I started making books before I started school. There are boxes in my mother’s attic filled with stapled sheets of nonsensical stories. When I was nine, I spent weeks making filofaxes out of paper, tape and glue, with secret folders and perforated notes and intricate paper locks. Later, I made simple hand-bound poetry collections as Christmas gifts. I still do, sometimes.
While I have always found books magical and could spend hours in libraries and bookshops, just stroking old spines and inhaling the scent of words, I had forgotten all about my childhood passion of making books until just a few months ago.
This Sunday, I treated myself to a bookbinding class in Edinburgh. When I walked out of the studio four hours later, it felt like I had been there for a few minutes. For the first time after a long period of uncertainty, I felt like I might have rediscovered a passion I really want to pursue. Not because anyone told me to. Not because I want to make money from it. Simply because cutting and gluing and sewing and watching two little books take shape in my hands was so magical I couldn’t stop smiling.
After the class, I had planned to work for the rest of the day. Instead, I took a detour to a second-hand bookshop and lost track of time again. In the evening, I headed to Edinburgh International Book Festival and got a last-minute ticket to a deeply moving and inspiring lecture with classical pianist and author James Rhodes. He talked about how music was the only thing that made him get through the fourteen unimaginable months when he was forbidden to speak about his past and fought for the right to publish his autobiography, Instrumental. ‘I would lock myself into a room with a piano, and lawyers just didn’t exist,’ he said. ‘I just immersed myself in music.’
Surely, music can have a powerful healing impact, no matter if you have experienced something terrible or just feel out of pace with life. So can books, poetry, art, nature and many other non-destructive things, as long as we allow ourselves to be immersed by them, just for a little while.
In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron encourages readers to take themselves on a weekly ”artist date”, blocking off a few hours for a truly enjoyable activity to fill their ”creative well”. It could be something you loved to do as a child, or some new activity you would try if you had the courage, or something as simple as spending a whole afternoon reading a lovely book. But whatever you do, it should be fun.
Todd Henry also talks about the importance of unnecessary creating in his podcast, Accidental Creative. If you really want to improve and find your own ways to express yourself, you can’t just stick to textbooks, rules and scales – you have to play around with your creative tools, weather they are words or pencils or camera settings or piano keys. Even more importantly, I think, it is necessary in order to retain the joy in creating.
It is easy to feel like every hour of your day should have a clearly defined purpose. You should make money. You should make an impact. You should build an audience. You should help others. But don’t forget the one person who is influenced by your decisions and actions every second of your life. When was the last time you spent an entire day just doing things you love? When was the last time you immersed yourself wholeheartedly in whatever makes you happier without feeling guilty?
Take a look at a calendar and make an appointment for yourself. Ask yourself: What would be exciting to do now? Then do that, and allow yourself to enjoy it, no matter how silly or pointless or selfish it seems.