Monday, 18 May 2015

A Passion for Pinterest by Catherine Czerkawska

Pretty much everything's on Pinterest.
I was planning to write a serious piece about plagiarism for this month’s contribution. In fact I did write a serious piece about plagiarism, but things have got so stressful (and for some of us, pretty miserable) around here, north of the border, that I’ve filed it away for possible future use and gone for a bit of escapism instead.

Escapism in the shape of Pinterest.

I love Pinterest. But I think it’s one of those sites you either love to bits or don’t get at all.

I’m sure somebody has blogged about it before on here (I may have mentioned it myself!) so forgive me if I'm repeating things, but the site has developed and extended over the past couple of years and I reckon it's even more of an inspirational resource than it used to be. Whatever your passion in life, whether it's art or cookery or costume, you'll find something to enjoy.

It's an interesting fact that women use Pinterest more than men. I don't know if things have changed over the last few years - perhaps they have - but in 2012 it was skewed 70% / 30% in favour of women and anecdotally, I still find that my female friends 'get' it more than the men. Moreover, this fascinating little piece of analysis here suggests that 'women use it as a wish list while men use it as a shopping cart.'  If we can't have the thing or person or place - and demonstrably we can't - a little fantasy will do, whereas male users eye things up rather more covetously. It seems a fairly sweeping statement, but there may be a germ of truth in it. 

.Poldark, what else? I've included a heroine in the interests of balance. 

Equally beautiful Luke
No surprise then, that our 'wish lists' often include heroes. Especially if we're writers. But readers seem to enjoy collecting heroes too and as writers, we forget that at our peril. Beautiful Aidan is repinned constantly. As is equally beautiful Luke Pasqualino from the Musketeers. Perhaps in some sense Pinterest has evolved into a safe space where women can indulge their fantasies, whether they come in the shape of chocolate cakes to die for (perhaps literally) or fit young men ditto. Is that an uncomfortable thought? Men sometimes find it so. The women of my acquaintance, not so much. But of course it's much, much more than that.

Visually, it’s a feast. Displacement activity central. Millions of images, ideas, foods and recipes of course, costume, people, places, interiors, exteriors, links to websites – you name it you’ll find it on Pinterest. The idea is that you set up virtual boards, name them and post pictures on them. I can already hear some of you saying 'what's the point?' But does there have to be a point? Pinterest is for casual browsing as much as anything else. It's serendipitous. You find out about things you never knew existed. Like the Dragon's Blood Trees of Socotra.  I’ve got twenty three boards at the moment: pottery, textiles, ice hockey, my own doll’s house ... some are purely for fun. Some are incredibly useful for a writer. And some are a mixture of both. You can search on the site itself and whatever your project, you’re almost certain to find something useful. Or you can upload pictures of your own and help to inspire other people in turn.

This only works, because you can borrow images from people and they can borrow from you, and pin your pictures to their boards. Again, if you don’t like this idea, you'd be wise to steer clear. But you’ll often find fascinating boards in this way because other people’s obsessions may well coincide with your own.

You can also have ‘secret’ boards that nobody else can see. This facility is very useful for a writer who might want to amass all kinds of images, but not necessarily for public consumption. Not immediately, anyway. Later, of course, a Pinterest board can become a promotional tool. It may be helpful for communicating with a cover artist, but – once the project is up and running – readers may also find a Pinterest board more engaging, more inspirational than a list of ‘questions for reading groups.’ 

 You can find one for The Amber Heart here, and for Orange Blossom Love here. I’ve also made a huge board for Jean Armour, my current project, This is the first where I've consciously and consistently used Pinterest as a research tool and a place for storing lots of miscellaneous images whose relevance may not be immediately obvious to anyone except me. It's positively stuffed with images: costume, old pictures, jewellery, furniture, people and places - but for the moment, it's 'secret' and nobody else will get to see it until I’m ready which will be more or less when the book is ready too.
A little bit of inspiration for The Amber Heart

Why is it all so compulsive? 

I’m not sure. But whenever I start on a new writing project, I like to surround myself with all kinds of visual images, sources of inspiration, books, maps, pictures and I think this is the online equivalent of a series of ‘mood boards.’ 

