Why do you do what you do?

Doctor Who Target books

Some of my favourite Doctor Who books

Have you ever stopped to wonder why do you do what you do? I don’t mean just the big picture like ‘I wanted to work in a big/small/famous company/charity doing a job description’ or ‘I always had a dream to do x’ or even ‘I have a talent for it..’.

I mean examining the actual tasks that you undertake in doing that role. Which bits do you find motivating and easy. I believe it’s in these micro-tasks that you’ll find the tendencies and traits that reveal what your ‘talent’ actually is.

I loved Doctor Who novels. They were novelisations of the television series adventures, often by the original scriptwriter and published by a company called Target between 1972 and 1990. In the 1970s and 80s they were the only way to re-live stories that had been on television. Doctor Who was very, very rarely repeated and stories weren’t released on video until the late 1980s and even then, most of the earlier black and white stories from the 1960s had been thrown away by the BBC. So the novels remained the definitive versions.

They triggered a few interesting traits in me. The first being the most dramatic. When I got my first one, age 7, I couldn’t read it. I had to learn to read, the book motivated me to learn.

The second was the concept of collecting. I didn’t just want to read them. I didn’t just want to re-read them, I wanted to collect them and keep them together on my shelf and sought out missing ones for my collection. By the late 80s when I had a computer that could print, I printed out a list of all the televised adventures with their number of episodes and broadcast dates and a box to tick when I had the book of that story. It was printed on a dot-matrix printer on that roll paper that had holes down the side. I stuck the list, which was 3 foot long, on my wardrobe door. The tick boxes by the way were colour coded: Red for Hartnell, Orange for Troughton, Yellow for Pertwee, Green for Tom Baker, Cyan for Davison and Blue for Colin Baker. (McCoy was added later in purple.)

The third trait was that I studied the design of the covers. I noticed that the early ones were the best, with highly graphical representations of the elements of the story drawn by Chris Achilleos. I noticed that the Doctor Who logo had changed through the years.

Doctor Who Target books

All my Doctor Who Target novelisations

And then there were the spines. The spines were my favourite part of the books. It was because that’s what you saw when you displayed them on the shelf. I noticed that the design of the spines had changed too and that if I displayed them in publication order, I could see the evolution. They used the same typeface, in various colours on a white spine for the most part until the early 80s when the spine and back cover became a colour. Sometimes the typeface was a condensed version, or smaller size to fit on the longer story titles. The Target logo started of big and in colour and got smaller and became white or black in the later years. But I didn’t display them in publication order. I ordered them in broadcast order, from November 1963 to October 1989.

In 1983 Target did a thing that infuriated me. They started numbering the books, “This book is number 60 in the Doctor Who Library” it said on the inside and had a number printed in a different typeface to the spine text on the spine. The reason this was so annoying was that the numbers represented the order that they had published the book and they applied the numbers retrospectively to the older books on their reprints (often replacing the great Chris Achilleos artwork with something inferior and the crummy late 1980s logo). But even that wasn’t the problem. It was that they’d numbered the books, published prior to the numbering idea alphabetically and then consecutively from that pint onwards. So The Abominable Snowman was ‘Book Number 1 in the Doctor Who Library’ and yet the story that followed it in broadcast order or publication order had no connection at all except that it began with A. If I was to follow this obscure system I’ve have two unconnected systems and the books in apparent random order on the shelf. This was intolerable. On top of this, Douglas Adams refused to novelise his three Doctor Who stories and Terry Nation had withdrawn the rights to two of the early Dalek stories so they would always be gaps on five books in my collection. I ignored the numbers and kept to broadcast order.

Doctor Who Target books

Here are some spines. Hang on, they’re in random order!

So what does this tell me about what I do now. The love of books is still there. The ‘collection’ reveals itself in my work as a drive for order and completeness. The interest in the covers revealed itself to be an interest in graphic design and illustration, especially on products like books. The interest in the spines also revealed a trait for accuracy and systems that have meaning.

It should be no surprise that a large part of my work involves all those traits. It’s what I’ve always done. What traits do your early interests reveal and do you incorporate them into your daily routines and your work?

