Tag Archives: Books
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A Room of One’s Own

26 Oct

a room for writing

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For the Love of Writing

24 Oct

When asked why they would like to write a novel, most of the students in my writing class replied with reasons such as money or a change of lifestyle. No one in the class said “Because I love writing”.

Writing has become a business. In almost every issue of Writer’s Magazine there is an article explaining to readers how they can make a million pounds with their ebook, blog, self-published novel etc. One article I read recently stated that in order to have a successful book, writers must pick out a target audience before getting started and then write their book to meet their audience’s desires, in order to guarantee sales.

This purely commercial attitude to writing saddens and disheartens me. Personally, I do not write because I want to become filthy rich, but because I enjoy writing. I write about things I love or things I believe in, and I am always deeply fulfilled to finish yet another article or poem or story. Writing in itself brings me joy, and I write every day precisely because the act of writing makes me happy.

I am worried that if writers and the publishing industry continue to focus purely on sales, then future generations will never discover the fun and pleasure of writing as an art. Even today, I wonder where I could find a teacher who could teach me the beauty of written expression, rather than the technique of creating a bestseller.

If you know a writer who writes for the love of writing, send them my way! I have many things I would like to talk to them about…

What I Dreamed About in the Quiet Room in the Attic

28 Jul

I have come to the quiet room in the attic to write. It smells of books and old wallpaper, and I feel as if I am in my own private library. The desk is directly underneath the window and I gaze sleepily at the shimmering leaves of the giant trees in front of the house. There is a strong wind today and, despite being discontented about yet another grey day, I am soothed by the soft whisperings of the birches.

Apart from a desk and a bookshelf, the room has nothing to distract attention. No-one passes through here and it will be a while until the others realise where I am. I have all the time in the world. I prop my head up with my hands and dream out of the window.

The pine tree is covered in tiny drops of rain, which it has not managed to shake off with the wind. The small birch is waving frantically at its elder, who is so tall and elegant, that only her head and shoulders show sign of movement. The fir tree, with its three-meter branches, is still; its peaceful breathing suggests that it is at rest.

I observe these friends; we have known each other since childhood and I have got so used to seeing them that I no longer pay much attention to them.

I get up from the desk and walk over to the bookshelf, on which a random collection of books has been growing for the past fifty years. History, art, fiction, crime, biography, and even a stamp collection, can be found here, all with yellowing pages and fading covers. One book catches my attention and I take it off the shelf: Matilda Kshesinskaya – Memoirs. I was thinking about her only last week, funny how I should discover her autobiography in the quiet room of my family home.

I look at photos of Matilda in her various dance roles, and my thoughts wander over ballerinas and their hard work and discipline. Over their perseverance, their talent and their elegance. Over their strength of character, their mysteriousness and their beauty. They possess a wealth of exemplary qualities and, as I flick through the pages and bring my nose closer to the paper to inhale the smell of this old book, I remember a quote that I once read and have never forgotten:

“God gives talent. Work transforms talent into genius.”
~ Anna Pavolva

One day, perhaps, I will have the wisdom of a ballerina…

Confessions of a Book Abuser

3 Mar

I can hear them mocking me as I walk past.

“She only bought me because I was pretty.”

“She bought me because I have a good reputation.”

“She picked me because I won a prize.”

“She took me because I was cheap.”

These are my books, taunting me daily with the truth.

“She hasn’t even read any of us!” exclaims one.

“No, she just likes to have us on show,” puts in another.

“Well, I don’t mind. I’m better off on her shelves than in a box in the attic,” confesses a third.

“Good for you! But I’m adored by millions across the world and she hasn’t even read my blurb yet!” bursts out a fourth.

I admit it – I completely mistreat my books. Firstly, I buy them, giving them the (false) hope that they now have a caring new owner. I put them on my shelves and for the first week or so I look at them lovingly, giving them the (once again, false) impression that I will soon be taking them to the park, to bed or on holiday with me. I then leave them gathering dust for months, or years, and finally, realising that they are taking up too much space, give them away. I’m surprised that I haven’t been reported to the police yet, despite all these years of book-abuse.

I realised recently that the possession of so many unread books goes completely against my (or should I say, Dominique Loreau’s) Art of the Essential theory: keep a material possession only if you need it or love it.

At the moment, I own books because they look good on my shelves. They decorate my apartment and fill up empty space. They also do what all material possessions do – or, what we want our material possessions to do – they reflect some sort of trait in the owner. In the same way as people buy expensive watches to show to the world that they have a well-paid and important job, or a designer bag to show wealth, or an exclusive penthouse to show success, many people own large quantities of books to “prove” their intelligence.