You either like that – or you don’t. And if you don’t then Pinterest probably isn’t for you. Many artists and craftspeople find it invaluable. Gardeners too. And interior designers. If you’re into baking, there are pages and pages of mouthwatering images and recipes. And obviously it’s a great research resource for costume in particular where you can find collections of vivid images from a multitude of times and places, often with helpful notes and links back to useful websites. Where else could I have found out exactly what a 'lutestring silk' gown might look like?

Happily, once you start to look for and gather images, the site will respond by showing you lots more. When I logged on just now, it was to find a mouthwatering collection of beautifully preserved antique dresses, because that’s what I’d been looking at earlier. I could have used Google but it would have taken a whole lot longer and thrown up less interesting and targeted results. 

It's research,  Jim, but not as we know it. 














12 comments:

AliB said...

Hi Catherine
Up to now I have given Pinterest a wide berth, probably seeing how seductive it might be - but you're very persuasive! Commiserations on the state of the nation by the way.
Ali B

Penny Dolan said...

I know Pinterest is there, Catherine, but I fear the power of (more) displacement!That's a large number of boards to be looking after. Maybe I could investigate the secret project boards as a valid step? Would it be a useful place to collect articles on a topic - education or literacy or writing for example - or is it primarily visual?

Lydia Bennet said...

lovely piece Catherine, I tend to neglect my Pinterest boards for ages then suddenly remember them - I'm easily tempted into time-sucks, so have to be careful! But just yesterday I was giving my boyfriend (who has a computer business and a design studio producing canvas art) a tour of Pinterest, and blogger, and it reminded me what an amazing resource Pinterest is, not just visually but with hints, recipes, info, techniques... I've done them for my crime novels too, with some photos of real-life locations. I'm dong one for my play about Gallipoli which is on this week. Photos of cast, crew, previous production, flyers. Also useful, copyright is not an issue - you can pin pix from anywhere online, without 'using' them, and the source is always automatically added.

Dennis Hamley said...

Yea, Pinterest does sound interesting and I'm nominally on it but there just seems too much else to do in life. Perhaps I'll look again. I found your Amber Heart board fascinating. A lovely extra dimension to that superb novel.By the way, I thought - or we're told - that Scotland is in a state of euphoric ferment!

Kathleen Jones said...

Like you, Catherine, I use it as a research tool, collecting images and quotes, but it's also a bit like the Scrapbooks I used to keep as a girl. I love it!
Pinterest also (if you register as a business) allow you to use it as a promotional tool as well. Very useful - people can browse the story of your book before they buy it.
Great post!

Mari Biella said...

I've yet to try Pinterest, but it's one of those things I'm contemplating. The problem is that the internet is such a time-suck; I tell myself that I'm going to check my emails for a few minutes, and then before I know it I've wasted a few hours. Perhaps it's a question of discipline...

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I like it as well because you don't really have to 'look after' boards in the way that you have to take care of a blog. You can just leave the images out there for people to see. I sometimes sit at night with the laptop and spend half an hour or so just 'playing' on Pinterest. It's more like browsing a beautifully illustrated and useful magazine than anything else. I haven't yet registered as a business, but I must. Penny, I think it's more aimed at images than articles, although some of the images do link to very useful articles.

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks for nudging me out of one of my many torpors, Catherine. I've been on Pinterest for a while but I obviously take the male attitude to it because, after an initial burst of enthusiasm, I've hardly ever looked at it (or added anything to my boards). I'm writing a novel set in 1841 and it never occurred to me to look there for costumes. I've been taking the google route and it means reading through lots of irrelevant stuff. I can imagine that leafing through pictures would be a much nicer way of finding what I want. But it does add to the 'time-suckers' (A new expression for me.)

Ey Wade said...

I adore Pinterest. Especially when it comes to promoting my books. The things you can do on the boards are phenomenal.

Debbie Bennett said...

Oh Catherine, we were clearly separated at birth ... :-)

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I think you're right, Debbie!

Chris Longmuir said...

I like Pinterest too and find it useful for research. If I find interesting articles I'll pin them, but I do get frustrated if an article I want doesn't have a pic, because if there's no pic you can't pin it. And for those who haven't dabbled yet, it's not only about visual images, if you click the image you get taken to the information or article the pic has come from.