I’ve learned a lot of things about myself from reading. Authors have an inexplicable gift for putting seemingly unimportant circumstances into words that make them sound profound and forming crisp ideas in the mind of the reader.
Reading material also has the tendency to trigger new ideas in me. From reading, or sometimes accidentally reading things wrong, I’ve come up with ideas for writing. Small nuances, gestures, explanations or observations begin a cycle of thought that’s all my own. It might be a memory trigger, an emerging pattern, or a way of looking at something from an unexpected angle.
I have also learned a great deal about myself from books. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance brought me out of an all-encompassing funk when I was a teenager. I had an inferiority complex and was extremely self-conscious, to say the least. I couldn’t understand why people generally dismissed me, come to find out I was projecting an image of, to be frank, worthlessness. The main character was told that he came off as harsh and conceited when he didn’t participate in conversation, even though he was really the shy, contemplative, watch-from-the-sidelines type. This sort of revelation, as simple as it sounds, had a profound effect on my life. It’s those sagacious passages that have the ability to trigger momentous ah-ha moments just when we need them most.
This idea can also be applied to your outer appearance, your visible binding and covers. When you wear frumpy clothes, throw your hair into a bun, bite off your nails and fail to remove accumulated lint from your garments, you come off as someone who doesn’t care. People instantly read this cover, no matter how much you think they won’t. I’m not saying your worth is found in how you look, but the care you take with yourself tells people something about you before they have a chance to peel back the layers.
This is why they tell you that to be a good writer, you need to read; to be a good conversationalist, you need to read; to understand the world, you need to read; to take a break from your life, you need to read. There are so many reasons to read, but nearly none more important than mining your own identity and understanding your existence in this fine world.