Many of us put up hundreds of books on our shelves, in a visible place, to persuade ourselves and others that we are well-educated and well-cultured. After all, there’s not a more effective or quicker way of summarising our tastes, our beliefs and our persuasions than by a carefully-chosen book collection. Our visible book collections are a way of saying “I read and own (insert author/poet/philopher’s name), therefore I am (insert adjective)”.

In a lot of cases, a large book collection does not mean that its owner is a book-lover, but, on the contrary – a book-abuser. S/he uses books as mere tools to build up a reputation or a self-image, which is, in most cases, a false reflection of reality. For example, despite owning a few hundred books, I read little, and often feel that I have a very limited knowledge of literature.

In truth, knowledge and culture have nothing to do with the quantity of books we own and display. My grandparents, who have been avid readers their whole lives, only own about fifty books between them – they carry their favourite stories, ideas and quotes in their minds. What’s more, they keep the books that they do own in a closed cupboard; my grandma was shocked to hear that my own books stand in open shelves, where they “can gather dust and be damaged by sunlight”. To her, “books are for reading, not for displaying”.

I have decided that I shall not buy or borrow any books until I have read all those that are currently on my shelves. I shall keep a book only if I love it or need it for future reference, and I will use the library, not Amazon, whenever I am in need of inspiration and enlightenment. I shall use books for their original purpose – education, inspiration and entertainment – rather than the decorative purpose that they have been given.

My book-abusing days are over and my books shall gather dust no more!

 

***

Do you store unread or unnecessary books on your shelves?

Do you tend to keep books because they ‘look good’, even though they no longer serve you?

If you own very few books, what are you criteria for the ones you do choose to keep?

Counting the Blessings, Not the Events in My Life

15 May

I had heard that time flies, but no-one had told me that it soars. The past year has gone by with the blink of an eye. For me, it has had little form and even less structure. What have I done during the past twelve months? What has happened in the last 365 days? Looking back, the past year looks like a stretch of time marked by uncertainty, emptiness and waiting. Things have moved at a slower pace than ever before, and there are few events that have been caught on camera or written into a diary. However, when I think about the past year, I realise for the first time that it is not the quantity of memorable events that matters so much as their quality. This year has brought few notable events, but they have had a crucial role in the direction of my life’s path.

1) I graduated from university.

2) I went on a life-changing trip to India.

3) I completed a novel-writing course, which made me realise that, despite my fears, that I am capable.

4) I was offered my first ‘real’ job in a field that I love.

5) I moved to a different country.

6) I moved in with my boyfriend.

However, when I look back at the past year, these events feature only as a backdrop to that which happened on centre stage. In fact, it is my spiritual experiences and changes that played the main role during this period of time.

1) I got rid of 50% of my material possessions. In my new home, I live only with the things that I use regularly.

2) I deleted my social networking accounts. If they’re my real friends, I should be able to call them to find out about their lives. If I feel uncomfortable about picking up the phone to speak to them, I don’t need to be filling my mind with their lives. Seven months without Facebook, and I feel calmer, more confident and I know who my true friends are.

3) I took a risk. When I started job-hunting last autumn, I knew that I had two choices: I could either persevere and look for jobs in the field that I love –writing – or I could take the easier option of going into a better paid, more stable and more ‘prestigious’ career. Parents considered The City or the EU as a good destination for me, but I knew that if I didn’t take the chance to try my luck in writing, I would never again have the opportunity to do so. Three months later, I was offered a job as an online content editor.

4) I made a dream come true. Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of working in a cute little bookshop, where I would be able to pass on my love for literature to others. In the autumn, I was hired for a week-end shift at a new independent bookshop in my area. I only worked there for four months, but the experience was unforgettable. I was blessed with kind, knowledgeable and good-humoured colleagues, with friendly clients and with a brilliant stock of books to enjoy.

5) I chose love over fear.  What if I don’t like it? What if it doesn’t work out? What if he changes his mind? What if we get bored? A million doubts filling my mind before moving to a new country and moving in with my boyfriend. Four months after my move, this new life feels like second nature.

6) I was honest with myself. Young women my age are going to parties, filling their days with countless activities, following fashion, spending, seducing, networking…I tried, but never found fulfilment in any of these activities. I finally admitted to myself that I would prefer to spend Friday night watching the sunset from a hill, spend the afternoon riding a bike, spend evenings doing yoga, spend the week-ends doing photography, and spend my money on dance class, art exhibitions or fresh local food from the market. By being honest with myself, I have found a more natural way of life.

This year, I may not have had many events to talk about, but I have had many ideas and feelings to share. I think I am finally starting to learn how to count the blessings, and not the events in my life…