Inspiring book spines and high standards

Replicated from my SheWrites blog, 19 January 2011.

Apart from the records my dad played on Saturday afternoons, one vivid and early memory that sticks with me is the background ‘wallpaper’ of my parents’ bookshelves.  I remember when learning to read, browsing the spines of the books, noticing the colours, their thickness, which ones stood out and which ones I suddenly noticed for the first time. I was particularly intrigued by a book I assumed was some sort of thriller or mystery (judging by the need to use only the author’s surname on the cover) about a prehistoric dinosaur type creature with perhaps metaphysical or psychological overtones: Roget’s Thesaurus (The Saurus – get it?)

To this day, some 25 years later, I can picture the book spines: Colin Wilson – a thick magenta book with green block writing; Xavier Herbert – Poor Fellow, My Country; Franz Kafka – MetamorphosisThomas Mann – Death in Venice (I think?); Germaine Greer – The Female EunuchAlex Haley – RootsJames Joyce – Ulysses… the list goes on.  I rarely pulled the books out of their shelves, as the spines alone were enough, their colours and designs, fonts and styles either pleasing to my eye or putting me off, and their titles often like tongue-twisters for my young brain (The Aquarian Conspiracy was one – I used to repeat this over and over in my head).  Strangely enough, of those books I’ve named, I only ever read one, and that was the Kafka.  But I feel like the influence of all this prolific writing somehow seeped into me over time, and I wish I could go back and look over those shelves again, but sadly they will never be what they once were as my parents divorced when I was nine and the books were broken up into piles, moved about, lost, thrown away, left in boxes in garages…

I know that my writing is stalled by my lack of motivation and my inability to complete a story.  But I think there is also still this element of not putting it out there.  So I always mean to enter competitions or submit articles or stories for publication, even in free ezines or obscure sites, but I never manage it.  The one time when I did successfully write and publish pieces online was when a very creative and motivated film phd student friend pushed me to do it.  In fact she gave me little choice in the matter.  The deadline was set – and the faster I wrote, the more I’d be published.  I ended up writing, I think, six film reviews in the space of about a week, and it was the most fantastic experience.  Not only did I get to review some amazing documentaries for the LIDF, but I even got to meet some of the directors of the films in person who actually praised me formy reviews!  Can you imagine!  They were grateful for what I’d written and felt happy I’d understood what they were trying to achieve.  I was bowled over.  I knew I didn’t necessarily belong in the ‘film world’, but I lapped up the praise.  My friend who got me into it in the first place kept remarking how amazed she was at the quality of the writing and how quickly I churned out the reviews, given I’d never reviewed a film in my life.  I certainly was on a roll at the time, just pumping out chunks of writing, refining as I went.  I did watch the films and do most of the writing while I was meant to be working though…

This all leads me to believe that there is something about doing ‘unimportant’ writing that is easier.  I didn’t worry about how these reviews reflected on me – I was just interested in providing something of quality for the benefit of the directors and for the audience to read before they saw the films.  It was external to me.  So perhaps that’s where the motivation is, in writing with an external focus.

Advertisements

Author: curiosikat

Writer, editor, linguist, social historian...

One thought on “Inspiring book spines and high standards”

  1. I grew up in a house always filled with floor to ceiling bookshelves, many of them on art and archaeology and design and food.

    My new book is out in two weeks (!) and the spine design, in white, yellow, black and orange, is fantastic…I have a thick stack of them in the shelf beside my bed and it’s a hell of a smile when I wake up and see them…

    Writing is easier when no one is watching. But then who are you writing for?

    Here’s my new baby, a memoir reviewers seem to be enjoying…

    http://malledthebook.com/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s