Honestly who would have thought that we would spend a quarter of a year in physical isolation from each other. A story to recount in my old age.
And speaking of old age. Umberto Eco once wrote that books are the most robust format of content transmission that we have seen over centuries, and so that if nothing else, my sketchbooks would probably survive till my old age at least, and I will look back on these days and laugh…
"Although I cannot see your face
As you flip these poems awhile
Somewhere from some far off place
I hear you laughing -
and I smile..."
Sometimes in your life you happen to read the right book at the right time. and when that happens, there is a transformation. Up until then in my career there was a lack of women role models…
…and therefore no awareness of possibilities for the working mother.
Through her stories I understood it’s possible to have a career and be a mother, that workplaces can provide support structures, and so can the people in your life.
And that’s how I stopped holding back and took on the opportunities coming my way. Hope, optimism and possibilities – that’s how Lean in inspired me at a crucial time at a moment in my life…and I leaned in towards discovery.
I read about 25 books this year, as compared to 33 books last year and 26 books in 2017. I try to have a healthy average around the number of books I read, since my reading habit also makes me who I am, but I’m not fixated into gamifying it by making it a challenge or beating my last years’ goals or anything like that! How about you? Do you keep a count of the books you read?
In 2019 I found that I read quite a bit of fiction, non-fiction and design books – and I’m still reading a couple of them. Also, if anything resonates with me, I often make quick drawings in my sketchbook while reading. It’s always interesting to go back and see which books sparked off drawings. On Kindle sometimes I leave tons of notes and highlights for myself, but drawing is usually much more alive!
Lots of great books this year:
Sapiens: I was late to the party but so good, nevertheless. Now looking forward to reading his other book.
Good Talk: I laughed and giggled through this one Sunday. If you’ve ever had to think about your race or felt uncomfortable about your identity you’ll relate to this graphic novel by Mira Jacob. (I also loved Americanah by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie, obviously the defining book in this genre). Though Mira Jacob’s visual language didn’t appeal to me at first, it grew on me as I read, and integrated with the storytelling and the humor to emerge as an excellent read.
Land of the seven rivers by Sanjeev Sanyal: A book published in 2012, and still so relevant. Found it in my parents’ house and really enjoyed it. It sheds light on a lot of questions that our classroom history of the Indian subcontinent didn’t answer. There’s also a version for children called The Incredible History of India’s Geography for young readers. The times we are living in are an apt time to be reading books like Sapiens and Land of the seven rivers as I found.
Here are a few drawings made while reading Kudos by Rachel Cusk in Kolkata. Rachel Cusk has an amazing sense of storytelling, unique in it’s own way in the way she develops her characters. I will probably re-read this trilogy again.
Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything — what a waste!”
The Little Drummer Girl: I enjoyed both the book by John le Carré, and the TV miniseries. John le Carré is a master of craft, so I read not only for the story but also the language and the storytelling. The TV series was fabulously crafted by Chan-wook Park – the first time I watched anything by him and it was spectacular.
At the end of the year, I gave up a few books not worth the time, and I’m still reading The Year of the Monkey and a couple of other design books.
Someone once said that the point of reading is not to to see how many you can get through, but how many can get through to you!
Anyway in a nutshell what really inspired me was the incredible resilience all these women had, in the face of terrible partners, abandonment, difficult motherhood, creative and psychological rejection, financial troubles — apart from the usual baggage women subject themselves to — but they still kept at it! Some with a smile and poise, and some with just dogged determination. Great motivation for our ordinary, easy lives.
“I wanted to be cute. That’s the terrible thing. I should have had more sense.”
” The critic shouldn’t need to tear a work apart to demonstrate that he knows how it was put together. The important thing is to convey what is new and beautiful in the work, not how it was made.”
[I first read this book Making ideas happen: Overcoming the obstacles between vision and reality in 2013, and since then this book has been my daily guide, often standing in as a coach for my day job. Scott wrote this book while working at Behance: “I realized that creative professionals are the most disorganized community on the planet! But they are ultimately responsible for <so many things> that bring meaning to our lives…
I saw not only an opportunity but also a responsibility to help them overcome the obstacles to make them happen
…as such I committed my professional life to organizing the creative world.” The book is guidance and wisdom on every page, but here are three of the ideas that resonated with me:
Capitalize on healthy conflict: Use disagreements to foster valuable insights that would otherwise be inaccessible. Make your creative team resilient to advocate for their perspectives while respectfully considering that of others, until breakthroughs are revealed.
Short-circuiting the rewards system: Achieving a creative vision also demands a long term focus and sustaining your energy for the long term. Scott’s recommendation is to unplug yourself from the short term reward system and the desire to the validated in the long term.
Seldom is anything accomplished alone: One idea that stood out for me was that of Dreamers, Doers and Incrementalists. Find out which one you are, and then find the right partners. Serendipity comes from differences.]
A book worth reading if you’re a senior designer or in a creative leadership role, or a design entrepreneur; whether in product or services or consulting – you’ll find it useful. Follow up with the more recent book The Messy Middle, another useful companion for building resilience, staying inspired and bringing the best of your creative self to the “hardest and most crucial part” of any project.