Coming up for Air
I've just finished reading my first book by John Steinbeck, and it was rather beautiful. When I think of what a wonderful writer I've been missing out on for 22 years, I get the same sort of feeling that I used to get when I was off sick from school - a feeling in the pit of the stomach that you're missing out things.
Since leaving home for university a few years ago, I've slowly started to realise something. Although I had a great childhood, one where I received continuous support and encouragement throughout my education, I don't really remember any discussions over the dinner table (or any other table) about any great writers. If there was - I just didn't listen.
I started university without knowing who the Prime Minister was (now I know, I realise ignorance was bliss). To be completely honest, I started a degree in journalism without really knowing what that was. Although I was brought up learning and having my perpetual questions about the world answered, I've turned out to be a hopeful writer with little knowledge of the greatest writers of the last century. I always had my head in a book when I was a child, and I'm not knocking R.L.Stine for a second, but Goosebumps books probably aren't a main priority of literature students.
I have recently been unearthing new writers that I not only have quickly fallen in love with, but empathise with and admire - I think I'm high on oxytocin. The resentment I felt for not having been force-fed Shakesphere as a child has been overtaken by excitement. There is some embarrassment in the fact that I've only just begun reading my first book by George Orwell - but I'll take a lot more from books now than I would have done when growing up.
I recently read an article saying that one thing that is always overlooked in nature versus nurture debates is that our personal experiences can help to define who we are and what we do. For me, leaving home and seeing a little bit of the world eradicated any nature/nurture-learned thoughts about what I wanted to do in life. I saw a glimpse of life outside of my home town and realised I would spend forever contemplating it. And now I'm learning about all these great writers in my own time - who knows, I may have grown to resent literature if I was force-fed it when I was growing up.
Now I've left the nest and realised that I want to be a writer - I've discovered that there are others whose brains work like mine (only a million times better) - I just didn't realise until my book collection matured.
My first John Steinbeck book was extremely exciting to discover. When he was in his fifties and had began to experience the start of his decline, Steinbeck set off around America with his poodle, Charley, to rediscover his home country. He wrote about the journey and the result was Travels with Charley, an honest account with writing that remains alive half a century later. It would be a cliche to say that I could identify a little bit of my character traits in him, so I won't.
Amongst the mourning of coming to the end of the book, a momentous occasion has softened the blow - I've started my first Orwell book, Coming up for Air. The introduction almost made my eyes shed a few happy tears. It included a quote from Orwell saying that he didn't use any semicolons in the book because thought they were an 'unecessary stop'. Orwell, I think we're really going to get along.