I am a bad writer because I do not read. Not enough anyway; not nearly enough.
I remember once during university, a girl from the same journalism course interviewed a writer, a model/photographer who was, by all means, not a bad person at all. He had this sort of effortless confidence about him, and was a quite decent photographer, too. He was popular and not unkind, from what I could tell. And so, as he was working towards getting a book published, he declared, with all the confidence of a well-loved model/photographer who would have a following no matter what, that he did not read.
“I’m lazy,” he said “but that’s not why I don’t read. There are people who find an escape in books, I want to create those escape routes.”
As I look back at my own experiences reading books, I have to say I can’t quite agree with that. I do not want to. You can imagine, in a lecture room full of journalism students (even those who specialised in the more technical aspects like filming, or video-editing) that this did not go down very well. Our professor was quite scandalised. If he’d had a pearl necklace, I can tell you he would have clutched it with one hand, briskly waving a pocket fan with the other, thoroughly vexed.
But I feel like if you want to create a refuge, you must know what it means to be in one, first. To crave it, to stumble and falter through life looking for that warm orange glow without really knowing that you are, and to finally find it, not even understanding how wonderful it is that you have. Even if it is temporary, even if the book ends. It is important to feel that for one moment, you have been found. Seen, for what you truly are.
That’s also why I want to read. So that I can plunge into books that feel like pieces of myself scattered in someone else’s brain. To be able to read sentences once, twice, ten times over, and still feel like I am being stabbed by the words, so shocking, so resonating with some kind of inner truth they are. Because I want to glide down heaps of pages in the blink of an eye, carried by the smooth writing, the intrinsic flow of ideas, the way they unravel and bloom and die.
Like I’ve done numerous (not yet countless) times before, I want to have long, silent conversations with books, with the stories they tell. I want to feel wounded as a figment of someone’s imagination is struck by the same fate as I. And afterwards, I will draw patterns on the cover, tracing over the embossed lettering with the very tips of my fingers. One last time, like a lover at the train station, I will bury my nose in the heart of the pages, deeply inhale the smell of books : ink and paper mixed with the smell of slow adventures and home. In the aftermath, I will stare at the ceiling, feeling oh-so-full and yet also cut short, and I will talk to long-dead authors in my head. “Your ideas elevate mine.” I will say.
I am not a pure original; I doubt anyone is. At times, I will find pieces of something interspersed in someone else’s words, and I will feel the strongest pull towards it— and I will decide that that part is “me”.
I have not come from myself, after all. I am a jagged piece of this universe and so I find myself in all the probable and improbable places it has to offer. I am scattered, constantly reinventing myself and being reinvented by the world(s) I find myself in.