During the time I have been studying for my degree I often wondered how my course work would affect my leisure reading and other work. Until last week, there has not been much time for leisure reading over the last year. My leisure reading time has been so limited that my treasured subscription to The Economist lapsed without my even realizing it. The stack of New York Times newspapers have been nothing but recycling material for some time now. Instead of a holiday, my post exam relaxation is hugging Jelly Bean, rearranging furniture, and leisure reading.
For the last week, I have been reading some texts that even I, with my liberal definition, might think twice about calling literature. Surprisingly, now that exams are over and I just might have completed my degree, my personal reading has, well, blossomed in ways I did not expect. It surprised me to find arguments and rhetoric jumping off the page in a completely new way. This changed the experience of reading a little. While I thought it might be a distraction, the opposite is really the truth of it. It is quite nice to trace the hand of the author in the work.
I do not know why my reading skills suddenly seem more profound. It might be because I am reading nonfiction texts right now and the tropes of literary language are not of importance to these authors in those particular texts. The obvious answer for a curious reader is to try a text of imaginative literature next. Then it will be possible to evaluate if how I read seems as different with them as it does with my nonfiction reads. It would be ironic if a reading epiphany came a few weeks after my last exams, though it is gratifying to have the breakthrough experience even if it would have been enormously helpful if the timing was a few weeks earlier.
It is also suddenly much easier for me to write now. During the week or so since my last exam, I have been writing quite a bit of material intended to be persuasive and compelling. I found myself structuring material with ease, writing quickly and efficiently, and trying to explain the need for organization, structure, and directing the reader to my colleagues. Their frustration with the task reminds me of how I felt at the beginning of my studies in the BA English degree program.
Maybe this wonderful phenomenon is because the pressure and intensity of exams is gone and everything I learned can come gushing out in this amazing wave of reading, writing, and productivity. I enrolled in our wonderful program to solve particular problems with the process of writing, and to learn how to write properly. Mission accomplished. I am well now equipped and ready to start that process. When I started in the program, it occurred to me that the best way to learn how to write is to read good writing and study it carefully. Although it seems obvious now, I never understood how important being a good reader is to good writing.
Reading and writing might sound simple, but if you think about it, there is little as important or as powerful. A humbling thing about our course of study is tracing the ascendancy and influence of writing, reading, print, and literacy in civilization. Another of my goals at the beginning of my studies was to become well read. During my years of study, I read everything recommended in most units and used just about every free minute to reach that goal. It is thrilling to feel like I now might also be a good reader.
Maya Angelou said that, as a child, in the six years when she refused to speak, she learned that hearing and listening is so much more exciting than speaking. She described it as delicious. This week I learned that reading well is like a delicious kind of listening. Today I am settling in with some favorite authors and texts to celebrate reading well – this newly found, deeply appreciated, and delicious gift. Somehow I expect there is much more too it than I can imagine, even now.
Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes. She lives in Pittsburgh in the United States.