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Renie Garlick : An Ode To Books

An Ode To Books

By Renie Garlick

A recent Creativity Portal article (Feb. 20, 2009) by Molly J. Anderson-Childers entitled "The Story as Muse" got me to thinking about the not-so-simple act of reading.

Surely, there is something MAGICAL about BOOKS.

  • They are so incredibly accessible, even the big, heavy coffee table books.
  • They are intimate; they have a "personal" feel about them.
  • They are democratic — they open for anyone no matter what your social or financial status, they go anywhere and can be shared easily.
  • There are other wonders to add, but let's get to the nitty-gritty magic.
  • Books defy universal physical laws — they are time machines transporting us backwards and forwards to lost civilizations and futuristic worlds.
  • Books can make what is NOT real become real — where once there was no such thing as Hogwarts, Hogwarts appears.
  • Books have the power to link us directly to our inner artist/creative being and, perhaps more quickly and more strongly than any other art form. Now that's magic.

As you open the cover, turn the pages and read, you answer the call to that creative being deep within. You create in your imagination the characters and places described by the author's words. In this way, you become co-creator with the author; together, the two of you, bring to life a new world and the people in it. This is truly great and profound magic. Books make artists of everyone. This may not seem like such a big deal here on Creativity Portal. After all, we are among friends and those who proudly claim the label "artist." But how often have you seen a student or fellow workshop participant collapse in on themselves if asked the question "Are you an artist?" I've witnessed countless exhaustive protests: "No! No! I don't know how to draw anything but stick figures." Leaving aside this slam on stick-figures, we all lose something valuable and significant if we deny our creative essence. This is where the common, ubiquitous, unassuming magical box we call a "book" can help. Books can be a quick, inexpensive, readily accessible home remedy to artistic dis-ease. The magical power of books to support the artist within each and every one of us gives us a wide welcoming portal to creativity. And this is always a good thing — I don't think anything bad has ever happened in the exercise of creativity.

With that said books take on a grander, more inspiring role than mere escape or instruction. Since they can so easily coax the artist out whether we be adult or child, professional or hobbyist, abstract expressionist or hyper-realist, painter or dancer or musician, aren't they also a way to bring us together to share with one another our creativity and build strong, nurturing relationships? Couldn't we use them to meet one another at the crossroads of our better nature?

Perhaps this is the book's greatest power — we can read them together and share them with one another. Which is to say, books offer amazing opportunities for making creative communities. This can be done and has been done. I have had the great joy to experience this first hand. If you're looking for a way to build stronger ties within your community, be it a youth group, school, or township, I highly recommend you consider a Collaborative Book Project.

It's really quite simple.

First, of course, you need to choose a book for everyone to share. I suggest approaching local authors and/or your group's members to see if they have something to offer. This sets the perfect tone right away, namely, it's grass roots, from among the very people with whom you create the community.

Once you have your story, get the word out to your group, school or town and call for collaborators of all shapes and sizes. Be open to all comers; encourage everyone eligible to take part in whatever way they choose. All you need ask is that they let the book inspire them to use their imagination, to make something to share. It's very important here to remain open and non-judgmental. Any whiff of criticism will send the stick-figure artists into hiding and undermine the very essence of your project, namely, to provide a way for people to create together.

Finally, choose a venue for bringing the finished creations together. When I was part of such a collaboration, we were able to include the local merchants by displaying our work in their shop windows. This provided a way for the shop owners to benefit from our creative collaboration and to develop ties with our group and the artists. Ultimately, this created other opportunities for both to work together in the future. I think it necessary to have a venue that offers enough exposure to confer a sense of accomplishment and pride on the work that has been done. You can expand on this by celebrating with an opening reception or similar event that recognizes your collaborators as artists publicly.

And you don't have to stop here. How about making this a yearly event? Truly weave creativity and artistic expression into the rhythm of your community. As part of your collaboration you could stage regular art-making events that reach out to other non-members to participate in this imaginative play. Be sure to let these folks know of your ultimate exhibition so they can return to see their work displayed. Perhaps you could recruit new members from these passers-by. If your group would benefit from such, consider taking your story and exhibit on the road, spreading the word about the collaboration and your community.

I hope you're beginning to realize that Collaborative Book Projects are full of opportunities and benefits. And flexible enough to work well in a great variety of instances. I hope you'll attempt a project like this the next time you're looking for a way to unleash your creativity. •

© 2009 Renie Garlick

Writer & book artist Renie Garlick indulges her long-standing curiosity about the magical relationship between reader and book wherever and whenever she can. More »