Just got back from the charity shop where I volunteer two days a week as a book volunteer. I’ve been here since November 2010, and to me it is simply a magical place.
As always whenever I come back from my roughly 10am to 4pm stint, my body would be aching from organising literally mountains of books, pricing a batch and then carrying them from the basement storage to upstairs where they go on sale.
Look at that! And that’s just one small section of the basement storage. Tidying the shelves upstairs and making them look neat for potential customers is just one part of the task. The real action takes place downstairs, where we have to sort out the new donations and somehow find some space for them. Preferably without them coming crashing down our heads (this actually happened to me once – I was brained by historical novels).
Seriously, space is a premium down there. There are days when we have to desperately shove books into hairline spaces, or chuck out the mucky looking ones into recycling bags. And then there are the times when I think: Enough is enough! Time to do battle!
I would then roll up my sleeves and go through the books in a particular section, for instance war or gardening or foreign, then organise them back into the shelves in order of size in a manner that sends gooey warm thrills throughout my neurotic melancholic heart. By doing that, and tossing out the dodgy looking books, you create tons more space, and in the end? Organisational orgasm. Until the next sackful of donations come in.
Today, I rearranged four shelves of health and wellbeing, and tinkered around with a fuck load of other sections. Sure, I would be worn out at the end of the day, but there’s few other things that give me that immense sense of achievement and satisfaction at having done some tiny part for a good cause. All my life I’ve always wanted to do something for charity – I just never had the chance until now.
Thinking on the Job…
Now if only I could actually get hired. In working out what I can do to earn income (and pay the rent), I’ve lately been trying to decide whether I should actually spend funds on a course – get certification for some admin skill I can put on the resume. The thought of spending 100 pounds (or more!) just so you could add another line in the CV makes me wince. But I suppose that would be the kind of thing employers look for. Some reason not to throw away the application in favour of more experienced candidates.
Another thing I have to consider is whether I should work full-time or part-time. As a full-timer, this leaves less room for writing, less time to do writing-related jobs which I should be doing. I know me. If I’m tired, I just find it so hard to write that day.
To be damn honest, at this point I’d take any job that comes my way. Well. I probably should draw the line at prostitution 😉
I just want to pay the rent and feel like a productive member of society again. Which raises questions as to whether you really need a job, a career, to be considered ‘productive’. What does that mean? That your job defines you? Give your existence meaning? Surely it should be about that sense of accomplishment, like whenever I finish a volunteering stint, or make someone’s day better, or complete some deadline or manage to write 1,000 words that day.
Naw, a job (or rather I should say a non-writing job) shouldn’t be who I am. It’s just I can’t help it. Getting paid would be fucking fantastic. You know, now and then.
That Costs What?
There’s another reason I love volunteering at the charity shop. Every day I’m there, I start becoming familiar with the authors, knowing what they write, what people say (or really say) about what they write. I’d pick up books and guiltily pause to flip through the pages of the ones that open my mind to ideas, the ones that awakens that passion I used to have for the written word in my childhood days. Until it became too damn bloody expensive to buy a book in Malaysia.
It’s so terribly tempting to buy books here in the UK, because it is ridiculously cheaper compared to back home. Thank god for charity shops and book fairs! I manage to resist though, and usually buy the few I know I will need for research. I’m of the mind that there’s something terribly wrong about having to pay RM35-40 for a damn paperback in Malaysia. For that kind of money, you could buy four to eight MEALS.
I have a sneaking suspicion those prices are inflated just to fill the pockets of some fat middleman somewhere. Probably the same fat cows who ridiculously inflate the prices of cars imported to Malaysia.
To be fair, a book costs around some 7 to 8 pounds, which is roughly how it would be converted to Malaysian currency. But seriously, 40 ringgit for a PAPERBACK? Who forks out that kind of money? Certainly not the lower income groups. And considering that our libraries suck, it’s no wonder the average Malaysian supposedly reads two books a year.
Oops. Back to the authors. Two thoughts go through my mind when I sort through the books. One is how I envy those authors who seem to so easily churn out volume after volume, while I had to struggle months and months just to get to the 81,000 words of my (still unfinished) first draft. Perhaps this is because it’s urban fantasy, when what I really want to write is epic fantasy. I do notice I seem to write the latter faster and easier than I do urban.
Or it could simply be that after years, these authors have refined their ‘writing muscle’ to the extent that the process gets easier over the years. They’re practised. They’re seasoned. And they have the writing discipline, something I’m still struggling with.
The second thought that often strikes me is how the books, even the ones of established names, end up priced so cheaply. That gives you pause. It’s a humbling notion. To think that someday, my book is going to be published (yay!). And that someday, someone is going to buy it for 99 pence.
But hey, my view is this – as long as you buy the book, and hopefully love it, find some immense pleasure or enjoyment or meaning out of it, I would be the happiest person in the world.
Then I would have done my job as a writer.