This Saturday I went to Waterstones to participate in one of my most favourite activities: an afternoon of book browsing. I went alone, the only way to go, and perused each shelf at a luxuriously leisurely pace, tempting myself with what I might buy, what I could buy in the future and hurrah, what I WILL buy today! I began in the children's section. I want to write a children's science storybook (more on that another day!) and got distracted en route to the education section by a collection of poems for children by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. It was hard backed with a robin on the cover and the title etched out in swirly gold writing. Oh, beautiful book. It made me want to have a child just to be legitimately able to buy it (probably not the best reason ever to embark on parenthood). If you have children, you must buy it. For yourself, yes, but you can pretend that your kids will get a look in too.
Rather than continue with my frightening thoughts on premature parenthood I decided it was safer to head to the newly expanded fiction section (how foolish of me!) My grubby paws were soon piled high with goodies. I was high on the potential of my purchases. This could be the book that redefines me. The book that makes me cry (again). The book I can't put down for weeks. The book that says, yes Nicola you’re right to want to go back to Africa, go for it! The book that makes me a better writer, a better human! And most of all, there in my hands was a ticket to another world for the next few weeks. Do I want to solve mysteries in Spain? Yes! Do I want to go to New York in the 50s? Of course! The blissful possibility of living another life, just for a little while. Escapism? Absolutely. That’s what I read books for. And so I selected them, my 3 for 2, three books I had long coveted and they were mine! MINE! (Sorry, going a little Gollum there…my pretty…)
Sometimes I think I might be an escapist kind of person. I cannot escape my escapist tendencies, you could say. Perhaps that's why I write. If I don't write for even a day then I get all tetchy, as if all these thoughts are barging around inside my head, fighting to get out. I wonder what I used to do, how I used to get by when I didn't write every morning. Where did all those thoughts go? The most wonderful thing in the world is to pick up a book and find that someone else is saying the very thing that you would say if you had the words. Something resonates. Someone has put a story to your own experience. Someone has written about the person you want to be. The adventures you’d love to have. Is there anything better than that? Is there anything more unifying than to know that someone out there feels the same? Dreams the same, even. That's why I write and that's why I read. And that's why I think there is nothing better in the whole wide world.