After last fall’s holiday I was cleaning out my bags and all of the bits of papers and crumbs and whatnot that end up there. (You know the ones I mean.) One of them was where my friend and I made a list of our expenses (road tolls and fancy wine, museum tickets and postcards:, petrol, t-shirts, cut flowers, fountain pen ink, maps – all of the things that we spent as we went, and then divvied up over a cup of coffee at the end of the day. As I was about to put this half a page of paper into the get-rid-of pile, I realised something. This fragment brought back vivid memories of that time together, of an afternoon of my life over coffee I would have forgotten. And that is what a list can be.

Using a list in journals

Adding a list to your written diary or illustrated journal captures day-to-day details that define your life and this time, anchoring a page in your sketchbook or diary, a snapshot of where you are and what you are doing, and when you find it again in a year or five or seventeen or your grandkids are going through your stuff wanting to know more about you (and possibly looking for stuff to sell, just saying) then these scribbled notes will be a powerful souvenir.

There are many ways to integrate listmaking into your journals. You probably have old ones lying around or why not make some from scratch. It can be shopping, a recipe, things to-do, stuff not to forget. Or it can be some easy biography like this one from the diary of Susan Sontag, of things she likes and it doesn’t get more basic or more insightful:

Fires, Venice, tequila, sunsets, babies, silent films, heights, coarse salt, top hats, large long-haired dogs, ship models, cinnamon, goose down quilts, pocket watches, the smell of newly mown grass, linen, Bach, sushi, microscopes, large rooms, boots, drinking water, maple sugar candy.

(She also made a pretty comprehensive list of what she didn’t like. Read more in this wonderful post at Brain Pickings.)

You can write and leave it at that or you can add doodles, scribbles, simple drawings, or illustrate with magazine cutouts. If you want to go crazy, you you can make it into a full-blown illustrated layout. Here is one of mine. (Click for larger view.)

Illustrated Journal

Here are some prompts for documenting your days while virusing. You can do it with a word, a paragraph, a page, or a chapter:

  • What is keeping you sane?
  • What are you reading? Or not, and why not?
  • What are you watching? Binging? Avoiding?
  • Listening to any podcasts?
  • What music is meaningful to you now?
  • What have you learned during this time?
  • What do you miss?
  • What are you glad has gone that you have found you were glad to let go of?

And this is a list that I am using in my own work:

  • New techniques I want to learn
  • What I would want if I could have anything I want
  • What I have done in the last year that was meaningful to me
  • Looking at that list, what can I change going into the future to make my life more closely resemble what I desire it to be

Finally, if anyone is curious, here is my current to-do list. Pretend you found it in a grocery basket or a library book or an old bag, and just can’t help yourself:

  • work out
  • French lesson, Pimsleur, 30 minutes
  • watch video tutorials
  • rust bolts with salt
  • answer emails
  • watch kettle stitch video
  • finish art journal page
  • French lesson, Duolingo 10 x day
  • order new dustpan
  • cull and organise the studio
  • order face masks
  • take notes for new piece
  • take photos for shop listings

For a look at how artists and designers in history used their lists, check out Liza Kirwin’s Lists: Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Collections of the Smithsonian Museum at Goodreads here.