The significance of reading and writing is to project inner feelings and thoughts to the outside world.  Whether the content is academic or creative, reading and writing take ideas and emotions that people have and make them real for others to experience.  In addition, reading and writing is a rewarding activity.  It can educate people and expand their horizons as well as be a spiritual way of expressing oneself that may not have been possible through speech.   I think that reading and writing should originate within someone.  It should not be pressed upon someone from the outside like many schools tend to approach it.  It should be a personally worthwhile activity instead of something that is done to receive a good grade by a teacher.  Reading and writing can be a very personal activity but it also has a creative and a social aspect in that a person interacts with another when they read or write.  This is true for creative writing and more contemporary forms of literature like hypertexts.  A reader interacts with the author by listening to what the author has to say and experiencing the literature in the form the author gave it.  On the other hand, a writer interacts with the reader, whether the reader is a teacher, peer, or a general reader by conversing and trying to convey the message to their audience.  The authors can also interact with themselves by being the reader and writer of their own work through reflection, contemplation and revision. 

   The writing of poetry is an example of writing in one of its best forms.  In my creative writing and poetry, I start with ideas that I come up with and develop myself.  I am able to write without fear of writing the wrong thing and jeopardizing a grade in the end.  This positive aspect of poetry encouraged me to write more outside of school when I was growing up.  I started creative writing when I was in school and it helped me realize that I had a talent for it.  I was able to write what I felt passionately about and I was able to express myself on paper which was new to me.  At first I thought that it would be a waste of time and just another assignment but it opened up a whole new world of expression for me.  Writing poetry made it possible for me to say things and express what I felt strongly about that otherwise I would have kept inside.  It became a new, creative outlet of expression and I really enjoyed it.  I wrote quite a few pieces including a journal.  Writing this journal was very important to me and it was something that I tended to keep to myself.  This is an example of how a writer can also be the reader by experiencing their own writing.  When I would write in the journal, I was not writing it for a specific audience but instead wrote it for myself to experience privately.  Even though this writing was not very academic, it was special and it felt as if it were a piece of me that I was sharing which was very therapeutic.  It was this passion for expressing myself through writing that made me realize that reading and writing was a personal activity for me.  My writing that I chose to do outside of the work assigned to me in school was always something that I felt strongly about or something that I wanted to get out into the open.  These things could range from happy memories from the past or hurtful emotions that when I put on paper helped to comfort me.

Sven Birkerts says that, “Literature holds meaning not as a content that can be abstracted and summarized but as experience.  It is a participatory arena” (Birkerts 31). I agree with this view because both reading and writing require action and effort in order for it to have meaning.  Literature without meaning can be a waste of time because the participant gets nothing out of the time put into the activity.  There ought to be some sort of redeeming value in literature whether it is education, entertainment, communication etc.  Writing and understanding reading at times can be a sudden revelation, but for the most part it is a process.  Readers and writers need to invest in their activity by sitting down, focusing and putting real work into their project in order to get anything out of it.  This is completely essential for the reader or writer to come away with something valuable and worthwhile.  It may be difficult to do but it takes effort to develop reading and writing skills.   These effects on me were also true when I read outside of school.  I have not read much outside of school and I am not an exceptionally fast reader so it is hard for me to get very interested in reading.  The most memorable experience that I have had with reading was following a series called Cirque Du Freak.  This series is about a boy named Darren Shan who makes the decision to become a vampire. The series tells the saga of his life and development as a vampire.  I was able to relate to many themes in this book like developing and changing over time.  This ability to connect with the text on a personal level made it entertaining and meaningful for me to read.  In this experience I started reading it and continued reading it because of my own desire.  Almost always when I am required to do a reading assignment, I am naturally disinterested because I am doing it because someone else has forced it upon me.  Even when I read something that I actually enjoy reading for an assignment it is not as interesting to me as if I had done the reading in my spare time.  Reading things for the experience of reading it are much more rewarding than if it is a required task.  I think that if someone had forced me to read the Cirque Du Freak series, it would have detracted from the satisfaction I got out of it. 

