Reading more and writing well has been a study goal of mine since enrolling in English Studies with the International Program. Reading widely is something I always wanted to do; writing has also been an interest for many years. Now I finally have the opportunity to pursue both interests in a dedicated and productive way. Taking my own slow time reading the Foundations Units has been extremely useful. I read every text on each syllabus; now I am well prepared to engage with the advanced units. I also made an important discovery about the relationship between reading and writing. That might sound simplistic but it is true. Reading helps me to be a better writer; and writing helps me to be a better reader.
Becoming a better reader has been a priority since I opened the first text. Reading and studying the Foundations Units was extraordinary. The mastery of language, staggering intellect and force of imagination is still stunning. It prompted much thought about how authors use language in their remarkable masterpieces of literature. After reading and writing about all of the Foundations Units texts, many of them several times, I can engage with texts in the advanced units like I am meeting old friends. Engaging with authors, texts and literary periods again is very stimulating and rewarding. To my surprise I have much higher expectations about my purposes for reading and for the results I achieve in my scheduled reading time.
My scheduled study time last term included reading texts several times. I am very glad I did because it allowed me to identify interesting elements of language through my own engagement with the texts; this is very satisfying indeed. This touches on why I enrolled in English Studies in the first place. I enrolled in English Studies to read widely and develop creative writing skills. For me reading great writing has been the perfect learning model. This summer I began doing some writing exercises for fun and to see what I learned about structure and storytelling. Now that I am seriously engaged with texts for this term I realize that these writing exercises have made me a much better reader.
Writing exercises help me to understand what authors are doing with language; they also help me to comment on the effect their choices make on the reader. An exercise I particularly enjoy is writing one page about a scene I pass on the street; I write about its most striking feature and construct a story about that time and place. Can I write a sentence as evocative as Rushdie’s ‘frontier of the skin?’ Constructing metaphors or using figurative elements makes me much more aware of how authors use language to tell rich, complex stories.
Rich, complex stories and figurative language are a compelling part of human experience. I find literature riveting; the process of reading and writing is fascinating. They are two sides of the equation; reading makes me a better writer and writing makes me a much better reader.