MENTAL PICNIC and LIFE VIEWING AREA
To write creatively is to make something new to the world, often by taking the agency to break rules and do what hasn’t been done before.
To read creatively, then, is to also break the rules of how we’re supposed to read, namely, the rule that says we should start in the beginning of a text and decode each word from left to right and then down the page.
Of course, these aren’t really “rules” at all but conventions, expectations that the writer expects us to follow, because a writer’s work is to make things accessible to a reader (well, that’s one definition of a writer’s duty. I don’t mean to bind writers in this post). Writers and readers each follow the conventions, and communication can happen.
But we don’t always need communication. Sometimes readers may not want to passively follow the writer’s instructions, and we readers want to actively create as well.
The key here, I think, is that, as we read, our minds can find patterns and meanings that were never (what the psychologists call pareidolia) intended by a writing mind. We can create meanings stranger, more unique, than what most texts contain.
So, here’s an incomplete list of Ways of Creative Reading:
1. Read columns of words, straight down a page, instead of across. This may not always make for complete sentences, of course, but we’re looking for unfamiliar phrases and constructs that may delight us in their novelty. For instance, so far in this post, I have these words along the left margin:
to agency to namely each of writer to writers communication but passively as the meanings writing texts
Already here I like the idea of “meanings writings texts.”
2. Take a group of words chosen randomly (as with this method) and let your mind suggest an organizing idea from the juxtaposed words and images. It seems as though my mind hates disorder and so it looks to find or make order. For instance, these 10 words picked at random and matched up the number of syllables:
This set of words doesn’t immediately suggest an overall idea to me, but I can organize them into a sentence:
Approaching remote mobile matter, the darkest coolness is an amorous instrument and advances listening.
And as I wrote this sentence, I started getting an image of a space-travel context: darkest coolness, instrument, listening, matter. I’m not saying this method always produces a fascinating idea or sentence, but that’s not the point; the point is the joy in discovering and making meaning, in the engaged mental state of playing with the words.
3. Read multidimensionally by starting in the middle of (or at any random place in) an article in a magazine, say, and reading bits and pieces, jumping around from article to article, from magazine to book. In other words, taking the perspective that the reading a person might do an any given day is not reading among distinct texts but is reading one pastiche (or collage) text made of all this disparate parts.
4. Rearrange or replace words in a found sentence to make a new sentence. This might include wordplay such as Spoonerisms and mondegreens.
5. Intentionally misread words, or substitute other words.
I’m sure these are just a start. Please suggest any other creative reading ideas in the comments below.