I’ve always been a reader. (Let me assume a different role for now, of course. Allow me to write, and please, be my reader.) All readers, at least those who fit in to my ideal of who and what a reader is, have this particular love for words that defies rationality. We have this passion of the most obsessive kind for the fleeting but incomparable pleasure of reading beautiful text. And if that sounds insane to you, it probably is, because my idea of a reader is most likely equally mad.
But sanity is statistical, George Orwell would tell you, and I know enough about statistics to make this non-argument moot at best, and pointless at worst. But this discussion already is pointless, so let me rewind.
I’ve always been a reader. Being a reader is easy, however, and what I’ve always really wanted is to be a writer. To be a good one, at least, although most writers dream of being popular, of being widely-read. But what then? What is the point of being someone able to write something so many would want to read, regardless of its inherent worth?
I’ve long come to the conclusion that it’s not a selfish agenda. I’ve never related to the idea of desiring fame for fame’s sake; even if by some unimaginable twist of fate I end up with enormous power and wealth, I don’t think I will ever want to commission statues and name places after myself. If I become a famous writer, then I will be thankful not because of the financial benefits, but because of the attention it will bring me, not to the details of my personal life but to the unique perspective with which I view the world.
The political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, if I understand and remember my social sciences right, said that all men are naturally arrogant in the sense that there is no person who does not believe that his thoughts and beliefs are more correct or superior than that of anyone else’s. The optimistic in me immediately rejected this idea, but then the realistic, critical voice in my head cannot help but admit that there is some truth in this. Ultimately, I figured out that it’s not as much about arrogance as a simple, human need for understanding, and a social urge to share one’s unique world-view. It’s not as much as “I’m right and you’re wrong” as it is “we have different ideas and opinions, let’s share them and see which we can change or agree upon.”
This is the primordial calling that converts genuine readers into writers. Only those who read widely, and actively work to reap as many ideas as possible in whatever concern or issue or area of knowledge they are interested in, are likely to develop the kind of fresh perspectives that are essential in advancing human knowledge. And sooner or later, those people will feel a critical mass of insights pushing out from within them, and they will fervently try to put those flashes of brilliance into written words. And it will be natural for them to seek as wide an audience as possible, not out of arrogance, but out of a sincere desire to expand human horizons.
I’ve always been a reader; for almost as long, I’ve also wanted to be a writer. And I’d like you to hear me out.