On the Art of Reading

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“Beaufort, South Carolina” by Elisa.rolle CC by SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Writing and reading. Reading and writing. They are really just one and the same. Without one, the other would not exist, and because of that, I suspect, most writers are also avid readers. I know I am.

A long time ago, I remember reading an interview with Pat Conroy, the author of The Prince of Tides, where he discussed his writing education. I can’t find the article or interview, but I remember it quite well. As a graduate of the Citadel in Charleston, SC, he recounted that he did not have an Ivy League education. This is not dissuade him. Instead, Conroy decided to commit himself, not only to writing, but to reading too. He reasoned that if he couldn’t be an Ivy League graduate, he could at least read like one. What struck me about Conroy’s interview was not only his sheer determination, but also his focus on the importance of reading as a writer. The interview even described the page count that he read everyday, which I remember thinking was a massive amount. Unfortunately this page amount is a detail that, as Billy Collins describes, “decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain, to a little fishing village where there are no phones.”

I have not always been a voracious reader like Conroy, but I have always aspired to be one. As an academic, I ironically lost my habit of reading for pleasure. Overwhelmed by work reading and academic literature, the time for pleasure reading was moved aside. Over the past two years, I refocused my reading habit and built time into my day for pleasure reading. By reinvesting in reading fiction or literary non-fiction (as opposed to academic literature), I have found myself recentered in the things I love about reading…and writing.