So one of my professors mentioned again in last week's class that part of our job as graduate students was to learn to read at different speeds--to learn to scan some things very quickly while choosing to spend hours reading more important things in-depth.
I feel like my ability to do the fast kind of reading in the COM field is finally coming to me. It's always a learning curve for me to master this fast reading when approaching a new genre of heavy critical tomes (the same was true when I went back for my MA in English at first), but after a year of slogging through COM theorists and quantitative and qualitative articles and essays, I finally feel like I can scan these genres when I need to, which should make this school year significantly less laborious.
The thing is, as I reflect on Ril and the others at TextFIGHT doing the slightly insane but incredibly gutsy 3-day novel thing this weekend, writing is something that can--and probably also should, at times--also be done at that fast-scanning sort of speed.
I think the key to this fast-writing, as with fast-reading, is not just in learning to do it, but learning to do it so that one does it relatively well. That calls for a facility with both the craft and the rules of whatever genre you're working in. The material you come out with is bound to be rough, but being able to do it well shows a sort of mastery over the material you're working with, as well as a lack of self-consciousness about the process.
Our media ecology is an ideal test bed on which to develop this sort of lightning speed--and I can do it in blog posts, facebook statuses, wall posts, and emails, which is excellent priming for the pump of other kinds of quick writing. I've also been known to plow out a quick poem, creative non-fiction essay or a homework assignment, and I'm getting closer to this speed for COM essays--hoping I can get closer to it this semester.
The one key place where I haven't quite mastered the speed of fast writing, however, is in my creative writing. I feel like my mastery of the generic conventions and knowledge of my characters comes so slowly that I'm not there yet. I've been known to speed-edit after the first draft, but the first draft tends to come incredibly slowly, in part because it's always a very long side project that gets easily de-prioritized. I think, oddly enough, it will take going over the hump to fast-writing COM essays before I'll get the confidence to try something similar with my novel-writing.
I do hope that I get to do one of these contests someday, however--I think it would help. Oh, 3-day novelists (or anyone else), any comments on the process?
Monday, September 1, 2008
Reading and Writing at Different Speeds
Labels: 3 day novel, academic writing, creative writing, speed reading, writer's block, writing speeds
I'm a writer, an incurable reader, a narrative theorist, a media researcher, a scholar/author/writer/consultant, a PK, and the Queen of Soup Making. I write a lot, and I've taught a wide range of topics in universities. Along my journey I've picked up a PhD in Communication from Purdue and 2 degrees in English. I've been turning my ideas about communication as author-audience relationships into a communication paradigm that can be applied to a wide range of situations. I'm also writing a historical mystery series. I'm a member of Sisters in Crime, and the co-chair of the Mystery and Detective Fiction Caucus of the Popular Culture Association. My MA thesis focused on connections between T. S. Eliot and Thoreau, who each wondered about how to remain still and still moving. Before I went to grad school, I spent 7 years working for a division of HarperCollins Publishers.