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My Bookshelf is a Mess and It’s Important Because…

Disorganization really bothers me and when I look at the bookcases in my living room I practically shiver with annoyance. Over the years, left to themselves too much, no doubt, the books on those shelves seem to have descended into the anarchy that points to the overwhelm of their owner’s busy life. For example, one entire shelf of one of those bookcases is taken up with books about language, some of which have been with me since I was 16 years old.

A sizeable copy of Mastering Spanish is sandwiched between a stubby Elementary German and a very tall International Italian. A whole series of the famous green-covered French language companions called the Bescherelles stands proudly beside a short, fat Mandarin-English, English-Mandarin dictionary, and a tiny, hopeful copy of Berlitz’s Swedish for Travellers keeps company beside a Dutch-English, English-Dutch dictionary. There are eight or nine other dictionaries on that shelf, and a pile of other language training books. And for some reason, Maybe You Know My Kid, a book about raising a child with ADHD is also on that shelf and, horror of horrors, it is sitting crookedly crosswise on top of all the others.  This shelf is a higgledy-piggledy nightmare!

It bothers me that there is no organizing principle at work among those books. There was when I first moved into this house. The books were arranged by language and, within each group, by size. There were no random books intruding on the little land of language I had created for myself. But nine years of building a content-related writing business as the widowed mom of three kids, while tending my disabled, but highly independent, elderly mother, have meant I’ve had to let go of some of my personal preferences. One of which was making sure my books were in “proper” order.

If I were a character in a book, this is exactly the package of details that would give an excellent peek into my personality. Without talking about me directly, my author could let his or her readers know that:

  • I love organization
  • Something else has been going on in my life that has kept me from executing on that organizational preference
  • I have been a student of languages for many years
  • I have a set of values around supporting my family

This is also good information to have when you’re talking about marketing: I am an ideal client for someone with a product or service that makes organization easy, or simplifies a single parent’s life, or helps me support my love of learning languages.

We’re getting into the area of persona here, and how interesting it is that it’s important whether you are writing books or marketing. If you are a fiction author, you want to reference details about your characters that demonstrate who they are. How much more interesting it is to describe my bookshelf than to say, “Susan is a very busy person. She likes to be organized, but isn’t always. She loves languages and has at least one child with ADHD.” Yawn.

Similarly, in marketing to your clients, know what’s on their bookshelf. Maybe they don’t have one! That’s important information as well, and all of it strays into the area of psychographic information, which is key to marketing.

As for tidying up my bookshelf, the task is on a list somewhere – when my time frees up a little, I’m sure I’ll get to it!


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