Dear Diary: Picture This - Bethan Thorsby

Kendal based illustrator and designer, Bethan Thorsby, expands traditional journaling practices. A creative visual thinker, she uses hand lettering and doodling to extract her inner thoughts, and help stabilise her mental health — a practice she calls ‘Thought-Bubble Writing’.


☝️ 💭  As someone with a lot of feelings, I have learned to recognise the essential nature of thought processing methods like journaling or diary writing, for maintaining a healthy, balanced mental space. Some of the cleverest and most creative folk I know (and throughout history) all keep diaries, scrapbooks or collections as a way to order their thoughts and understand their motives before acting out in the real world.  

🎟 🎢  These days, what often confuses our opinions, and muddies our emotions, are the thousands of narratives bombarding us publicly and through our devices. What’s more, the lack of social opportunity right now means increased time for internal monologue-ing, which can send me spiralling down the slippery slope toward sadness and bewilderment at the world. 

🎭  Folded zine’s 2nd issue asks contributors to consider “Identity”. Publicly, I’ve only talked briefly and candidly about my BPD diagnosis, which is something I’m still grappling with as I navigate daily life. Challenging and frustrating as it can be to realise you’re a bit different, the freedom, independence, and unique spark I’m starting to see in myself is certainly something to nurture!  Finding ‘outsider’ alternative approaches to ‘standard’ methods for keeping healthy and happy has become a big (and fun) part of my growth and recovery; taking up a hobby sport that balances risk and strength gave me confidence mentally and physically, cooking a new kind cuisine for dinner fuels my creativity in a practical way. My approach to addressing deep thoughts and inclinations developed in a similarly out-of-the-box way — instead of a notepad, I reach for a sketchbook. 

🤯  For some brains (like mine), traditional journaling practice is daunting — the commitment to writing daily reams can be a habit that’s tricky to keep up. Though I love to write essays and  analyse bodies of information, the pressure of extracting and structuring my own worries and anxieties on paper is often hard to face. My thoughts are often a speeding train, words and sentences racing past, too fast to grasp. Then, a louder, projected voice foghorns above, an  opposing opinion, drowning out the initial instinct, masking the natural feelings — til the words on paper become bland, posed, prose: a filtered, postcard picture of the truth. 

❗️❓ 📣  Instead, I’ve found that drawing out snippets of confused ideas works for me. The idea is suspended in my mind, whole, as I pull my pen across the paper, filling out the letterforms. With this hand-lettering practice that incorporates pictograph doodling, I’m starting to spell out and visualise lots of ideas coming in from different directions. These words are either things I’ve heard on the news or a latest documentary, on the radio, in conversation on a podcast, or something I’ve picked up from folks’ chattering down the shops. Drawing on my education in Graphic Design and Art History, and an ongoing fascination with visual culture, I render words in various typefaces, adding symbols to visualise meaning — instead of writing down  complete thoughts.

The page, when full, is a graphic representation of the consensus I’ve reached or a question I’m asking. It looks a bit like a newspaper or magazine front cover, shouting quips and comments which catch your eye without really saying or meaning anything. Reading between the lines, and connecting the seemingly sporadic dots, I can begin to paint a picture of what it all might mean. 🧐