By Colin Whitby
Tim was one of the recipients of my first mailing announcing the launch of The Magic of Being and as a result he sent me an introduction to ‘Something to Think About’ to see if it was something we would like to feature. After having read the book we loved it so much we decided to ask for an interview with Tim and Tony, to find out what had inspired them to publish such an inspiring book.
I hope you enjoy the interview, and our review of ‘Something to Think About’ which features in our Soul Search section.
Colin Whitby – What led up to the writing of this book and the collaboration between you two?
Tim Carter - I think it has been a combination of things rather than there being one thing that lead up to the book, it wasn’t something I always wanted to do. I was brought up in a very churchgoing family, my parents are still very involved, so that was my experience from childhood. This was in a fairly positive and creative kind of way, there was a very active youth club for example, so it was my social life as well as everything else.
Many people as they get older, start to ask deeper questions about what they really think, about how institutions operate, are they doing the things that you think they are supposed to do. I think what has happened to me is that my understanding of God, or a God, of religion and of our spirituality has become much broader. As it has become broader I have become more interested in how people can approach their understanding of themselves and what they are here for in quite different ways. I have been fascinated in where different belief systems connect rather than where different belief systems diverge and conflict. It seems to me that lots of difficulties in the world are connected with belief systems clashing and accentuating the difference, whereas I think the trick is to look at where there is convergence.
So the writing is really around trying to help myself to connect with something which is a bit deeper and intangible, around the meaning of life, and thinking that it might enable other people perhaps to access some of that as well.
CW – well it certainly works. I thought at first they were prayers but they also feel a little like conversations. When did you decide to put them all together
TC – It was rather a round about route. I used to be a social worker, and before that a community development worker, and I started doing some writing around some of the individuals I was coming across, in an attempt to try to understand how they understood their lives. So I would try to get into their shoes and think how they might be thinking, and I would keep jotting things down and this developed into a few brief pen pictures of people in terms of them speaking for themselves. This got me interested in writing and I sketched together a couple of books, but these got very little interest from publishers.
Then because I have been connected to church for quite a long time it kind of dawned on me one day that I should be thinking about more devotional material because I knew there was a ready market for that. I could use it myself, and other people could use it. So I started writing what began as prayers but quickly became, as you say, much more like conversation pieces or poems or just meandering thoughts, hopefully with a little bit of parameter and structure. So they were lying around, and were a bit difficult to know what to do with.
Having known Tony for quite a long time, and knowing that he was starting to spend more time on his art, I took a risk and asked him if he would take one of these prayers and see if he could draw anything to go with it, as I thought they would look really good if they were illustrated.
Fortunately Tony said he would and from that he did a few and we became quite excited about trying to get them together and ultimately into a form that could become a booklet. For me it was very much that what I had felt and written had been doubled really, as the words were being reflected in a very different way. I completely left Tony to illustrate as he felt fit, because that seemed quite important, rather than me saying how I thought it should look. I thought it would be more useful for someone else to come into it and say ‘well this is what I am getting from it’. Then in turn I got something back from looking at the illustrations, which felt like a very creative way of producing something.
CW – Yes I understand what you mean about getting something back, it’s almost like a feedback loop, and as a reader you can contemplate them individually or together. The thing that stands out is that the illustrations were created for the words, whereas with some books of this kind you find that the words and pictures are not quite in tune.
Tony O'Callaghan – Yes every image is completely inspired by a piece. At the time I was struggling around my art and found that coming up with ideas for things to paint can be quite difficult at times. So actually having pieces of writing helped to create pictures in my head, it was then just a matter of putting those pictures onto paper. Other people might come up with different pictures as there are lots to each piece, they are not just one image, but this first set of 30 or so were the ones that leapt out at me out of nearly a hundred pieces we went through.
CW- So that was like a joint selection process?
Tony - Well there were several different ways of trying to select the pieces., through getting feedback from other people about the pieces themselves and then I just literally sat with them in a quiet place in order to get inspired by them from a visual point of view. Some of them created images very vividly and quickly and others didn’t, so that was kind of the process really.
Tim – What you have in front of you looks fairly straight forward, but actually to get it to this point of being produced really needed quite a lot of encouragement from each other at times, because you can quite easily think that you are biting off more than you can chew, because you are actually putting something out about yourself. Perhaps people are going to turn round and say that it’s not really worth the effort you’ve put into it.
Tony – That’s the fear of anything creative, it’s always part of yourself, whether it’s writing or painting or whatever it might be, it’s very exposing.
I feel my work is never finished, so if you put it out it’s as if you are completely satisfied with it, and I would never feel completely satisfied with anything, it’s just you have to stop somewhere and go on to the next thing.
