I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old. I always say this when people ask me about how I got into it. Everything started with, well, fanfiction. We are all a bit ashamed to assume that our love for writing started in fanfiction.net, for a reason I still don’t quite understand. It gets even worse when the only fanfics you ever wrote were about Twilight, because no, I didn’t get into literature and writing because of Shakespeare, or Austen, or Hardy, or Joyce, or Wilde, or Poe. It wasn’t Frankenstein nor Dracula. I was not ashamed of it before, but when you jump into the academic world and share your experiences with your classmates and professors you start doubting yourself and questioning… Does this make me a non-legitimate English Literature student? Even worse: does this make me a bad writer?
If I have to be honest, I’m not sure I have the answer to this question. I’m sorry. I go through it almost every day, and I still don’t think I can come up with an answer. All I know, and this I can share with you, is that I’m trying not to let it bother me anymore. I’m done with it. Because the only thing it does is keep me from moving forward. It makes me doubt of my capacities and of myself. It pushes me back.
I know that not having read Thackery could make me a bad English lit student, but I don’t think it makes me worse than any other pseudo-writer. Of course that reading enriches your mind and is essential when we talk about writing, but I read lots of other stuff. I’m sure we all have our favorites and sometimes those favorites are not a hundred years old. Even though I do like nineteenth and early twentieth century literature, there are some authors from those periods (and even older) that simply do not call my attention or interest. Sometimes, after a whole semester of Shakespeare and Henry James and Dickens, I rather read something from this century. Okay, yes, we all agree that Twilight is probably not the best example, but even so is that really that bad? More than ever I have the feeling that if we do not respect the canon, or put it first in our reading list, we are certainly doomed to be catalogue as bad students, bad readers and bad writers.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying it is completely okay to skip the heavy, dense classics, because at the end of the day I’m still a literature student. Even when you’re not a big fan, the least you can do is try to read them, maybe not out of fun but out of curiosity: they are the big deal for a reason, right? So go on, try them, set it as a goal, but do not feel bad about yourself if you don’t like them, or if you couldn’t pass from the first thirty pages, because there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You can’t force yourself into liking something.
So I’m gonna be bold right now and answer my own question: no, not having read The Picture of Dorian Gray when I was fourteen years old doesn’t make me a bad writer, nor the fact that Twilight was the book that took me into literature and writing. It doesn’t matter how we got into it, and it doesn’t matter if we don’t read Bukowski or Hemingway or if we do not considered them our inspiration at the moment of taking pen and paper. Maybe one day I will read them and find it fascinating –or maybe I’ll find them terrible–, and hopefully one day I will be able to read all of Shakespeare’s plays and finish Anna Karenina –book that I started in 2013, by the way–. However, for now, I’ll just stick to my beautiful copy of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell and write my own awesome shit.