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com


3 comments on “Why do you do what you do?

  1. I love to think about the connections of early life to later life. As a teacher of young children I often notice strong leanings and traits in my students that often lead them to a field of study, activity or profession. As a young child I enjoyed drawing and writing. I especially enjoyed the Barbar books which I now realize were books about elephants creating a good society. I was always intrigued by distant places and that was noticeable in the movies I watched, the stories I wrote and illustrated and the “travel agency” I created with cardboard boxes. There’s a lot more that I think about with regard to the early life-later life connection, and I appreciate your introspection and share.


  2. Another fascinating post, Ayd! Too often our formative years are seen as a time to dismiss as adults – or to recall with guilt or embarrassment. If we are willing and able to conduct a probing retrospective study of our early behaviour and experience, we often reveal rich areas of general explanation and personal understanding.

    It seems to me that there are people who can be identified as ‘collectors’ from an early age. They create and attach meaning and order in a quite obsessive way to the gathering of finite targets, working at first within the box as with pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. While this behaviour may appear to fade later on, it often manifests itself in character traits of persistence and attention to detail.

    In the 1950s, most boys collected cigarette cards. Among many aspects of their appeal was that they offered little open windows onto new or unknown areas of knowledge. Below is an extract from a story of mine about this little piece of bygone social history:

    “His horse had gone down. It had turned over once and was now trembling in the wind looking up at him. It had been a good shot.

    Richard picked the horse up. “That’s mine now – and I get my car back,” he said, with both relief and satisfaction in his voice.

    Robert gave him a serious nod. Those were the strict rules of Fag Cards. Oh well, all was not lost maybe. He still had two of his best cards left. He sat down with his back against the playground wall, next to his stall.

    His ‘stall’ now consisted of the two cards, set up to lean against the wall. He sat there and supervised anyone who wanted to try for them. His string stretched from the wall outwards for about a yard. Nobody could shoot from inside the end of the string. There were other kids sitting along the wall with their cards set up and waiting. Some had shorter string, some longer.

    The ‘flickers’ walked by, scanning the wall to choose which cards they wanted to win. They would kneel or crouch behind the string. Then they would hold one of their cards between the first two fingers of one hand and flick it at the stall card. If they knocked it down, it was theirs to keep. If they missed, their card became the property of the stall owner.

    Cigarette cards were collected in sets on different subjects. There were lots of subjects – trains, cars, cricketers, horses, flowers, soldiers, dogs, footballers, trees – the list was added to all the time. On each card, there was a number, a name and a picture on the front; and facts about it on the back. Most flickers used their ‘doubles’ to try and win rare ones.

    Another older boy crouched down in Richard’s place. It was Peter Gardner. Robert was worried. Peter was a professional. He placed a thick pile of his cards beside him and held his first card ready in his fingers.

    “On the Alsatian”, declared Peter in a business like tone. He put the card up to his mouth and gave the edge a quick, crisp blow. Then he flicked sharply downwards. The card sliced through the air, whirling rapidly round. It cut into the base of the Alsatian and chopped it down. It fell flat on its face.

    Robert handed over the dog and returned the locomotive card that had done the damage. Peter did not react or move. He had his eye on the last card standing.

    “On Stanley Mathews,” he announced.

    Once again a card was set, blown and flicked. It headed straight for its target. It struck Stanley Mathews on his head – but the card did not fall. Robert sat still. He held his breath, as Peter tried again. A curlew, from the ‘Wild Birds of Britain’ set, fluttered down like a butterfly, short of the wall. Again and again, Peter flicked. Stanley Mathews stayed on his feet.

    The bell rang for the end of playtime. In seconds, the wall was clear. Peter disappeared without a word, leaving Robert to gather up and pocket a pile of cards scattered around Stanley Mathews, of which he was now the new owner.”


  3. I’ve been an Anglophile for nearly 28 years. It all started with the Beatles. Since then, I’ve been buying anything with a Union Jack flag just to feel closer to what I call “The Beautiful People”.


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