Although reading and writing are very personal endeavors, they have social aspects to them as well.  A great example of literature that is social is the new phenomenon of hypertexts.  Hypertexts are a new way of presenting literature through electronic mediums such as the internet and computers.  The ability of hypertexts to be presented in new ways allows for a great deal of interaction between the text and the reader.  Through various creative effects like moving words and sound, readers can experience text like never before.  An example of this is a mediated poem called “Faith” by Robert Kendall.  In this poem, words appear in segments and between the phases, the letters move and new ones appear to make new words and ideas in the same poem.  This hypertext works well as a piece of literature because not only is the poem pleasing to read but the medium through which it is presented adds to the poem in ways that just ink and paper could not accomplish.  This is true at the end of the poem when all of the letters seem to fall down in no particular pattern.  One of the themes in the poem is taking a leap of faith into the unknown.  The electronic text allowed the letters to perform the leap of faith that they had just previously described.  The mediation that the poem was presented through gave the letters themselves life and allowed the text to make a connection with the reader.  This social aspect of interaction enhances the overall experience of reading and writing and allows the individual to better connect to the piece of literature.

It may sound as if I think reading and writing should not be assigned to people in school because it usually does not encourage personal expression, but this is not the case. In fact, one of the most significant experiences I had with reading and writing was an assignment I was given in my freshman year of high school.  I was assigned an extensive research paper in my honors biology class.  To date, this paper was one of the most difficult things I have ever written.  I chose for my topic the effect of fertilizer runoff on the crab population in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  My paper was 15 pages in length and I worked on researching and writing it over a three month period including an oral presentation.  This assignment, despite its strenuous requirements, helped me greatly as a writer.  I think that writing should be a result of an inner urge or inspiration in order to express thoughts or feelings on a topic that one feels strongly about.  This paper was not a result of inner motivation and was not personal to me as a writer but it was significant in my growth as a writer.  The assignment lacked any creative aspects but instead originated outside of me forcing me go outside of my comfort level.  This difficulty though helped me become a better and more skilled writer. 

            Writing in school is often similar to this project I did in high school.  Usually it is not up to a student to pick what they read and write, but instead their teacher issues an assignment and the student does it in a way that hopefully will be well perceived by the teacher.  I think this is the wrong approach for writing at its basic roots but it is a necessary part of people’s literary development.  In the moment, things such as the paper I had to do seems like something that is only frustrating and simply a task that needs to be done.  Throughout my writing career I have come to realize that by completing challenging assignments, people better themselves and improve their skills for their own writing in the future.  Writing and reading can be both a painful and rewarding endeavor.  Just like a marathon runner or an Olympic weight lifter needs to stress themselves in order to improve, readers and writers need to be pushed to do things that might be painful in order for them to grow.  Muscle is built by rupturing old muscles through stress and having new muscles regenerate around the original ones.  The same is true for writing.  Learning various techniques of reading and writing and practicing these techniques throughout one’s life will make a person all the more capable in the long run.  Through doing assignments, readers and writers will be better prepared to read and write in the future for their own reasons and promote their ideas.  This can be through personal reading and writing or through academic literature like essays and journals.

            The way that people use the skills learned in school is up to them.  For me, I think that it is very valuable to be able to express my emotions when I feel inspired and to be able to relay my thoughts on an academic subject.  Reading and writing have such broad scopes from writing an article in a scholarly magazine to reading a comic book.  For the most part I tend to direct my actions toward reading and writing for my own expression and enjoyment.  This is not to say that assignments do not benefit people, but reading and writing are at their best when people decide to do them from their own motivation because it is something they feel is important and beneficial.  If people are given more freedom in how they experience literature, they will get more out of reading and writing.  This would help people to start with ideas that originate from within instead of having ideas pressed on them.  In doing this, people would have a more personal connection with their work.  Reading and writing are both activities in which all people should partake.  They help people to become more educated, interact with other people, and most importantly express themselves personally by conveying their beliefs and feelings.   

 

Works Cited

            Birkerts, Sven, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, Faber and Faber Inc., New York, 1994, Print

 

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