Reading and writing are not thought of as group activities. Even those of us who join book clubs, do the reading on our own. For me reading is something done alone. The first time I read a book with someone (an audiobook with a boy friend), it was weird. I felt obligated to avoid skipping sections or revisiting sections. Reading with others doesn’t work for me beyond discussion post-reading.
Writing, it turns out, is something I do exceptionally well with others. I learned this quickly after starting NaNoWriMo. I don’t write well when I am alone. I can write when I am in public, but not as well as I write when others are around and writing with me.
I know, it seems weird for most people.
There are two things I take away from writing with others. First, it actually allows me to focus. With NaNoWriMo writing events (Write-Ins) there are short, but focused writing sessions within the larger event. We all focus on writing for those 5-20 minute stretches. Writing against a clock, for a short period of time, forces me to focus and get things on paper. I am often far more productive because I can’t allow myself distractions.
Second, I get different world views from writing as a group. People with experiences vastly different from mine, interests I don’t share, and knowledge I don’t have come to these events. Between focused writing we share these thoughts, experiences, and knowledge with each other. For example, when writing about someone getting caught in an avalanche, I was able to ask someone who hikes and camps during the winter to understand what could have happened. I believe what I have learned from others has made me a better writer.
I wish I could find a reading experience similar to this. The closest I have come is when small portions of books are read over a long period of time, like for classes. The small sections and weekly discussions are the some of the best reading experiences I have had.
What about you? Have you found a way to read with people?