parts.

Finally, Ms. Barry talks about journals. Journals, as you know, are near and dear to my heart. I have kept one for years and she gives voice to my thoughts on journals and writing in a journal when she says 'the nature of notetaking by hand. Thinking of one's compbook as a place. The practice of developing a place not a thing" (pg.194). For me, a journal is a place to think. It can be a mess. If you force yourself to make it beautiful it might be less useful. For me, it is less useful if I have to make my daily journal a gorgeous visual journal. I need a place to dump and my daily journal is that place.

Towards the end of this 200 page book, Barry tells a story "He said that during those years, as a child, he used to imagine that he was the son of the emperor of China, and the old, wise advisors of his father set a spell on him: he would have to experience all these terrible events so when he grew up and became the emperor himself, he would not make war.Since, I stopped thinking that art is decoration in life; for me, it is proof that art is essential to our surviving." (pg.173). Using creativity to survive a terrible situation is so clever that I cannot think how this author thought of it except that he practiced and it was second nature.

I guess the thing about this book that I liked best was that it made me think in a different way. Barry's book gives me a lot to think about. It made me wonder if I can to do more to develop my creativity? Practice more? Draw more? Dance more? Walk more without headphones and an audiobook? Allow my mind to wander? There is a lot in what I have written in this review, but there is so much more. Go buy this book (shameless plug!!) and read it. Then read it again and again.
Profile Image for Jan Priddy.
752 reviews145 followers
March 20, 2021
I am a long time fan of Barry's. She was born and went to high school in Seattle and attended Evergreen while a former classmate was there right at the beginning. We didn't think that college would survive, but I worked with people from Evergreen decades later and it's still going strong.

Barry herself is a very smart person and she's asking interesting questions about arting, about the work we do and what we assume and how it grows in us and always has.

I cannot quite do everything she outlines in her syllabus—some of what happens needs to happen in a class—but I can see enough to want to. Her exercises are designed to rediscover the art we were born to and that many people abandon as they "grow up." She approaches art as practice, as attention, as paying attention.

This is a book to share. This is a book that makes me wish I'd read it when I first bought it, that makes me think about art in a wholly different manner, and that makes me wish: Can we start again, please?

It's not too late. That's part of her thesis.
Profile Image for Alex Helme.
61 reviews
August 7, 2022
i took a class of creative practice in college that the teacher largely based around a lot of lynda barry’s work, so it was great to revisit some exercises and finally read the full context. the class helped me get in touch with finding joy in creation (vs making things for the final product) that i had a hard time finding again after leaving waldorf school and suddenly not having anyone to lead or prompt me to make art. i think i’ve had another similar break through since quarantine as i further establish what i like and what i like to do and make and be and spend my time with, and in my ever evolving practice of that i think i will be incorporating some of the things from this book.
Profile Image for Susie.
Author 24 books197 followers
February 20, 2023
I can see what a thoughtful and exciting teacher Lynda must be! I tried to follow along with the exercises but i don’t think it’s possible without being a part of a community working toward the same goals. A beautiful artifact for any student of hers.
Profile Image for Katy.
1,939 reviews159 followers
January 12, 2021
I think I would enjoy taking a class from Lynda Barry. Haven't worked through the assignments in the book. But do plan to at some date.
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