How A Sketch Journal Changed Me

It’s fair to say I don’t have a lot of spare time. Not only am I writing books, stories and pitching ideas to publications, I’m also editing the manuscript of a memoir. And mentoring someone through writing their first book. And promoting the release of my novel in January. And running writing workshops. And developing courses for writers. And self publishing a book on editing. And applying for funding for Write By You, the community company I set up earlier this year to help and encourage underrepresented young female writers. And I only work four days a week. Oh, and I have a four-year-old. In fact, when you put it all down, it seems ridiculous that I’ve taken something else on! But I have. Although this one is more for fun and winding down (which clearly I need!).


My first attempt! I don't think sweetcorn was a good idea...


Just over a month ago I got a present in the post. A beautiful sparkly package with a book inside. What a treat! Although this was more of an instruction manual. It’s called Draw Your Day, and is all about keeping a sketch journal, rather than a written one. I have my daily pages, and I have a book for writing down the things my daughter says and does so I don’t forget them, but there’s nothing for charting the everyday fact of my existence.

Within the first few pages, I started having ideas of what I could draw. I imagined things on the page, words, fancy writing, the colours I would use and the way it would look. Clearly the friend that sent it to me knows me very well!


I headed over to Cultura (a big book and arts shop in France) and spent a good hour browsing through sketch books, paint palettes, handwriting pens and ink liners. I haven’t done that in years! Coming home with my stash, I found a small box to put it in and immediately started sketching.


The early stages – from pencil, to ink, to colour. All very satisfying.


So where has this sudden enthusiasm for art come from? The problem with all things creative is that I pretty much love all of them. Making stuff from clay or fondant (I do a good line in robins for the festive seasons), singing, playing instruments (I can play several badly), dancing, and drawing. I even started A Level art, although I didn’t make it to the end. With all these creative energies bubbling away, I usually ignore the rest of them in favour of writing. But I wonder if I’ve been missing out.


The drawings I’ve been doing have given me a calm and focus I haven’t experienced for a long time. I swear I’m actually sleeping better on the days I do them. It’s fun, it’s diverting, and I’m actually not bad at it. I have my lovely mum to thank for this – she’s a brilliant artist and we were always doing sketching and painting when we were little. She taught us how to shade, how to draw, how perspective worked. I’d forgotten that I actually knew this stuff.


Started to get more ambitious with my subjects...pleased with this one!


The other thing that’s happened is that I’m approaching my day differently. I’m seeking things out, looking for an object or a scene that I can use to capture my day. I’m taking pictures of odd things – a running shoe, a biscuit – in order to add it to my page later. I’m noticing the beauty in things around me because I’m actually looking for it. It’s like I’m experiencing just a snippet of what my small daughter gets every time she leaves the house.


Of course, time makes it tricky. But I’m doing it in that dead time that occasionally comes in the evenings – when I might be watching TV or scrolling through Twitter on my phone. It’s also interesting to notice the effect it’s having on those around me. My daughter has seen me scrawling away, and was particularly delighted when she saw I’d done a picture of her. So, despite my warnings that it was my book, she took it up herself to do some sketching and painting while I was making dinner. When I got cross, she told me that, ‘it was just to draw some pictures for you that we’re all lovely.’ Which made it very hard to stay angry.

It gave me a stark reminder of how she sees and copies the things I do. How the things that are everyday for me will become normal for her. Now she wants to buy her own book to do drawings in. What a lovely thought.



Her pictures were definitely 'all lovely'


So even though my piano, guitar and ukelele remain largely untouched, at least I am communicating the power of creativity in some small way to my daughter. And, more importantly, to myself.



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