Tim – You do find yourself needing fairly regular validation of what you have done, which is a strange thing really. We have had some really positive feedback, people have some back and said how useful and how significant it has been for them, but that doesn’t seem to last for a long time before you seem to need someone else to say it’s ok. I also have a view of the writing that some of those things are not mine, it seems that certain things are almost there in the ether that some individuals are just fortunate to be able to grab hold of and bring into life. I am sometimes surprised at some of the writing when I read it back myself and think ‘I don’t think I can do that again’. I sometimes wonder where it came from, which makes me feel that it is less to my credit, rather it’s something out there that I have just managed to get into the open, but I don’t really know how to describe that very well.
CW – Yes I understand what you are saying. A friend of mine in Australia was telling me about an artist she knows, who was producing the most amazing work, the problem was he was doing it so easily, and from somewhere seemingly beyond himself, he did not value it himself. I think that this is the whole point, that when you are tapping into the true part of you, and it’s coming easily, then sell it. That’s you working in your flow.
Tony – Yes I’ve had that discussion with other artists where a piece of work only took 20 minutes to produce. Well that may be the case but it’s taken nearly 40 years in order to be able to create that in 20 minutes. Everything that’s happened to you during that 40 years of your life, has been put in that 20 minutes of artwork, and nobody else could do that, you’ve just been able to channel it suddenly, like you are in the zone. It’s like these connections with the Beatles or whatever, they are part of your life, they are part of you, and it may be the way they captured words that say a lot to you as well and that’s why they were so successful, it’s because they tapped into something that meant something to people. I’m sure when people read these words they understand what you are talking about because they feel the same way.
CW – that’s right, because they have come from the same place, they know that place as well. I’d sure that’s true particularly where the pieces are inwardly contemplating, real things are coming up that other people have experienced.
Tony - As a person who reads them, it is very comforting that somebody else has had that thought or had that situation, or had that feeling, and you can connect with it. You’re not the only person who has felt that way, or the only person who has thought that thought.
CW – So when you had the collaboration going and you thought it would be a nice idea to create a book, how did you get from that to this book.
Tony - He badgered me a lot, we’d have got there a lot quicker if I had not been involved.
CW – Were there any challenges getting publishers involved, for example, did you have to fund it yourself?
Tim – Yes we had to fund it ourselves.
Tony - We did a pamphlet first, almost like a sample to test the water in a way, so see what sort of response we would get through different places. We produced half a dozen pieces with images ourselves off the computer, most of which have ended up in the book.
The leaflets went quite quickly wherever they were, people wanted to know more about them, and this gave us the idea that perhaps we should do the book.
Tim – We found a printer just outside Weston-Super-Mare (UK) who was very helpful in talking us through the type of publication we could have. He was able to sort out the ISBN number for us and produce them at a set unit cost so that we can go back and get more when we need them without having to buy in a huge stock. Each bit of this has been quite an interesting learning really, we took it to a few publishers and a few shops since we have had it, and we have not had anyone say ‘yes this is what I have been waiting for, how many can you supply?’.
Tony – It’s finding the audience in a way, or people actually finding it as well.
Tim – Traditional book shops struggle to know where to put it, they generally want to put it in some kind of religious area.
Tony – We’ve not avoided the religious area, but we have attempted to make it more generic to have a wider appeal.
Tim – The language is obviously important, but it can become a barrier in itself and the project was about trying to open something up, to enable people in who perhaps were struggling to connect to their spirituality, because it is generally something which is talked about openly, unless you join a very specific institution. Getting the language right that enables people in rather than pushing people out, is quite a fine line.
CW – There are certainly a large number of small books out there at the moment, which do seem to appeal to a large number of people.
Tony – It seems to be about being able to cope with the depth of thought, if it goes on for too long I don’t think people can sustain it, but with these you can read one page and put it down again, then come back and read a different page, depending on what mood you are in it might take you to another piece.
Tim – Yes one or two people have said it’s by their bedside.
CW – I asked Gill when she was reviewing it if the size or shape was right, would it be better presented any other way, and she said no it’s perfect, it will fit in a handbag or a pocket, it’s portable.
Tim – Our hope is that it would be something that would sit around in cafés on coffee tables, that was the notion in terms of the size. It would be great if a distributor was interested enough to pick it up, because then we could look at something on a larger scale.
CW – It will find it’s way out if that is what is intended.
Tim - That’s what is strange about it, you have a plan but it’s got it’s own life, it’s own plan – I just wish I knew what that plan was.
If you would like to order 'Something to think about' contact Tim Carter on firstname.lastname@example.org