When I write, all I have to rely on are my own past experiences that have shaped my background. On the other hand, people who read what I write may see the same words yet finish reading with a completely different understanding of my writing than the understanding I have when I read through my own work. Although it seems easy to write this off as something reasonable and obvious, I’ve only come to fully understand and appreciate the importance of this not too long ago.
Through workshop sessions with my classmates, I came to realize and appreciate the differences that arise in interpretations of the same text. My classmates asked me questions I’d never even think of while I was writing my paper. Sometimes they asked if I’d intended for the reader to think X and I’d say that I was expecting the reader to think Y. Sometimes their questions baffled me. Why were they reading so much into a section that I’d thought was so straightforward? Why were they wondering if I’d meant something deeper when, really, I’d meant that sentence quite literally? Why were my readers so different from what I’d expected them to be? Suddenly, my own classmates, whom I’d presumed thought pretty much the same way I did (aside from some issues in which we all had steadfast opinions about), seemed so different. And then I felt the tension that I had to ease between being a writer and being a reader.
This is what the reading “Toward a Composing Model of Reading” focuses on. Its argument is that reading and writing both involve the construction of meaning since meaning is essential to both a reader and a writer. An interesting point that this reading develops is that the ways in which meaning is constructed in reading and writing may be much more similar than we think even if the processes produce different meanings as an end result.
“Toward a Composing Model of Reading” discusses how reading and writing share in common these aspects: planning, drafting, aligning, revising, and monitoring. In the planning stage, both writers and readers set out with specific goals in mind – before writing, the writer plans to use the right words to convey his or her message; before reading, the reader plans to go through the text to pick up specific information. The authors define the drafting process as “the refinement of meaning as readers and writers deal directly with the print on the page”. In aligning, writers and readers approach a text differently depending on what roles they take on as they write or read. A writer is conscious of the audience that is going to read and interpret his or her work. The reader, in return, responds to the writer’s intentions either with agreement or disagreement. Next, in the revising stage, a reader has to rethink his or her interpretation of a text while a writer has to go through a draft and decide how to improve it. The authors state that in the monitoring stage, “readers and writers must be able to distance themselves from the texts they have created to evaluate what they have developed”.
While I generally agree with the points raised in the reading, I am still unsure about the revising process that a reader goes through as the authors put forth. The authors highlight that “[readers] must examine their developing interpretations and view the models they build as draft-like in quality – subject to revision”. I don’t doubt that this is a very effective reading strategy (after all, we’ve all done these: rereading, making notes in the margins, arguing with ourselves if we agree with something in the text); however, I think it will be quite difficult for me to employ this method as a normal, everyday reading practice.
Maybe I am being swayed by my own preconceived notions of the difference between reading and writing, but I think that if I were to keep consciously reevaluating my interpretations of every text I read, I may just end up feeling lost. I feel that interpretations form and shift naturally as I read and if I were to track all the little changes that happen in the way I view a text, I may feel as though I cannot find a clear stand in the topic addressed. While rereading and debating over the meaning of a text are necessary and highly useful, sometimes I want to just read without nitpicking on every detail of not only the text but also my thought process. That is not to mean, though, that I fully oppose revising every time I read. There are times when I actually enjoy critically analyzing what I’m reading and tracking my responses to the text, but there are times when I simply want to be a passive reader. (At the risk of sounding shallow, I will say that I think there’s some joy to be found in being a passive, “superficial” reader. But, of course, there’s more than one way to interpret that.)
I was surprised by the conclusion I found myself reaching after I’d typed the whole chunk of text above. In many ways, my own post mirrored exactly what the authors had proposed in their writing. I started reading the text with my own biases, found myself looking out for specific details (the what’s and why’s), assumed a position that was at times in favor of the authors and at times stubbornly opposing the authors, reconsidered my assumptions in line with the ideas contained in the reading, and monitored myself by way of evaluating my opinions to form this post.
So, yes, now I think that reading and writing are much more similar than I’ve previously assumed. But, I guess, somewhere inside, I’m still not completely opposed to changing my mind. (Now I feel like an extra critical reader – can’t decide if that’s good or bad.)