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.
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.
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?
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