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The Value Of Reading

Having decided to focus my writings for the Internet (and prior to them, my personal studies and research) on the preservation of memory, I begin to appreciate more the importance and relevance of personal essay to my interest. While thinking of a new article to write, I noticed the "Quote for the Month" at the right column of the Writing & Publishing Center here at Suite101. It says:

Essay Writing

The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book. -- Samuel Johnson in Boswell's LIFE.
True: unless we engage ourselves into reading, we can never be good writers. Through reading, we can get into the worlds those other writers present to us. Yes, there are many things to learn from our own experiences, but other people's can also be a rich source of inspiration and insight. We cannot possibly live through everything in the world; there are no two same experiences. There’s always the possibility of roads not traveled, and other people may beautifully share the experience of traveling through those roads that we were not able to take.

The value of reading lies on the possibility of shared experiences -- even though they're "imagined" events (like in the case of fiction writing). The "sharing" becomes more significant, of course, when we are sharing a true experience of our own, like whenever we write a personal essay. The more we share, the more we feel connected to the "other", in this case the possible audience for our work.

That's probably the reason why memoirs are becoming of large interest in the recent years. People are beginning to realize the value of this shared experiences between the writer and the reader. Even though we are not aware of it, whenever we read something, we are somehow having a dialogue with the writer. While reading, there's an internal process going on in our mind. We are not just absorbing what we have on paper (or on the computer screen), we are also trying to integrate them to our present lives, and find connections to what the other person, the writer, had experienced. This somewhat proves to the universality of human experience. Even though it comes in different faces, it seems basically the same – the triumphs, the hardships, the joys, the pains.

Being a writer, I don't just enjoy the books I read. I also try to find reasons why I enjoyed them, or what I particularly like in the book -- the narrative style of the author, the tone, the effective dialogues, etc. Unless we understand the “power” that one particular narrative has that made it effective (at least for us), we can never really unravel their secrets. We must remember that theories come later, after the experience.

If you really want to write your story in a personal essay, live and read. When you get to experience what it really means to “live”, you already have a lot of materials for you to write about. When you read, you can learn from other writers the techniques on how to turn your life into words.

That’s all for now, I guess. Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2001 by Edgar Calabia Samar

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