Read like you mean it. You may be saying, "What does that even mean and who are YOU to tell me I don't read correctly?" and this is where I ask, "well do you?"
Read like you mean it. I am a college student and all I ever hear about is close reading. Reading so that you understand the "text" as they say. Reading and marking things up; more than underlining and highlighting, I'm talking annotations, acronyms and yes, underlining and highlighting. They call this "marginalia" and as I stated, close reading. I call it reading like a writer. Let me explain.
It is all well and good to read for inspiration but did you ever question how or why someone has written that beautiful sentence or constructed a paragraph the way they have? How all those elements, the sentence, paragraph, rhythm of the prose relates to the theme of the novel? If you have, you are reading like a writer.
But I think it is important also to use the margins and no it is not because I'm Ms. Jo College. I can't tell you how many times I've read something, mentally noted that this sentence is constructed with the most fluid language I've ever seen, went to sleep and have totally forgotten not only where the sentence was located, but about the entire sentence. That kind of error impedes my growth as a writer. Why? Because I am not actively looking for ways to practice different styles, forms, ways of communicating that may benefit my work in some way, whether or not I use the same structured sentence as Amy Hempel or not it still helps. It is important to annotate and put into practice what you've annotated.
Another way of looking at another writer's work is rewriting it after you've read and annotated the novel. For instance, I've rewritten one of my favorite short stories, "In the Cemetary Where Al Jolson is Buried" by Amy Hempel. This is similar to annotating in that you get the feel of the direction the writer wanted to go, how he/she uses language and it becomes a part of your own writing, but in your own style.
A suggestion for those of you who feel like it is a lot of work when you just want to enjoy a book, read the book first without annotating or underlining. Soak it in. Enjoy it. Then scrutinize the hell out of it later.
Reading like you mean it is essential to writing like you own the language. Now, feel free to chastise and debate me, if you wish. ;-)
Tiffany White is a regular reader of The Literary Lab. She writes literary fiction which is also a testament to her insanity, her thirst for realism at the expense of a successful career. She bites kittens and puppies and wears her socks on the outside of her pants regularly. You can find Tiffany on her blog, The Inkwell.
I am very happy to have Tiffany as a guest blogger today. As an English BA major, I agree with her that reading as a writer can be a really important step in a writer's growth. I never read anything in college without putting in "marginalia." I was always taking notes, writing in my books, discussing the work with fellow students and my professors. Let me tell you, I learned so much about writing by involving myself like that. These days, I've found some of the books I remember the most are the manuscripts I review for other writers. Why? Because I'm taking notes and writing out my comments. I'm thinking critically about the work.
Thank you, Tiffany, for a great post today! I'm interested to see our readers' thoughts on this subject.