How Do You Do What You Do?

Do you read wrong? When you write, are you doing it badly? Not in the sense of sloppy prose or dangling participles, but the mechanics of the act of reading and writing. When is the last time you stopped to think about how you do what you do? Often we ask why we do something, but the question of how comes up less frequently.

Do you read your books on paper or digitally? Like it or not, more and more reading will be migrating to the world of pixels. It may seem like a mundane distinction, but I find I delve deeper into prose written on a page instead of a screen. This is a personal preference, but I know I’m not alone. I love the smell of a new book, the feel of leafing through well-worn pages, the repulsion at finding a book left open with its cover up and wearing out the spine. As it turns out, I am not alone in finding hard copies more rewarding. A recent study compared reading comprehension between readers of a short story on a Kindle and readers of a paperback. The Guardian has a nice summary of the study and its findings here at the link below.

The take-home message? Readers of physical books can recall more details and can feel more connected to the story. However, this is one study and the research is preliminary. Do not rush out to burn a pile of Kindles and iPads. If you consume all your text through a screen, try reading a hard cover book next. Pick up a newspaper (if you can find one). See if the printed page draws you in closer and keeps you reading longer. Consider how you do what you do.

As for writing, what works best for you? Do you flourish your pen or clack away at the keyboard? Or perhaps you dictate your work? There are many ways to write, and they all have their advantages. A computer can check your spelling and you have easy access to all the knowledge of the Internet. But freehand writing can be less prone to distraction. An email cannot pop out of a pad of paper. As for dictation, stories sound differently when you hear them as opposed to reading the words. You may find a character’s voice comes across differently when you verbalize their mannerisms of speech and affectations. I produce fewer pages when I dictate, and I obsess over single words in early drafts. So I know that method is not best for me. But to each your own, and if you find the spoken word to be a better conduit to your writing, keep at it!

Try new methods, and you may find a refreshing new way to read or write. Regardless of how you do it, be sure that you do.

One thought on “How Do You Do What You Do?”

  1. Interesting. I definitely write differently freehand. And I have an aversion to e-books and white screens. Actually, I’ve never read an e-book. I can’t write in the margins, or absent-mindedly diddle the corners of pages with an e-book. Enjoyed this, Nick.