Q&A with Livia Blackburne on Neuroscience of Reading and Writing discussion

What does reading or writing mean to you?

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message 1: by Livia (new)

Livia Blackburne (lkblackburne) | 28 comments Mod
Why do you read or write? What books or experiences have contributed the most to your understanding of the reading process? Share your thoughts here.

message 2: by Kari J. (new)

Kari J. | 3 comments I've never quite considered why I read, but I've read books my entire life. I LOVE to read--if you ask most of the people who have known me my entire life, that's probably the first thing that would come into their mind about me. I ALWAYS have a book in hand.

In the past few years, however, it's been a bit more difficult to choose exactly WHAT I want to read. I have a 4-yr old daughter who is autistic and she takes up a great deal of time. The Internet also makes it more difficult to choose what I want to read because everything nowadays is in bite-size chunks. It's been proposed that the Internet reduces our ability to concentrate because we have so much at our fingertips. I think we simply get out of practice.

I also am probably a true bibliomaniac. My favorite place to go, my favorite thing to do, is to go to a bookstore and shop. I'm fairly picky when I pick out books, but I'll also admit there are TONS of books on my shelves that I need to actually read. I would rather go to a bookstore than almost anywhere--it frustrates my husband because he gets to take care of our daughter while in the store and, needless to say, he can't look around because she's so active...

Why I write is a different story. I write because I love to read. Because I want to be able to draw those pictures in someone else's mind the same way some authors draw theirs in mine.

I'll be looking forward to these discussions! :)

message 3: by Livia (new)

Livia Blackburne (lkblackburne) | 28 comments Mod
Kari --
I know what you mean about the Internet. You get so used to something new and shiny every 30 seconds that it's hard to just sit down and concentrate on one thing. And I love bookstores too :-) my mom used to get frustrated because she would try to take me shopping and I would want to go to Borders.

message 4: by Sharaf (new)

Sharaf (sharafudheens) | 3 comments Hi,

I love to read coz i get to live in a parallel world in which the story takes place. The story sometimes might be a regular college going boy's, a mid-town girl, sometimes it could be of vampires and fairies and werewolves and supernatural things.. What ever it is, i like see the character's from the author's view, go through their emotions, experience their life etc etc.... It's always an interesting break from the world which we live in..

message 5: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 1 comments My reason for reading (and writing) has changed throughout time. As a child, it was an escape and a way to live other lives and enter other realities than my bleak suburban L.A. one. Now I read as a writer and a teacher, which takes away from the experience in some ways, because both sides of the brain are working: the conscious analytical side, and the subconscious. As an adult, I'm not trapped so I don't need to escape as much. Writing is similarly an entrance to another world, a portal to the subconscious (which is why it works so well in therapy) and a meditation. That remains the same. Kelly Easton

message 6: by Lotusgirl (new)

Lotusgirl | 1 comments I love being transported by the sights and sounds and smells the author creates. The characters' lives. I love experiencing their stories. I write to hopefully provide that escape for others.

message 7: by Paula (new)

Paula Wiseman (paula_wiseman) | 2 comments I write to create. It's incredible thing to connect my thoughts and ideas as a writer to someone else as they read. That shared experience is an amazing thing. I read because I enjoy seeing what makes people tick- how they think, how they analyze and respond to their situations.

message 8: by Livia (new)

Livia Blackburne (lkblackburne) | 28 comments Mod
It's like virtual reality and mental telepathy rolled up into one :-) Interesting thoughts also about reading to get to know how different types of people tick. Do you think certain types of books are more conducive to that?

message 9: by Paula (new)

Paula Wiseman (paula_wiseman) | 2 comments I always prefer character-driven stories, heavy on the internals, whether fiction or not. But I enjoying reading psychology-type nonfiction (personality theory, learning styles, even consumer behavior, etc) to help build my characters. It fascinates me. :-)

message 10: by Sharaf (new)

Sharaf (sharafudheens) | 3 comments Livia,
I think mostly people read or look to read books in which they would want to live the lives they normally don't get to live, associate to characters that they consider their alter ego..

message 11: by Naomi Ruth (new)

Naomi Ruth (naomiruthwrites) | 3 comments Why do you read or write? What books or experiences have contributed the most to your understanding of the reading process? Share your thoughts here.

I read to learn: whether about a certain subject or about emotions or whatever. I write because I have to. Because it is the only way to understand myself and my world better. I can't imagine Not reading or writing.

@Kari: I love that term, bibliomaniac :) So perfect.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

It's hard to explain why I read or write - they are so interwoven together.

I read, because I love reading. I love the written language. I slip into books so that I can visit some faroff planet or observe strange (and yet familiar) cultures.

