Dear Queer Diary: A Doodle Is Worth A Thousand Words

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

When I was a tiny lesbian, I wanted to grow up to become an artist. In my young mind, this would consist mainly of sitting by scenic vistas with an easel and a set of watercolors, flourishing my brush dramatically. After a few years, I imagined, my work would be displayed in heavy gold frames at major museums around the world.

I also imagined I would spend the rest of my life with a bowl cut and bangs straight across my forehead, and I am sure you know how that worked out.

In fact, before I hit fifth grade, my career aspirations (and haircut!) had shifted rapidly— I went from hopeful artist to wannabe private detective (in the style of The Boxcar Children) to possible architect to future Broadway star. By high school, the easel I had received as an eighth(?) birthday present was collecting dust in the basement. In spite of this change, there was one area of my life in which my love of art continued to flourish: I was an inveterate doodler.

I always colored inside the lines. (Via Free Period Press)

I always colored inside the lines. (Via Free Period Press)

My early love of doodling can probably be traced to Amelia’s Notebook, Marissa Moss’s composition-book-spotted masterpiece of fictional journal drawings. However, given the fact that I considered myself constitutionally incapable of drawing people, I had to devote my energies to a variety of other subjects.

As an older sibling, I feel a tiny bit bad for Cleo. (Via Amazon)

As an older sibling, I feel a tiny bit bad for Cleo. (Via Amazon)

Between fifth and twelfth grade, some of my favorite things to doodle included:

  • Poké Balls
  • vines
  • that cool “S” with the pointy top and bottom
  • foods I hoped would be for lunch
  • books
  • the events covered in the A.P. U.S. History curriculum
  • fairy castles
  • elaborate geometric patterns that would cover the entire “Saturday” column of my homework planner
  • city skylines
  • mermaids (with carefully rendered breasts)

(In my defense, studies do show that doodlers are actually more likely than non-doodlers to retain information.)

It should come as no surprise that, outside of school, doodles snuck into my journals. There’s a floor plan of my Argentine host family’s house, several layouts for the school newspaper, the outline of a Silly Band pig, and something that looks troublingly like an over-decorated coffin.

On the right side of the page are plans for the Regency romance novel I have yet to write.

On the right side of the page are plans for the Regency romance novel I have yet to write.

While I have always been primarily a word-writer, I would guess that there are many among our dear queer diarist fellows who use doodles as a primary method for recording their thoughts, experiences, and fantasies about making out with Ellen Page.

If you spend half as much time in bookstores as I do, you know that there are about a basquillion doodle-related journals out there; however, I feel that I simply must inform you that one lovely Straddler has helped to create her own doodle-friendly diary—or as she calls it, “a coloring book for adults.” You may recall reading about it way back when it was in the Kickstarter phase, but I can assure you that 1. Free Period Press is now a beautiful reality, and 2. my mini-notebook has already facilitated journal-doodles aplenty. I, personally, lack the moral fiber to color outside the lines, but as usual, you can do you, my journaling geniuses.

This is my Free Period notebook, ft. my disturbingly scaly.

This is my Free Period notebook, ft. my disturbingly scaly thumb.

What is your doodling modus operandi, dear queer diarists? Do you need a grown-up coloring book to hide in your desk drawer at work? Most importantly, have you ever drawn a picture of a Squirtle in your journal? Please, reassure me that I am not alone.


Dear Queer Diary is a column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We crack open our tiny notebooks and break out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.

28 Comments

  1. The Amelia books were absolutely formative for me as a journaler and I’m actually planning/hoping to pick these up for the school library where I work as “mentor texts” for the teachers (or me!) to teach journaling to my young students. I even had a purple and white marbled notebook as my very first diary because I wanted one like Amelia’s and I decorated it with stickers and everything.

    I don’t doodle any more because I’m not in classes, taking notes, and my journal is a LiveJournal (remember those?), but I miss it a lot, so I might need to invest in some of those coloring books!

    I never drew a squirtle, but I definitely drew some Pikachus and about ten thousand drawings of this boy with cat ears and a tail from grades nine through, oh, senior year of college.

  2. Of all my doodles, I think I am most proud of the series of 48-hour chick embryos in the margins of my stats notebook.

    By the way, whatever happened to those NSFW coloring books we were promised? Did we not raise enough money for those?

  3. i’m pretty sure that at least 50% of the reason i got a degree in art therapy was so i could take classes that actually encouraged doodling while the teachers talked.

    also, in high school i used to draw elaborate checker board patterns on all my fingers with different colored metallic gel-pens (do those still exist?). i don’t think i retained anything from US government class but maybe that was by choice and not due to doodles.

  4. This has officially become my favorite column on Autostraddle. A couple months ago I sat by a mysterious man on a plane who taught me crazy things about geometry and martial arts. We also compared notebooks and he suggested I get one without lines. The thought made me nervous, so I did it.

    I doodle so much more. My writing feels more free. We had a snow day not too long ago and I stayed in and sketched for the first time in forever. (Her name is Khaleesi.) I don’t know if I’ll be buying another lined notebook anytime soon.

  5. AMELIA’S NOTEBOOK THO. I completely forgot about that book!! Holy shit. Blast from the past. I used to ADORE those. And I totally got a notebook and tried to do cutesy drawings like hers but mine sucked. Ahhh, thank you for mentioning this <3

  6. i make myself hate myself by drawing OCs in couple-y situations a lot. i’m trying not to, but it’s too cold or inclement recently to go out & draw the flowers coming up : (

    i’m also having a lot of difficulty just getting into this new book, which is actually the 1st sketchbook i’ve started outside of any schooling, which may explain why it feels so slow & weird & wrong. buh.

    i also drew in all my notes throughout my school years. like, you would think i wasn’t paying attention if you saw them. which is why i felt so vindicated when they came out & said “doodling & stuff actually helps retain information” like yes! i’m still paying attention, & depending, i may be paying even more attention than if i was just sitting there taking notes. unfortunately, my one friend, who’s a teacher, didn’t seem to understand, which was frustrating. if you’re going to acknowledge that we all learn/think differently, then don’t assume that the doodling/drawing is someone being inattentive or even rude.

    i used to doodle in my journal-journals; when i was younger i would sometimes draw really sexual stuff, then feel ashamed & either glue the pages together or rip them out, depending on what was on the other sides. now i just, uh, draw that stuff in my sketchbooks like “WHATEVAH”. uh was that TMI i’m sorry aaa

    i loved the Amelia’s Notebooks! i still think they’re awesome; things that at least give the appearance of being more “interactive” or multimedia really interest me a lot. c:

  7. I totally just bought a Free Period mini notebook because my job search has been making me feel depressed. The thought of filling one of those up with colors is cheering.

    Doodling makes me self conscious, which may be weird. However, I had a lot of great rocket and space scenes in my high school notes.

  8. I gravitated towards graph paper lines. Regular lines are great for writing but I feel discouraged to draw, and unlined books command an artistic prowess I’m not ready for. Graph paper gives me the freedom to write and draw, and do math if I feel a need to do some long division (which I have? before?)

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