I was planning to post the 4th installment of this mini-series — on how to write unceasingly — next month. But I just couldn’t wait!
You see, I believe what I’m about to share is the culmination of all the “how-to’s” about attention collectibles I’ve been sharing since the start of the series.
And wouldn’t you know it, it’s found in none other than (surprise surprise) a book!
Every now and then a book appears you just can’t help but pick up. Especially when so much love, beauty, and care have obviously been put into creating it.
This is how the book “Little Stories of Your Life” by Laura Pashby came to me. And I say “came” because I secretly believe that books have the mysterious power to “seek out” their intended readers!
It all started, as many of my book adventures do, with a typical day hunting-gathering books at the local library.
Hunt. Gather. Read. Write.
One of the great promises of a new library is the chance to borrow brand-new books. Not necessarily the latest titles, but those newly purchased by the library even though they’ve already been published for some time.
The heady concoction promised in the sight, scent, and texture of new books is just too tempting for anyone to resist. Least of all me. Someone who still thinks of himself as a voracious reader and print book collector.
But I was on a mission that day. I was hunting for a specific book*. One this spanking new library’s online catalogs assured me was available on their shelves.
Yet despite dutifully following “Mister Dewy Decimal” to where the book was supposed to be, I was disappointed.
My search turned up empty!
Like some prehistoric hunter-gatherer without a catch of the day to bring back to his man cave, I was distraught and desperate. Can it be?! To walk out of the largest library in my country with nothing but an empty tote bag meant for my precious literary discoveries?
But just when I was about to give up, there it was. Smack in the middle of a row of books on how to write well.
A book like none beside it.
Standing upright, its new snowflake look was the first thing to catch my eye. It was nearly blinding!
Yes, the books to its left and right were also spanking new. But there was something else inviting about this book that just arrested my attention the second I laid eyes on it.
On its spine, in lovely gold-embossed letters, was the title…
Source: Author Laura Pashby’s website
For someone who makes it his business to write weekly about little stories of my life, I felt in that instant like I had found my raison d’etre; my home.
Ever had that feeling? Where you had been lost but now you suddenly discover where you are? Where you were meant to be?
That’s how I felt as I reached out with bated breath to take the book into my hands and turn it over for our first face-to-face introduction.
As you can see from the picture above, the book greets you with not one but four lovely shots of still life and nature. With earthy colors that blended beautifully like paintings in an art gallery. Right away you knew a seasoned photographic eye must have played a huge part in creating this masterpiece. (Many more dreamy and picturesque photos await readers within this book’s sacred pages).
But what I love most of all was the subtitle’s promise offered soothingly on the cover: “Find your voice, share your world and tell your story.”
You had me at “Hello”!
The moment I laid eyes on the cover, I found myself gripping the book so tight other library patrons might have thought I was trying to tear it in two! Not likely; it was hardcover after all, and I’m not the Hulk.
I was simply expressing how pleased I was with my good fortune. Especially since I had nearly given up on that day’s book-hunting expedition.
This was a book that not only looked like it belongs more in an art gallery than a library. It also spoke directly to the soul of writing for me.
Published in 2021 by Hardie Grant Quadrille, a company that (going by its website) clearly prizes producing aesthetically gorgeous publications, this book definitely checks all the boxes for me on the art of writing.
Divided into three parts, the book takes readers through author Laura’s approach to mastering the art of how to write and tell the little stories of our lives remarkably well.
Part 1 – Paying Attention (to write)
The first part of the book is all about “paying attention” and not ignoring the seemingly-invisible small things that are part of our daily lives.
For instance, among many examples cited and patiently explained, Laura’s favorite analogy for small things with a universal appeal — no doubt because she’s a Brit — is the humble cup of tea.
A popular “visual motif for a moment of peace and comfort”, you can pay attention to different facets of the teacup. Its design. The tea it hosts. The hands that cradle them gratefully on a rainy morning.
Any or all of these can invite us to ponder the sheer wonder of life. And to write about it.
Laura encourages readers to pay attention and record the world around them by tuning in to their senses. Sounds heard. Blue things we saw (or any color). What we tasted today. Scents that remind us of home.
In short, harness all our senses. All for the honing of our writing craft.
Part 2 – Finding Your Creative Voice
In Part 2, Laura offers a ton of ideas on how we can find our voice in writing.
As many writers know, the writing voice is what makes our piece unique, even if we’re writing something as commonplace or mundane as a grocery list. It’s each writer’s unique perspective on things that we often take for granted. Cos there’s always more than one way to look at anything.
She talks about taking daydream breaks for about five minutes a day — just staring out the window to let your thoughts wander. Starting a scrapbook to keep photos, snippings, website links, or conversation scraps. Going for a walk or an adventure. Or trying a creative discipline we wouldn’t otherwise do, like spoon carving or crocheting.
Photography features prominently too in Laura’s ideas for developing one’s creative voice. No surprise since she’s an avid photographer, evident by the captivating photos featured in this book.
She suggests taking shots that show an ordinary object in an extraordinary setting. Like a coffee table in the middle of a forest. Or someone wearing a rain jacket and Wellington boots indoors.
According to Laura “…a tiny twist is all it takes for us to see the world we take for granted in a whole new light.” That — I think — makes for a story worth telling.“
Part 3 – Telling Your Little Stories
In the last part of her book, Laura shares — among other ideas — an interesting exercise she calls “Self-Portraiture.”
By this, she means taking selfies but not in a vainglory, aka Instagram-filter, style.
Rather, to take self-portrait photos in everyday settings but from unexpected angles. Like a blurred shot of your reflection walking by a shop window. Or a tousled hair, blurry eye portrait of yourself in the bathroom early in the morning. Lens pointed directly at your image in the mirror, obscuring parts of your sleepy face. Or soft dappled sunlight upon your open palms.
Self-portraitures can be serious or funny too, but they rarely show our full face or body because that’s not the goal.
The goal is to make a point, from the simple “this is what I look like” to the more complex “this is what I believe in.”
And when you amass a large number of these, little stories will begin to percolate to the surface of our consciousness.
And our treasure trove of stories will flow over.
Write with attention collectibles to help me “remember what it was to be me”!
In closing, I want to recommend the many glorious quotes Laura included in her book, two of which I plan to print and hang up near my desk as reminders to persevere in my writing journey.
One is taken from T.S Eliot’s poem“The Waste Land”. It ends with this poignant line: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”
The other is from Joan Didion in her essay “On Keeping a Notebook”, where she speaks of keeping a notebook to help her “remember what it was to be me.”
To Laura, and now me, these are reminders that the art and act of writing aren’t just to record and collect tales. It’s an “act of preservation and strengthening of self.“
So here’s to remembering me. And you. Thanks to the many attention collectibles all nicely packaged in an achingly beautiful book.
“Laura, if you ever read this, thank you!”
[*The specific book I was originally looking for? Robin Hemley’s “A Field Guide for Immersion Writing“. Will try again tomorrow — coincidentally World Book and Copyright Day — to find it. Wish me luck!]