I am often amazed at how many people in this world harbour ambitions to be writers (although I suspect publishers and literary agents would be less surprised). How many metaphorical bottom drawers in how many metaphorical cupboards around the globe must house unpublished manuscripts of one kind or another? There seems to be a be a widely held belief that to be truly creative, in literary terms, you have to be a published author. I am not scorning such ambitions for a moment. I must admit that in my younger days I was there too. There is a drawer somewhere . . .
Now, though, I have come to realise that it is just as important, just as creative to be a reader. Don't get me wrong. You can see from my shelves here how much I need and value writers. But our world needs readers every bit as much.
Of course I am talking about real reading, not just going through the motions of lifting words off a page. What I mean is acting as the vehicle through which a story is enacted, characters coalesce and come alive. Real reading means creatively adding your own imagination, your own personality, your own life experience to what is printed on a page. And it is a vital part of the process. It completes the cycle started by the writer. It closes the circle. It is not as easy as might appear. It is both an art and a craft in its own right. To be good at it needs skill and practice, perhaps even talent - although I think this is developed rather than given. Without the reader the whole process is incomplete and, ultimately, meaningless.
Am I just making excuses.? I truly no longer think so.
Some people are writers and we must be enormously grateful to them. But for some of us our role in the process, in life perhaps, is to be a reader. And we should not feel ashamed of it; should not feel that it is in some way inferior, less creative. Each reader and each reading of a book is just as unique, just as special as the writer and the writing of it.
We need people who can truly listen to music just as much as those who compose and play it. We need people who can truly see pictures just as much as those who paint and photograph them. We need readers just as much as writers. A long time ago I made a positive choice to stop trying to be a writer. Now I work instead at being a better reader.