Monday, July 20, 2015

Rock pools and sketches and notebooks, oh my.

As a kid, I loved to read books that were about people making books. There were two in particular that I read a lot, one in comic-strip style about the building of a picture book from start to finish, and another about the actual manual work of collating and binding a book of your own. I borrowed these books from the local public library so often that I’m sure a little part of me felt that the librarian should just take pity on me and give them to me for keeps. 

These days we’d say that reading books about writing, illustrating, and making books is kind of meta, but childhood me had no such word for it. I only knew that these books provided a peek into a process that was like drawing aside a magical curtain and opening up the world beyond, like lifting the lid of an upright piano and seeing the intricate innards of the instrument, like peering past the surface of the water to the microcosmic life of the rockpool beneath. Looking at the processes behind books was mesmerising.

I still feel the same sense of fascination with these backstage tours. I have a small but serious collection of books that each explore someone else's creative processes. One of my favourites is about the writer andillustrator Eric Carle; it has a giant fold-out page that shows the step-by-step process Carle uses to create his trademark collages. Another book shows pages from EH Shepard’s childhood sketchbook, with annotations in a scratchy, childish hand. I can’t really explain their fascination for me; I only know that processes are delicious. Show me your first drafts, your sketchbooks, your outlines, and I’m a little bit in awe.

For that reason, it’s been fun to follow the trail of bloggers passing along the Blog Tour Award and talking about their creative processes. (And gosh, reading about how people write is so much easier and more fun than actually writing.) I was nominated to take part in the fun by James Cooper, chief editor of the author.docx blog and lecturer at Tabor College in Adelaide (you can read his answers here). I took several units under James when I was studying my BA, and loved them all. In fact, James’s recommendation introduced me to Francine Prose’s Reading Like A Writer, one of the best books about books I’ve ever read.

The idea of the blog tour is to answer a series of questions about my own creative processes, and to nominate up to four other bloggers to do the same. I was supposed to post my answers today, but I have a busy house full of local and interstate guests so I’ll be back with my answers tomorrow.

In the meantime, though, I have a question for you: are you a process person? What processes inspire you with a desire to create, do, or become?


  1. GYWO was instrumental in getting me into a rhythm of word-making. I have found that there are very different types of word-making for me; the mad dash of writing blitzes when I'm in a corner and need to spend some time with my characters or get through a block (this is always noisily typed), the hummy slower pace of handwriting a scene (all first real drafts MUST be ink on paper), the thoughtful but ruthless editing and wordsmithing - walking with the words over and over until I catch the right bits (blue pen on a printed copy). I have carried this over into academic writing, though there I MUST outline to be coherent at all.

    What I still struggle the most with, in both forms, is balancing structure and intuition. I want to just say things, try to make you understand them, but without some way for you to move through the words, it becomes a tangle of ideas that make a tapestry for me but are only knots on your side. It's hard for me to flip the carpet around so you get the good side.

    Bird by Bird, by the hilarious and earthy Anne Lamott, has most influenced the way I think about developing characters. The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, has most influenced my more formal writing. But mostly I just read hundreds of books a year and soak them in. :)

  2. Also, bookbinding is so delightful. Have you given it a try?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...