I write, because I love writing. Writing is like breathing to me. I write to create. I write to learn. I write to understand the world(s) outside and inside me.

message 13: by Livia (new)

Livia Blackburne (lkblackburne) | 28 comments Mod
This "urge to write" that folks have mentioned is familiar to me as well. It seems like a great deal of writers started very young (although there are certainly late bloomers). I wonder if it's an extension of the childhood urge toward make-believe and pretend play? And also, I wonder what writer type personalities in non-literate societies do to scratch that itch :-)

message 14: by Bill (new)

Bill Davis | 4 comments I think there might be lots of reasons: urge to make-believe (related to story), liking attention of the audience (performance), a connection with language (aesthetics?)...

I have two forms of intake/expression that I'm obsessed with. I can't live without either. Music and language. I started playing and listening to music at age 6. Even today, if I'm not playing, then music is playing. And reading, I started at 4 after being read to before that. I've voraciously read my whole life up to middle age and haven't stopped! And I've always had a compulsion to speak, to explain, to clarify, to synthesize to narrate, to entertain. That has been verbal, but also in writing only now for the fist time in longer fiction. Then I found as an adult that I'm the freak that ENJOYS language learning and finds it easy. Seems there's a common factor in how my brain loves words and verbal pictures of conceptual intangibles, huh?

What's the brain scientist take on all that? =)

P.S. We've worked with a mostly preliterate society for nearly 30 years. They had story tellers who used narration, song, chant and even special story language. Some stories were standardized, pretty much memorized by the whole society (like The Three Bears for us, maybe), but there was still a marked difference between the recognized story tellers and the regular listeners who might know the story. They even had accurate narration of historical events from 600 years ago! I don't even know who my ancestors were or what they were doing 100 years ago. Amazing.

message 15: by Shveta (new)

Shveta Thakrar (shveta-thakrar) I choose to write. I love magic, imaginary worlds, adventures not so likely to happen here in the "real" world. Also, I want to see YA fantasy novels with Indian American characters having fun. But it's definitely a choice; I'm not one of those people who have to write or will explode.

Bill, isn't that amazing? I wish the West gave other cultures their due instead of assuming they had little to offer before colonists came along. (Sorry for the mini-rant. :) )

message 16: by Shveta (new)

Shveta Thakrar (shveta-thakrar) Oh, and I love to read for those same reasons. :)

message 17: by Livia (new)

Livia Blackburne (lkblackburne) | 28 comments Mod
Bill – I was hoping you would weigh in on the number of societies. That's very interesting. Do you know how someone becomes a storyteller? I imagine it would be some kind of apprenticeship. And I do think you're right that there's some kind of relationship between words, communication, and synthesizing concepts. It seems to fall on the same spectrum of skills. (Although that's just my guess, I don't have any incredibly solid data to back it up)

Shveta - yes, I definitely think stories from other cultures need to be told. Keep up the good work!

message 18: by Livia (new)

Livia Blackburne (lkblackburne) | 28 comments Mod
Tamara wrote: "For me, reading and writing have always been about exploring the world - either my immediate world, or worlds that I have not known except through books. I want to learn and expand my horizons when..."

Tamara - I'm just discovering nonfiction reading for pleasure myself. I love it, it's like plugging into the matrix.

message 19: by Julie (new)

Julie Johnson (juliejohnson) | 2 comments All the reasons above I can relate to! There's also something about the texture of books, of storytelling that comes through the written word. I like stories as movies too, but a novel can take you deeper, I think, connect on so many levels, so deeply. That may be why I like to write as well. It's all about connecting and communicating the human experience to one another, whatever genre it may be. They are all about connection.

message 20: by ZaBeth (new)

ZaBeth  Marsh (zabeth) I read because it is my form of escapism. I want to travel to places I'll never actually go (Victorian England, India, etc.) or do stuff I'll never do (Fight Vampires, solve mysteries, captain a pirate ship). But I write because there is *something* in me; my voice that talking to friends, family, and coworkers doesn't satisfy. Some days that voice is all business and wants to write serious thought provoking articles. Other days it is poetry. And still there are days it just rambles at me and I'm pretty sure there is a story in there somewhere but I need to consult with the editor side of me to figure out what it is saying. I often think of Luke Skywalker on his first mission, learning to trust "The Force". Well, my voice is always with me, if I just sit quiet and listen to it.

message 21: by Bill (new)

Bill Davis | 4 comments Livia - I'm not aware of a formal internship in the Palawano culture for story-telling, and sadly a lot of it is being lost. We helped encourage some to submit written (or oral) versions of traditional stories to a National Language Month contest. We studied many of the stories to learn discourse features of various genre which we could incorporate into our translation and other publications.

