Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Lack of Focus

So I’m sitting here, work piling up all around me, searching for hardcover first editions of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and Capote by Gerald Clarke. I’m scrutinizing the descriptions, looking for the best copy at the best price. It’s not an easy process, one that entails several phases and many hours before I find that perfect copy I will eventually call my own.

After spending about 30 minutes on the preliminary search—the first phase of the hunt that gives me an idea of the general costs and availability of a book in fine condition—I realize I’m into books again. Into them hard. I’m reading like crazy, but I’m hunting for first editions with even more vigor. And when I get them, I BroDart them and stack them on top of the others in my towering to-read pile.

As I type an email to some random bookseller in Iowa concerning the dust jacket flaws on his $35 copy of Capote, I ask myself, “When did the change happen? Why am I into books again?” Just last Thursday I was hunting for my next original comic art acquisition. I spent hours every night searching the web and asking questions and balancing budgets, looking for my next purchase. In fact, I had recently made a conscious decision that I was no longer a comic book collector, but instead, I was only a comic art collector. I vowed that from that day forward, I would focus on comic art and nothing else.

But now, only five days later, here I am already moving away from focusing on art and to searching for hardcovers. It’s not the first time I’ve changed my collecting focus, and it won’t be the last. (It's part of my charm.) But what’s disconcerting is that it’s not even the first time it’s happened this year. In fact, it’s the third such change in six weeks. I started the year focused on football cards. Couldn’t get enough of the things. Then I switched to old comics, researching and hunting down key issues from the 70s. Then I was off to comic art. And now, just like that, it’s books.

Good grief. How can my collecting focus change three times in six weeks? That’s ridiculous. If it was a passing fancy, that would be one thing, but I go so hardcore and get so passionate that my collection is sometimes what drives me in my free time. It’s what I spend all of my time and money on. So when I switch on a whim, it’s as if the past week or my last paycheck was wasted on something I couldn’t care less about today.

What’s worse, I have all of these feelers out for stuff to buy to fill the collections I was passionate about only a week ago. For example, I have 11 football cards on my eBay watch list. I’m also working closely with several artists or their reps to get a few more pieces of original art. And now, only a couple of hours into my day, I have several emails out to book stores for first editions.

Argh! If all of these come to fruition at the same time, what am I going to do? I’ll have to pick. And believe me, no matter what I choose to purchase, it’ll be the wrong decision in a week or two when my focus switches back again. Right now, I’d have no problem trading my football card collection for these Capote books. But in two months, two weeks, or even two days, when I’m suddenly taken by a particularly cool or rare football card or comic, those Capote books won’t garner the slightest glance as I walk past my bookcase to get to my card holders or boxes of comics.

A friend of mine calls me a dilettante. He doesn’t say it with menace—well, maybe a little—but there is definitely a touch of negativity behind the word as he says it. It’s as if he’s suggesting I can’t be a true fan or an expert if I only dabble here or there with a multitude of artistic outlets.

My wife, however, considers my interest in a wide variety of collectibles refreshing. She thinks it helps me lead a more balanced collecting lifestyle, which in turn helps keep me from burning out or getting bored with the same ol’ thing every day.

Me, I’m torn. (What else is new?) I like the idea of dabbling in all of these different art forms. It helps me retain some level of interest and freshness since I have multiple types of collectibles to enjoy. But I also wonder if I’d be happier with one really cool collection that I never deviate from. Maybe narrowing my focus, or simply staying focused for months instead of days, could help me appreciate what I already have.

But that’s a debate I’ve struggled with for years now, and I don’t expect any changes today. For now, I’ll go with the flow and enjoy my collecting moods as they come. And that means returning an email from a bookseller in DC and declining the offer for his copy of Capote. Turns out that chip on the lower back side of the dust jacket sounds a little too big for my tastes. Oh well, on to phase two of my hunt for another first edition.

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