I was putting together a climbing dome for my kids out in the yard a few days ago (it’s December in Texas, you can still get a sunburn outside) and there were two kinds of nuts I had to distinguish between, and I thought, “How many damned kinds of nuts are there, anyways?” Many, it turns out, so I drew a bunch of them in my diary. Now I can name nuts like Harlan Pepper.
I copied those nuts from a diagram I found on the internet, much like I copied this timeline of composers a few years ago. It’s not enough, for me, to just print out a diagram and paste it in my diary. I need to copy it by hand, slowly, to really look at it and let the information sink in. Copying is how I learn, it’s a way to understand what’s really going on, and drawing is a way of slowing down long enough to really look at something. (It’s like I said in Keep Going: “Slow down and draw things out.”)
Here’s a drawing I made when I was trying to understand the moon phases. I thought I had it figured out, until I was playing with the Sundial app on my phone and realized that, duh, when the moon is full, it’s got the full sun shining on it from the other side of the earth, so lunar noon, when it’s at its peak, is at the opposite time of day from solar noon. (I think?) Again, drawing helped me understand:
If you draw something, no matter how mundane the subject, no matter how badly, you really look at the thing, and therefore, you remember it better.
If you want to remember something, try drawing it.