22nd March

It’s all a matter of perception… isn’t it? (Part 1)

Have you ever been writing a book, only to discover that another person has written a book with the same, or very similar, title? It’s a tad disconcerting.  It’s now happened to me twice.  It’s a scary moment as you race to find out the ‘blurb’ only to discover that said same or similar titled book is nothing like the one you’re writing (Phew!)

It all seems to be a matter of perception – all of our creative pursuits are, aren’t they? Given the same title for a story, book, poem, we will all come up with something different, because we all look at life through our own stained glass window.  I find this idea so reassuring, that everything we do creatively will be original, inspired by individual thoughts, memories, and carrying our own stamp.

This occurred to me again recently on a sketching trip out with twitter friend Angie Shawcroft

Original scene at Chatsworth

@AngieShawcroft.  It’s probably a good time to mention here that I have met some flipping ace people on twitter that I now get up to all sorts of shinanigans with, which is really fab! Anyway, we went off to Chatsworth, Derbyshire, with our ‘equipment’.  Well, that was interesting for a start off – Angie had a pad, pen, pencil and water brush (fab thing that contains water and you can use over certain type of pencils.)  I had a rucksack full of stuff – sketchpad, a whole tin of Inktense pencils, another tin of lead pencils, sharpener and rubber, plus notebook and pen for some wordy stuff – knowing that at some point during the visit I would have to put something into words… oh, and two apples!!!  Mostly, I concentrated on the drawing, but I also wrote the beginning of a scene for my current  novel, and jotted down the idea for this blog post!

Chatsworth Trees - Abi

So, me and Angie drew the same area of trees, but with very different results, as you will see.  I’m a bit weird with even numbers – I don’t like them as a rule so I decided to include five trees.  I also have very definite pencil lines – I draw, I suppose, rather than sketch.  And, I am a sucker for colour.  Whatever I do tends to look a bit abstract, I think, and normally involves lots of blending of colours.  I suppose this is the style I’ve developed, but without consciously intending to.

Angie, who is an illustrator and graphic artist, took a different approach, again reflecting

Chatsworth trees - Angie

her style.  She chose four trees, the trees to the left of the scene, and left her work unfinished in places.  The lines are soft and gentle, it’s very light and airy and she used minimal amounts of colour.  We both used the water brush though… but that’s where the similarity ends.  Angie used a pen to define her lines.  As you can see, the pics are quite different.  In our mind’s eye are we seeing the scene differently then?  Or is it a matter of style?  Actually, I think it’s a combination of both.

I’m fairly sure that if we had chosen to write about the same scene, we would have come up with something completely different to one another too!  In fact, I think I’ve got the bug with this one… so, part two of this post will appear next week – with a writing theme and involving another twitter buddy.  He doesn’t know this yet – I’ll surprise him!

About Abi Burlingham

I write children's books and paint pictures inspired by nature, animals, trees etc, mostly in acrylics. I am a crisp addict.
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18 Responses to 22nd March

  1. Brilliant post Abi! Was a pleasure drawing with you, can’t wait to go again! 🙂
    Love the strength of your work too, we definitely see the world differently, I think mood plays a part in perceptions too.
    I normally have a lot more than a pocket full of pencils, but I’m trying new techniques at the mo’ so we’ll see what happens!
    PS. The stump makes 5 on mine too – I don’t do ‘even’ either! 😉
    Angie x

  2. Jenny Alexander says:

    Lovely post – lovely pictures! What a talented person you are, Abi. I’m looking forward to Part 2…

  3. I love just how different your drawings are, even though you were sat together. I love them both by the way, I’m envious of anyone who can draw. To say I write, I wouldn’t class myself as an artistic person. Odd that.

    I think our life experiences have something to do with our perception.

    A great post Abi.

  4. Thanks Rebecca, glad you like the pics. Yes, experiences really do, don’t they. Also, it occurs to me, other styles we see that we like. I think subconsciously we absorb these and weave them in to our own work.

  5. Martin Day says:

    I’ve got to chip in on the disconcerting front, Abi. Back in the day, when I was in a rock band we had chosen the songs for the A and B sides of our independently released single (on vinyl, when singles really were singles and the concept of a B-side still existed). For our A-side was the song ‘Your Country Needs You’ about the brutality of unemployment in Thatcherite Britain and the struggles therein (like any fashion it’s now back in style again). However, the more natural title would have been ‘Congratulations’ but there was already the well known Cliff Richard song by the same name. We couldn’t bear the idea of any associations with that, although, looking back, there may have been a pleasing dark irony to it (think of the Pistols ‘God Save the Queen’). The B-side was called ‘New Life’, an even more common title and best know as a Depeche Mode song. We decided to live with that one.

