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Back In My Good Books: A Story About Discovering Irish Authors In Cyberspace

I have previously written about my sense of malaise at not being able to remember what I was supposed to look up online, and about being underwhelmed by the web when I use my phone instead of my computer. I was annoyed with myself that my web surfing had been reduced to quick scrolls with a finger instead of delving down rabbit holes of wonder, and I was always being distracted by what was coming at me via email and various social media channels. My fault entirely, but still hard to get over.

To overcome this, I have been consciously trying to go directly to webpages which I love, or blogs which make me happy, to see what’s happening there. That way I get to see stuff I am choosing to see, rather than the stuff choosing to see me (I’m looking at you, facebook).

Recently I found this post on one of my favourite sites, Meet Me At Mikes, and it took my eye because of the reference to a podcast with the children’s book author, Oliver Jeffers. We own two of his books, with their immediately recognisable illustrations and their grown up concepts woven into enthralling tales for kids.

Pip’s post on Meet Me At Mikes is about the beauty of being oneself, and not trying to be the same as everyone else. But more than that, and something which resonated with me, it was about the idea of backing yourself. Coincidentally, when my 2015 diary asked me for my New Year’s Resolutions, I had written exactly that. ‘Back Myself’. Such a simple instruction, but one that’s so easily forgotten, or worse, consciously deleted from our self-talk.

In the podcast (here), Oliver Jeffers speaks about the way that each person’s handwriting is different, and expands the idea to apply it to art and even the way our brains work.

“If you didn’t have your own handwriting everything would look just like it was printed in a book”, he says. “Everybody’s got their own little quirks and tweaks that make it theirs. And it’s the same with drawing and probably the same with thinking.”

I look at my handwriting in my desk diary open in front of me and notice the letters slightly slanting to the left at times, sometimes narrow vowels and curves, at other times more rounded. Apparently even my handwriting can’t manage to be the same as my own handwriting.

…But back to Oliver Jeffers. His point is that we all have our own styles, and we should try to embrace what sets us apart from others, instead of trying to be the same. At a point, Jeffers realised he needed to stop copying what other artists and illustrators were doing, and let his hands draw the way they wanted to. It was then that he discovered his own style which came so easily and enjoyably, and in turn others came to love it as well. I love the realisation that imitation was pretty futile in his line of work, “somebody’s already doing that for a living, and it’s that guy”.

My own discovery that Jeffers has a life outside of kids’ books (he’s a painter and filmmaker as well) was just another gem I found on this little rabbit-hole adventure. And, as if this weren’t enough treasure for one day, thank’s to Pip’s post I also found out about another great site, Brain Pickings. It is, in it’s own words, a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and more. I think I’ll be visiting there in the future. Type it straight into the address bar, do not pass Go.

So, I am back loving the internet, and not just because I have found 7 different posts about how to hide veggies in my toddler’s smoothies, dinner, dessert, cupcakes, carpets. Sorry, that last one wasn’t online. That was in my actual house.

Related post: Why it’s hard to surf after a feed

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