Sometimes I can't believe how fortunate I am. In spite of so many real world considerations, like health and financial circumstances, in some ways I'm in the position I always hoped to be in. I'm able to devote the majority of my energy to doing what I love most: reading and writing. It's just one of those ironies of life, I suppose, that it took becoming ill to be able fulfill my ambitions, but, hey, I'm not going to complain. The only difference is where we have to expand energy not devoted to what we want to be
I've talked a lot about writing in the past, but one of the benefits that I haven't really mentioned is how it has brought back my pleasure in reading. Prior to starting my online writing I was going through a fallow period during which I was having difficulty finding anything of interest to read. I almost felt like there was nothing new left to read.
I was slow to start reading. Even though I could read better then most people my age, it just wasn't something I was interested in. One of the problems was the level of reading expected in school was so basic that I just assumed all books were either along the lines of Dick and Jane or those my parents read, full of small type and no pictures. It wasn't until someone finally had the good sense to introduce me to Paddington Bear by Michael Bond that I discovered books could be of value.
By the time I was seven or eight it was obvious I had outgrown the children's section in the library, so the librarians consented to give me an adult card. It was a different world through those doors to the other side of the library. The bookcases towered over my head, so instead of being on eye level most of the books were well beyond my reach and literally unobtainable.
That didn't matter because at least I had a far greater selection to choose from. From that time on until I was out of high school I read anything and everything: Flaubert, Tolstoy, Joyce, Miller, Kerouac, Durrell (Gerald and Lawrence) Hemingway; pretty much the whole gamut of 19th-century naturalist/realism and 20th-century modernism. From there I moved on into the beats; Ginsberg, Burroughs, Paul Bowles, and all the Algerian expatriates.
Of course there were also the poets; cummings, Ferlinghetti, Elliot, Pound, Stein, Plath, Cocteau, Beaudalaire, Rimbeau, and Bukowski. On top of this were all the textbooks for my university courses, mainly literature and theatre. In high school I had studied Latin and read the classic Roman literature, and in university I travelled back to the earliest days of the written and performed word when writing was young and printed materials were almost non-existent.
By the time I had come to the end of this period of my life, in my mid-twenties, it felt like there was nothing new left to read. Even if there were I just wasn't interested anymore, I was throwing myself into my work in theatre full bore and there just wasn't time enough in the day for reading. I was either in the theatre or sleeping for 90% of my time. In that other ten per cent I tried to cram the rest of what's commonly known as a life.
It was only after leaving the theatre did my mind start to turn back towards the written word. At first it was only sporadic attempts that didn't usually result in many finished pieces. It wasn't until I started writing my own blog in March 2005 that I began to find the confidence that assured me I could finish anything I started.
Almost as important as the discovery of my own capacity for creative writing was the rediscovery of an appreciation for reading the written word. How else was I going to be able to judge my own work if I wasn't constantly comparing it with others? With this in mind I began to search out books that I could review.
Having to look at all the particulars of what it was I liked about a book helped me understand what my own writing needed in order to improve; it also helped me rediscover all the things I liked about reading. Some people claim that analysing a book takes all the joy out of it for them, but it depends on the intent. When I reviewed a book I was looking for the things in it that made me like it or dislike it. I wasn't trying to dissect it, the author's intent behind writing it, or any of the other things academics do that take the joy out of reading. I went looking for the heart that beat within the story and in doing that I rediscovered what it was about reading that caused my pulse to race.
Of course there have been other perks that have gone with reviewing books. I've had the pleasure of coming into contact with authors who have not only allowed me access to their creative process by exchanging correspondence with me, but have also given me access to their writings in the rawest of forms. As a reader I thought I had achieved the ultimate satisfaction when I was sent someone's galley proofs to read. For me it was a thrill knowing that I was able to read the book well in advance of the rest of the reading public. But recently something even more exciting happened, another author has asked me to be a reader for his newest work. He sends me pages by email the moment he finishes a draft.
I read it and send him back my spontaneous impressions and thoughts; as a reader what did I like about what I read. I'm not reviewing the book; in fact I do my best to shut off my critical faculties so that I can react more directly as a reader in regards to like and dislikes.
I love it because it's freeing me from the shackles of my rational brain while I'm reading, which means I'm reading purely on instinct. So not only I'm I having the opportunity to play a role in helping somebody else create something, but I'm also remembering what it was like to read for no other reason but the joy of reading like when I first started as a child.
It's funny how things go in circles like this isn't it? I began writing in the hopes of being able to write something that I would like to read, but the results have far exceeded my expectations. Not only have I succeeded in my primary goal, but I've also been able to rediscover my own love of reading for the pleasure of reading. What more could a person ask for; to not only find what they are looking for but extra treasure as well?