    Although originality is one of my values, I have to face the view that there is, in another sense, nothing new and everything is recycled to one extent or another.

    For interest here are the A- and B- sides:

    • Yes, you’re right Martin, to a certain extent we do recycle ideas. I think it’s incredibly difficult with titles for anything, to come up with something completely original, probably due to common themes and limited word count. I do love that everything we create is, ultimately, different though. I find that very liberating.

  6. Excellent post and the drawings illustrate the point perfectly. Funnily enough I was just talking to another writer about this very thing. So many of our projects on the go have either just been done, or else seem to happen in real life!
    I think to some extent, a publisher won’t take on a competing book to one already on their list (say a war memoir, or – as in my case – a naïve narrator) but there are plenty of publishers to go around.
    My novel was bought 15 months ago and theoretically could have been launched by now. It’s called The Night Rainbow and is narrated by a 5 year old girl. Look at what’s on the market now – The Night Circus, for example, and child narrators a plenty. As I saw them all emerge I thought ‘Oh no, next year will be too late!’ But of course it won’t. The similarities are only on the surface and what’s underneath is quite different.
    And if that happens to you, then a clever publisher will help you choose a new title, or differentiating artwork to make your story stand out, I’m sure!

    • Hi Claire. Thanks for that – that’s really interesting. It really is odd how that happens, but, as you say, it doesn’t actually matter in the long term because what we create is always so original. And yes, title can be changed etc if need be. Really good luck with your novel – it sounds lovely!

  7. What a lovely article Abi. Sounds like a perfect day. And I love the paintings too – you use great colour and I adore the strong lines of the branches.

    Oh yeah, and the jig is up lady!

    I Am Sooooooooo Excited!

    • Hi Dean! Ah, it means a lot you saying that, what with you being one of the artiest people I know… so thank you kindly. YES, me too! Have my music downloaded on to my phone ready for the journey! 🙂

  8. I love the way we all see things differently! I’ve been doing some ‘Five Sentence Fiction’ and it’s amazing to see how we all get a different idea on the prompt word. Sometimes I write something and think it’ll be too similar to someone else, but one word can be interpreted so many ways!
    I remember seeing the options for daughter’s A-level art too, and it gets interpreted differently by every student.
    Wouldn’t the world be boring if we all saw everything the same? Imagine an orchestra filled with only violins, the beauty of an orchestra is its variety and harmony!

    • What a lovely analogy! Yes, you’re right, diversity is key isn’t it? I had a similar experience to you with a writing workshop – same title and we all came up with completely different things – the human mind is a wonderful thing eh?

  9. Emma Pass says:

    Beautiful artwork, Abi and Angie. I love the way both pieces are so full of atmosphere and light. And I totally get you on the even numbers-thing, Abi! I’m the same. I especially dislike the number 6, although I have no idea why. It just feels… wrong, somehow. 😛

    As for similar titles, I have that problem with my WIP! The book with the similar title is in the same sort of genre, too, but having read it I know it’s not the same story, thank goodness! It’s something I often find with my writing group – as a warm-up exercise, we’ll all write for five minutes on the same topic, but everyone’s work is *always* different. Whatever the art form, you always have your own ‘thumbprint’ which makes the work you produce uniquely yours.

    Looking forward to part 2!

    • Oh now that’s interesting – number 6 is my lucky number so is the only one I like! Yikes – yes, scary moment isn’t it when you realise someone else has ‘your’ title – glad the book is so different to yours. Yes, unique thumbprint is a lovely way to put it. Thanks Emma.

  10. I am so envious — I cannot draw or paint worth beans…. no really. You are both so talented and it’s so interesting to see how two people can come up with such different POVs in any kind of artistic expression. It’s such a fascinating part of life, how we see things, express things. As for discovering someone has done something similar, I just frantically read another novel after reading its blurb on Amazon — it sounded remarkably like my WIP. In fact, there are some incredibly similar elements but regardless, it’s different stories and different ways of expressing similar senitments. So interesting!

    • Ah, thanks Julia! The POV thing is really fascinating isn’t it? Blimey, fancy that with the novel having similar ideas to your WIP. Am glad there are enough differences though… phew!

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