Thursday, February 5, 2015

Why I Read

When I was a kid I remember how much I loved to curl up with my books getting lost for hours in the carefully woven tales of the master storytellers I collected. Nights when I went to bed, summers, even family gatherings and vacations were all perfect excuses to to hide away in some small cubby and pull out my latest literary adventure.

It shocked me when I would talk to my friends about it and they would look at me like I was crazy. Some of them had parents that knew the importance of reading and they would enforce a one hour per night three times per week schedule of reading (sounds like the forced workout schedule I put on myself now as an adult). They could flip through magazines, skim operator manuals or if so inclined, reach for an actual book. To them the activity I looked forward to was a punishment.

Just recently I was sitting in a  coffee shop a few miles from my house. I go there occasionally to write when the home office is feeling claustrophobic. I had been working for over an hour when I decided to take a break and pulled out the book I was reading. Sipping my cafe mocha sifting through the satirical comedy of Terry Pratchett, a noticed a man walk in and look with disgust at my book. I figured he either wasn't a fan of the author or perhaps genre but after ordering he planted himself directly next to me and began making unhappy noises until I looked up.

Before I could even think of what his concern might be he asked why I was wasting my time reading a book. I answered simply that I enjoyed reading and while I am aware that I could get ebooks now I have always preferred the real thing. He snorted and informed me that in his opinion reading period was a pointless and time consuming activity. Then he opened his computer bag, produced his laptop and set to work on something he appeared extremely dedicated to finishing.

I went back to my book for a while sipping my drink again. When I finishing my coffee I decided I would still be there for another few hours so I got a refill and when I returned to my chair I happened to see he was writing what looked like an essay or blog post. I tapped him on the shoulder startling him so much that his flailing arms nearly cost me my new cup of coffee. He glared at me snapping what could I possibly want. I told him I was just curious what he was working on. His answer blew my mind, he was writing a novel.

I was baffled. I man that just sniped at me for reading was creating a book. I tried to ask what it was about but he refused to answer. I inquired if he had ever published anything and mentioned that I myself am an author. He laughed and said that I was clearly one of "those kinds of authors" motioning to my book once again. He had apparently had enough of my questions though because he packed up and left. I still don't know what "those kinds of authors" meant but I am even more lost about a person that would want to be a writer but now read.

Reading helped me develop a vocabulary, expanded my understanding of various cultures and locations, and has introduced me to countless new friends. I have taken adventures with these characters. I have laughed and cried at their side. Most significantly though is the fact that reading books has inspired me to create my own work that I can now share with the world and perhaps someday something I write will be a spark for an up and coming writer like I was and still continue to be.

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