Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why You Should Actually Attend Readings

No doubt you've seen advertisements about readings being held throughout campus. Perhaps you've gone to a few that relate to your class work, or whose topics interested you. But have you ever considered how attending readings and presentations may impact your own writing?

The truth is, hearing a paper read aloud is completely different from reading it silently to yourself. (This is, in fact, a great proofreading skill.) When listening to someone read aloud, you get a sense of flow and rhythm, an idea of how words sound. If you pay close attention, this can affect how you yourself put words and sentences together—pattern yourself off of the patterns of others. It's okay to take inspiration from others, as long as you avoid outright plagiarism.

It also helps to attend readings and presentations that you otherwise wouldn't attend. For example: if you are an Education major with an English concentration, perhaps you should attend a reading about plate tectonics. Sounds boring, right? But just think—not all of the writing in the world revolves around teaching English. There's a lot you can take away from a geology essay. Use of terminology, for example; or the way the presenter may take information that is otherwise boring to you, and make it fun and engaging (believe me, this actually happens). If you're going to be teaching English to a room full of high schoolers who don't care about the symbology of the letter "A" in The Scarlet Letter, you'll need to engage them somehow.

Voilà! Any reading, any presentation, can help you with your own writing. You just have to pay attention—if not to the subject matter, then to the way it's read, or the way the presenter delivers the information. This may mean adding a few more "to-do's" onto your already-busy schedule, but believe me, it pays off in the long run. And who knows—you just may have some fun. (Really!)

1 comment:

  1. Good point! When I attend a reading, a portion of my attention is always focused on how this professional presents him or herself, how s/he engages (or fails to engage) the audience,... The lecture I attended earlier this week (the one that compared the realism of The Office & Real Housewives) was a great example of a talk aimed squarely at its intended audience, I thought, and my companion pointed out that because the lecturer did not get all worked up about the technical difficulties she encountered, the audience didn't either. That's worth knowing.

    And, of course, it's interesting to see how other people think, and to be exposed to the sorts of things they think about. I'm not a linguist, but I'm looking forward to the film tonight in Doudna, and the talk-back with the director that will follow. A director's perspective on a film is bound to be different from mine, so I'll probably come out with a different way of thinking about films, in addition to information about dying languages.