Falling Out of the Stereotype
Nobody tells you that reading is an important part of writing until it’s too late.
By Nicole Fryer, University of Pittsburgh
I can be cliché and say I’ve always loved to write, but I’d be lying.
When I was fourteen, my best friend and I were taking her dogs for a walk, a typical thing we did every weekend. We were having a good time, and I was telling her about a weird dream I had, and she turned to me and said, “You should write a book.”
I never thought about writing before, but suddenly, I was a cartoon character and the imaginary light bulb above my head lit up like a Christmas tree. I went straight home, ran to my computer and started typing my thoughts and ideas. Since then, I’ve love to write.
When the idea of college came around four years later, I knew exactly what I wanted to do—write. I applied only to two schools, both of which offered decent Writing and Journalism majors. I pictured my college life being in my room writing all day. Everything was going to be great.
But, shortly after starting college, I found out being a Writing major wasn’t all about writing; there’s a lot of reading involved too. Here’s the thing: I don’t like to read.
Okay, a little clarification: I like reading for pleasure. A mystery novel here, and a romance novel there. I can pick up a book and either read the whole thing in a day, or I can set it down and not pick the damn thing up again for several months. The last book I read for pleasure I started reading about two years ago, and has been sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust for almost a year now. Every day I look at the bookmark sticking out, reminding me that I stopped on chapter eleven.
I enjoy the book, I just don’t have the time to read. I get busy and reading gets put on the backburner. One of these days I’ll finish the novel, probably won’t be until after I graduate. Who knows, maybe I won’t have time to read after graduation either.
Reading for a class is a hell of a lot different than reading for pleasure. For class, I’m forced to read something I don’t like most of the time, and I end up skimming the book. By the time I set the assignment down and go to write my paper, I have no recollection of what happened, which kind of makes class discussions awkward and papers difficult to write.
Right now, I could kick myself because I’m taking two reading classes, which means I have to read at least two novels per week and write papers on each, along with any other homework I have for my other classes. Most of the time, I barely get through one of the books. I rely on articles and plot summaries I find online; I never have free time, and when I do, I panic and start skimming over next week’s books.
In some ways, I’m glad I’m not your typical English major who lives in a library. Sure, things get awkward in the beginning of the semester when the professor asks you what your favorite book is, and nothing comes to mind. Great way to introduce yourself to the class. I don’t like falling into a stereotype, and I’m learning most of my friends who are English majors don’t have time to read either.
One of my new roommates is a Writing major, and and she told me she never has time to read for pleasure anymore. Even if one of us does get some free time to read, we also have friends, work or other schoolwork we want to get ahead on. She has some classic favorites, but she’s not moving into a library anytime soon.
Sure, both of us know plenty of English majors who do read for pleasure, but all they ever do is read. They never seem to have any time to hang out, and when they do, they don’t have much to talk about, except how much they like the book they’re reading.
That’s just not me. My roommate and I came to a conclusion: If we liked reading more, we would’ve become Lit majors instead of Writing majors.
One realization I’ve come to during the semester is that I’m not a deep reader, meaning I don’t analyze the words into something deeper. I’ve never been super analytical; in fact, I’m way more literal. If a sentence in a book says the curtains are blue, I’m going to picture blue curtains in a house and I’m not going to overanalyze and conclude that the author chose blue curtains because they were severely depressed. Okay, overused example, but you get my point.
I’m wondering if part of the reason I’m not analytical is due to my lack of reading. For one of my reading classes, my professor wants me to read his assigned novels at least twice a week. No college student has time for that. He insists reading the book multiple times will help me realize more things and help me become a deeper reader, but I like being able to have a few hours of sleep each night, so the extra reading isn’t going to happen.
Even though I don’t like reading, the further I get into my college career, the more I’m seeing how important reading and writing go hand in hand. You’ve probably heard your professors mention that reading helps improve your writing because you expose yourself to different styles, voices and other elements of writing. You’ll keep hearing something similar with every English class you take, but they’re right.
If I see a certain phrase or a writing technique another author has used, I try to remember to incorporate that element into my own writing, and I’ve noticed my writing improve significantly over the past few months.
Some people might challenge me with my thoughts, but it’s okay. If I feel more confident, chances are my writing is more confident. Also, by reading as much as I am for my classes, I’m getting more ideas and not having writer’s block nearly as often as I used to. Score.