Writer vs. Reader: Round 1… fight!

Last week, we read Teirny and Pearson’s article, “Toward a Composing Model of Reading,” which emphasized the idea that there is a symbiotic relationship between reading and writing as composition in a piece of work. The article further reflects the idea that reading and writing use each other to construct meaning through a five-step process. Although this article was pretty straight forward, I started to think about my own writing and how it impacts my readers, as well as myself. In my “Why I Write” essay, I write “But most of the time I’m not thinking of other people when I write. Although I write stories to entertain people and write to spread meaningful messages, I write [most of the time] for selfish reasons.” As I read Teirny and Pearson, I started to reconsider these lines and wonder if I’ve ever considered the reader when writing an essay. Of course I have, right? With any academic paper, I am forced to choose an audience (usually my professor) and consider that audience when stringing my sentences together. In journalistic writing, I’m supposed to do that too–find an audience, and cater to them. But in personal writing, aren’t I the audience? If I’m writing in a journal, [i hope] I’m the only one that’s going to see it. So does that mean that I’m the writer and the reader? A piece of [good] writing should enact some sort of change in mind from both the writer and the reader. As the reader goes on a journey through a piece of reading, so does a writer, and vice versa. Maybe this means making more of a conscious effort to find a balance between thinking as a reader and thinking as a writer when I write stories or essay.

I would consider myself a better writer than reader. In fact, I can’t even call myself a critical reader. I often start books and rarely finish them, even if I’m intrigued by the plotline. I don’t mean to fall into this habit; it kind of just happens. Honestly, I find this a bit ironic and hypocritical because scholars always say, “In order to become a better writer, you have to become a better reader” (or at least that’s what I think they say). Haas and Flower’s “Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning” really speaks to this idea by noting how easy it is to read a piece of writing, without actually grasping the words or meaning. However, there is always a deeper meaning present that we just seem to miss. I can totally relate to this because I so often find myself reading words on a page, but simultaneously thinking about a million other things, such as my plans for the day, what I’m going to eat for my next meal, or what I have to do when I finish this reading. It takes me double the time to read something for class than the average person because I really need to concentrate on the words.

At one point last semester, my English teacher asked me how I liked to read. I responded, “I can only read when it’s completely silent, with a slight whisper. I like to read out loud, it’s the only way I can really understand the words.” My professor then replied, “Wow, so you must be a really slow reader, right?” Although I’m not proud of this confession, it is the stark truth. And as a result, I refrain from reading (which I understand is always really ironic, as the only way to get better is by practicing.) When reading from now on, I should really consider Haas and Flower’s idea about constructing meaning as a reader because as a writer, that’s what I hope my audience does.

Every year, my New Years resolution is to read more. Seeing how it’s only February, let’s see if I can finally make my promise come true.


3 thoughts to “Writer vs. Reader: Round 1… fight!”

  1. I hope you find the chance to read more! It might mean that you need to find some interesting articles in a genre you’re interested in. Some people like reading about health news, world news, or even cooking and lifestyle topics. Also, I think being a fast reader is something that is more natural for some than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to read faster. For some slower readers, it means that they tend to analyze the reading more closely than others. Don’t be ashamed of being a “slow” reader!

    I agree that sometimes you don’t think about the audience directly when writing, but they are always there. For some (maybe more experienced) writers, I think it’s become embedded in their unconscious, but as you said I think it’s important to be more aware of the audience, so the piece can be catered more to them. The tone and word choice are definitely more altered depending on the readers.

  2. Hi Sara!

    I loved your post. Definitely can relate to reading something and finding that five minutes later I’m planning my outfit for the next day or thinking about a conversation I had with someone. I find that my eyes have passed over a page or two, but that I have no idea what I read and then have to go reread it! One thing I’ve found helpful when reading is to read a hard copy of whatever it is and have a pencil on hand. I underline key points every now and then and this keeps my mind engaged and at least gleaning the text for whatever I find most relevant or thought-provoking. Maybe this would help you!

    Also, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to write for selfish reasons. I think of some of my favorite authors of novels or even songs and I think they write to deal with whatever they’re going through or to bring themselves joy (or even money!). Selfish writing can still be good writing, so don’t be hard on yourself! If you’re writing totally for the sake of others, you may lose your own voice or purpose for the piece or even the joy you get from writing! Although I think it’s always important to have your audience in mind, I don’t think you’re wrong to write for yourself a lot of the time!

  3. I really liked your comments about you being your own audience. That’s something I think about a lot as well and it does bring to mind that important question of who you are trying to cater to. I also thought your comments about writing for selfish reasons were really interesting, especially in terms of writing for money or to deal with emotions, as that is such an integral part of being a writer. I can also completely relate to the idea of reading in a sort of absent minded way and being unfocused. I like how you separate yourself from the traditional convention of thinking that you have to love reading or be an excellent reader in order to be an excellent writer.

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