I think it’s fair to say that the benefits of reading extensively are demonstrable: greater knowledge; deeper understanding; and an expansive vocabulary being just a few of them.
As a writer, there’s a downside. I often find myself wondering about originality – and not the kind that plagiarist detection software concerns itself with. I’m talking about a uniqueness of voice. A form of expression that is identifiably me. The consumption of books is a lifelong habit which begs the question: how much, of what I write and how I write it, is actually mine? Am I just an amalgamation of all the words and all the voices that I have experienced? Phrases made popular by TV shows, snippets of slang from all the places I have lived in, old lady idioms from my grandma, and popular youth lingo appropriated from my cringing teenagers all coalesce into the language I use everyday.
“Sometimes, I open my mouth and my mother comes out”
As a parent, I know that I am sometimes (oftentimes) a regurgitator of time-honoured mumisms. Sociology teaches me that this is normal. Mums (and dads) are responsible for socialising children into the norms and values (and idioms) of society.
It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.
In fact, all of society is responsible, in some way, for the way that we turn out. Be that the case, is it even possible to have an original voice? Isn’t everybody simply the product of their environment?
Where is my free will?
I didn’t choose my environment. At least, not when I was a child.
This fear for my eternal uniqueness has led me to the inevitable question.. have any of the choices I’ve made in my life ever been mine? Do I only like fantasy fiction because I was groomed by my experiences to seek out worlds where the usual limitations do not apply? Does my reading preference feed back into the decisions and behaviours of my daily life?
As far as originality goes, maybe I had to see, hear, touch, taste, feel, and understand everything in the exact chronological order that I’ve experienced it in order to continually become myself. Perhaps, in time, my voice will evolve farther and farther from where it started and I won’t even recognise it. Much like the external version of myself, some parts will acquire wrinkles, others will run to fat, and some will cease working altogether.
As for you, if you started reading this post because you thought it held answers of some kind, you will by now have realised that you were wrong. All I have are more questions.
Sorry, not sorry xx