Sveta and Livia yes... there is often rich literature (whether oral or written) in other cultures. I absolutely LOVED a World Literature class I took years ago where we read translations of Chinese, Russian and others. And in an Asian Studies class we read translations form China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. That was amazing, since for my generation, Vietnam meant only "the war." For my wife and I, it also means Pho beef stew noodle here on Palawan! (We had a first-asylum refuge camp here and many Vietnamese stayed, so we have some awesome restaurants, Pho and French Bread!) But I really enjoyed reading history and literature to get a deeper, insider view of an amazing cultural heritage!

message 22: by Livia (new)

Livia Blackburne (lkblackburne) | 28 comments Mod
Julie -- I agree. You spend more time with the characters in books, and you get deeper inside their heads

Zabeth - Now if only writers can levitate stuff too while they're writing...

Bill - College and grad has been great for me for learning about new cultures. I've met interesting people from all over the world. And gotten a good education in Pho as well :-)

message 23: by Bodie (new)

Bodie Parkhurst (bodiep) | 5 comments Reading and writing? It's half of what I do. The other half is design and illustration. But that's the professional stuff. My own writing is how I process my life; I'm pretty prolific (the world can be grateful that I don't feel the need to publish everything I write).

Bodie P

message 24: by ZaBeth (new)

ZaBeth  Marsh (zabeth) Why *do* we feel the need to share what we write? I know a lot of times I need to write so that I can straighten out all the thoughts in my head. They just *fall* into place when I *think* in terms of paragraphs and sentences, and typing. But if I just threw it away and never shared any of my writing with anyone, I think I'd feel like I big part of me was hiding in a closet. A glacier floating in the cold ocean just showing the world the smallest portion of me. Does anyone else feel that way? Writing exposes me to the world - as painful as that can be sometimes - but it provides some sense of self-worth, validation, something...that as writers I think we need.

message 25: by Bodie (new)

Bodie Parkhurst (bodiep) | 5 comments ZaBeth wrote: "Why *do* we feel the need to share what we write? I know a lot of times I need to write so that I can straighten out all the thoughts in my head. They just *fall* into place when I *think* in term..."

Something about that part of what you wrote resonates for me--in writing, I validate myself to myself. I think there's also something really important about the sharing aspect of it. When I was in intensive therapy one of the exercises I did was to keep a journal, and turn it in every appointment. I don't know if my therapist read what I wrote. I'm not sure that was the point. I think was WAS the point was that in writing my truth and letting it pass from my hands to another's hands I was symbolically risking having the world know my inner truth. So there's that.

But I also write to "run away from home," and to capture moments of my life. I write to escape, like others on this list--but in that escape I find myself mining my life for those moments in time that seem to shine--maybe it's something as simple as walking into a store, smelling the baked goods, hearing the bell ring, and feeling the sun on my back. Maybe it's standing in a half-harvested field, in the scalding heat, with the whole world blue and gold around me. None of those moments are enough to make a story--but I treasure them, and I tuck them into my books as a way of holding onto them.

Bodie P

message 26: by ZaBeth (new)

ZaBeth  Marsh (zabeth) Bodie: I agree it is "tuck[ing those moments] into my books as a way of holding onto them" and sharing them that I love. I can read a passage from a story later and I'm really there because I have the real memory to relive that has nothing to do with the story but inspired that phrasing none-the-less.

message 27: by Bodie (new)

Bodie Parkhurst (bodiep) | 5 comments Right, ZaBeth: In a way, it's like writing in parallel dimensions. We have the story, which our little moments serve, and we have our own history, which our little moments also serve, and while they are not the same, they are joined by those moments.

Bodie P

message 28: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (jojardin) | 3 comments I love to read because in addition to the activity releasing me from reality, it feels as though someone has written me a letter and bonded with me personally. Escapism could lead me to television or movies a whole lot easier, but I have a deep passion for words, and I tend to pick books where the author also appreciates the way words taste or the music they make strung together, as well as a finely intricate plot. Reading is also wonderfully portable and, if still in paper form, a great introduction to strangers in trains or coffee shops, and a great introduction to others in any form in a book club.

I started both reading and writing before I started school, so I cannot remember a time when I couldn't do both. To me, both activities are necessary to function--on days where I don't get to read and write I tend to be easily or constantly frustrated. I find myself starved for other readers to talk about books with as well--either people in my life aren't readers or they are so much better at reading than I am that I feel disconnected. Still, I don't give up easily. When people stop me in mass transit to ask about what I'm reading on my Kindle, I'm thrilled and embrace the discussion, even if it's just because they are interested in the technology. My greatest connection, however, is always with the writer of the book, or the readers of my blogs--that bridge is my favorite adventure.

message 29: by Livia (new)

Livia Blackburne (lkblackburne) | 28 comments Mod
I love the discussion here! I wonder if it has to do with memory augmentation. We have all these thoughts in our mind, but it's hard to keep track of them. Putting them on paper grants them more clarity, as some have said, and also makes them more vivid. And this "memory aid" also helps us communicate our ideas with others.

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