Considering that there are several blogs out there (all of which publish far more frequently than I do), I figured that now was as good a time as any to discuss the process by which I author a blog post for Ephemeral Pursuits. Sometimes (as in the case of a book review of a non-fine edition), I merely take some photographs of the book in question or skip that process entirely and just use Amazon’s image of the book cover – insert the image (whichever method was used) into a new post and simply begin writing that review right there and then. Of course, that’s usually weeks or months after I’ve read the actual book itself. But I tend to find that the best books linger in your consciousness after you’ve read them, so that’s not really an indictment of my sloth.
I actually write everyday.
I just don’t do it here. Let me rephrase that. The results of my writing usually aren’t seen for weeks, months, or even years after the fact. Instead, what I do is write down thoughts, notes, and yes, full blog posts down into my journals and notebooks. Longhand. With pen or pencil. The upside is that I don’t need to have a computer handy to work on my writing. The downside is that I have to eventually transfer any articles I want to publish on the Internet from my notebooks by hand, typing them all in. This isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a built-in system that forces me to revisit, rewrite, and rethink my original words.
“I have rewritten–often several times–every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” – Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
Mr. Nabokov speaks truth.
There’s a great deal of paper I’ve got lying around in my files that will never see the light of day. At least, not while I’m alive. Sometimes, I rewrite on paper before I even hit the forced rewrite during the digital transcribing process. Most of them are bound into notebooks, rather than being filed as loose paper smartly organized by topic. This usually provides an in-depth look at my thought process and what topics held my interest longer than others.
I’ve written about my love of Field Notes Brand’s notebooks here (off of the main site, not the blog) – but for several years, I used plain spiral-bound notebooks and Moleskines. I hated writing in both for two different reasons – the Moleskines were bound hardcovers, so you always felt pressure to make every page count, not to fill it up with dreck. And spiral-bound notebooks will simply just fall apart, plus you can just rip out and mangle the pages like nobody’s business – lending whatever’s written in them an aura of non-permanence. The Field Notes books are small enough, cheap enough, and nice enough for me to constantly write in them to the point where I’ve filled up several notebooks (I’ve only finished two Moleskine books in my lifetime and thrown away several, several spiral-bound notebooks). Using tools that encourage you to write more is just as important as actually writing.
Here’s one of those Field Notes Brand notebooks of mine (this is actually a limited edition notebook, Winter 2011 – Northerly Edition):
The first time I began writing in this notebook was in the Rare Books & Manuscripts room of the Ohio State University, researching the Arion Press Moby-Dick article that I was writing for Chris Adamson at Books & Vines. Being the multi-tasker that I am, I was also researching other ideas I had for other articles for the future. One of those was the Edith McGillcuddy Meets R.L.S. article about the fantastic Rowfant Club publication. I was researching other potential Rowfant Club publications to research for further articles as can be seen on the first page of this journal:
As you might have noticed – I was tracing the auction history of some copies of the Rowfant Club’s Rubaiyat, published in 1899 and limited to 150 copies, but a small sidenote in the Rowfant Club’s own publication noted that there were also two additional copies published, both bound in vellum. That’s a story to track down for another day, assuming I get around to it. But that’s the amount of information that can be encapsulated in a single page – potentially as many as three different full articles can get their germ from this single page (the publication itself, the 150 Japanese paper copies, the sole pair of vellum copies, or even the collection history of these specific copies and their fate).
Later on in the same journal – I began thinking about translation and what it means to be able to enjoy translated works of literature. The best work I could think of to illustrate the beauty of translation was The Little Prince. So, I began sketching out an article based on these two tenets. Once I began working on the article, I began researching the editions (and also acquiring cheap editions, along with two nice editions to maintain in my permanent library – a Katherine Woods version and the nicest edition I could find at a reasonable price). While the words took form – I also had to plan my photographing and see how I could integrate some photos into the article or at least illustrate portions of my thoughts.
I began writing this article on September 24 (with a prefatory note on Herodotus’ Histories, which I was reading at the time):
After jotting down some thoughts, I was able to formulate the structure of the article itself with a few more pages:
At the close of the article (which had taken three days at this point to write out) – the reader can see some other concepts for future articles written down on the overlapping pages:
So, you may or may not be seeing the following article topics headed to Ephemeral Pursuits: Incline Press, Igloo Letterpress, On Cinema & Collecting Film, and Genres of Film. All have rich veins of expository writing just ready to be mined – especially the film topics.
Special Bonus for the Aspiring Book Blogger – Building a Homemade Shadowbox
While I’m definitely not a professional photographer, nor do I possess a very nice camera – I’ve found that the aspiring blogger can definitely get their photographs to look better by building a homemade shadowbox. Especially if the aspiring blogger orders large and rare books – you can reuse the packaging that the books arrive in to construct said shadowbox. I saved the packaging that Bill Majure shipped my Limited Editions Club edition of Gibbons’ Decline & Fall of Rome in. Then I constructed a simple shadowbox that I’ve taken most of the photographs for this blog in.
All you’ll need is the following items:
- Sharp knife (preferably Exacto type, or a razor blade works)
- Scotch tape
- Masking tape
- Large cardboard box
- Tissue paper
- White paper or cloth (unbroken, that is large enough to fit in the box)
You want a cardboard box that will be large enough to house the objects you want to photograph on a regular basis. If you don’t want it to be extremely portable, or want to be able to fit the box over the top of an object (for example, for a flower outdoors). You’ll want to cut out four sides of the cardboard box, leaving you with two sides of a cube. Leave the structural framework intact – take a look at the photographs below for a better idea:
The last thing you need to know about using a shadowbox is that you want to use indirect light in the room, while shining direct light into the box (which gets filtered into soft light by the tissue paper sides). In general, it allows me to boost the level of my own photographs (despite the crude equipment). You just have to make sure you take the right angles due to the size of the box and be sure to crop your photographs well.
Then again, there’s always another solution. You can be fortunate like Tony Geer of The Book Blog and have access to a full professional photographic studio with all the bells and whistles. He does an incredible job – and I’d love to hear his take on how he deals with being a hobbyist blogger (at this point in time in our lives, that’s what we are). Here’s a photograph of Tony in action (the shadowbox is the same concept behind the background and soft light you can see Tony using in the photo below):
Cheers and if this post inspires you to get out and create your own blog, please drop me a line with the address! I’d love to check it out. Hope all of you co-bloggers enjoyed this look behind the scenes at Ephemeral Pursuits (or at least into my creative process and some of the tools I use).