Influence: Lynda Barry

My esteem for Lynda Barry is no secret--I attended her class, Writing the Unthinkable, years ago and blogged about it a couple times here and here.   I also picked up her method of journaling in list format, which I shared later on in this post, Fifty Views of the Pacific Northwest, Tin House Workshops, Family, Gardens, Walks, and Critters.

Work that I started in that class (which is not a workshop), has since seen publication, though that was never the goal of the class.  The class was about accessing what she calls the "image" and rendering it well.  The image is a powerful thing.

What sticks with me, in addition to her flair for the concrete, is her understanding of the way writing is rooted in the body.  It is an activity we do with our hands.  There is a connection between the mark on the page and the composition of an image in the brain.  She wrote Cruddy with a brush and ink.  This shows me patience and a trust for the connection between hand and spirit.  Since that class, I have very rarely composed at the keyboard.  The friction of pen on paper is my preference.  The words come out better without all that percussion.  Yes, they're slower.  But they're better.

Since I took the class, I have encountered and been inspired by the work of several people who were also changed by her tutelage.  Austin Kleon, newspaper poet and encourager of creatives is one.  Heather Sellers, writer of fiction, memoir, and self-help books for writers is another.  

How to keep the Lynda Barry magic going after the class is over?  Or if you can't squeeze your way into the class anytime soon?  There are so many ways!

1. Read her Tumblr, The Near-Sighted Monkey.  She uses it to share her syllabus with her comics students in Wisconsin.  Pretend to be one of them!  Do the exercises!  In crayon!  I check in frequently to improve my mood.

2. Read her books, in particular What it Is, which is as close to her class on the page as it gets.  Collage, brush drawing, and awesome instruction.

3. Check out the Lynda Barry Channel on Youtube.  Videos made by Barry, while she's snowed in!

4. Watch and listen below.  Some of her wonderful shtick, followed by a slideshow of her collages and comics, as well as her study of drawings by children and scientists.