Friday, May 18, 2012

Read for Pleasure

Although many college English courses advise writers to read in order to hone their authorial skills, the real motive behind this is to teach students to think like researchers. Of course, that is my opinion. But telling a writer to read is like advising artists to look at artwork:  It should be a given.

We learn to love books and creative writing by growing up with books that we love and exploring as many different writing styles as possible, not by tearing apart what others believe are great works. Or, at least, that is how I have grown as a writer.

In high school English we delved into both "A Separate Peace" and "Romeo and Juliet." My bookshelf still holds the first because it made a difference to me due to its symbolism. Other books, along with short stories, were ruined because teachers or professors couldn't leave well enough alone. Most touted reading comprehension as the outcome of reading, rather than savoring the lyricism of words and the mind-stretching ability of writers to speak in more than one literary language. In other words, we need to decide for ourselves what to take away from any book, essay, poem or play.

Let others carve books up based on the academic pursuit of verifiable literary worthiness, but leave me to enjoy what I believe the author was saying to me alone. A little self-indulgency keeps a writer loving the process and can help avoid the restrictions inherent in believing that the readership is set in stone and cannot be tempted to stray.

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