I Read, Therefore I Am

In the last two weeks or so, I seem to have gone into one of my philosophical moods. I was reading a book in a genre I used to devour back when I read two or three books a week. I don’t do it anymore, but back then, I would dive into a specific genre and read every book an author has ever released in it. Then I’d go to related books, and repeat the process with another author in that same genre. It was total immersion in a particular subject matter, and for the longest time I lived and breathed it.

That changed when my me-time shrank considerably and I refocused my energies into writing instead. I’d still read here and there, but nowhere near as much as before, and definitely not one single genre. When my reading pattern changed, I noticed a distinct change in my general mindset as well.

Has that ever happened to you? You read a brilliant fantasy adventure and suddenly you swagger down the street like you have an elven sword strapped to your side and everyone is a potential enemy. Your back is just a little straighter, your thoughts just a little braver. For a while, as you bask in the book afterglow, you’re a total magickal badass.

I’ve realized recently that this happens to me a lot.

My mindset changes to resemble the books I read. If it’s a horror, I withdraw into myself. If it’s an adventure, I’m more outgoing. If it’s sci-fi, I suddenly feel like discussing quantum physics and interstellar travel, and romance has me daydreaming about the perfect guy. I want to say it’s just a natural byproduct of being a writer, that my mind is always churning with ideas and the books I read simply inspire more of them (or more intense/detailed ones). But I’m not so sure…

I’ve heard it said before (and probably said it myself, too) that what you read is not who you are. Now I wonder… Would I have started writing romance if I hadn’t been reading all those romance books? How much of who I am, what I like/dislike and what I do is influenced by the books I read? Do I write what I write because of what I read, or do I read it because it’s what I want to write?

Is me on books different than me in book withdrawal?

For a moment, as this hit me, I had a mini existential crisis. I was letting books define who I was! Shock and horror!

Then I dropped the drama and realized that no, that’s not what’s happening at all. I don’t lose my sense of self with books, I find bits and pieces of who I am and want to be. I refine my definition of what exactly I want from life in general, and what I want to offer in return.

And as I type this, I think that’s why I became such a voracious reader to begin with. See, I didn’t dive into books until my teens. In those days, I stood out like a sore thumb for the judgmental crowd, and I hated the attention it got me. So I changed. I completely buried the person I’d been on my way to become just so I’d fit in a little easier, until I forgot the person I used to be.

Books made me realize this as nothing else could have. They reminded me of who I really was by showing me characters who reflected my heart back to me. They introduced me to heroes who were unapologetically themselves, didn’t give a damn whether someone liked them or not–and instead of earning scorn, that very confidence actually attracted people to them! Reading about them, I thought maybe I could do the same.

It’s been more than a decade since that time, and I’m still not finished. Take it from someone who knows: self-consciousness and self-doubt will gut you if you let them. But the more I read, the more of myself I get back, the more I believe it’s okay to let the true version of me out. Am I perfect? Far from it. But with all the flaws, quirks, and foibles inherent in my makeup, I can honestly say I like me, and I’m through listening to everyone and everything else tell me I shouldn’t.

I read, therefore I am.

I am, therefore I write.

Until next time!

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