“You will only write as sensitively as you read.”
So said Professor Richard Evans in my first year at Michigan State University.
Thus began a lifetime of reading very, very carefully.
I’ll never forget the first time this worked for me. I was in a “Great Books” class at MSU and reading Shakespeare. Sitting in the sterility of the Math library, I went though one of those moments we all have when reading something hefty and we get to the bottom of a page and think, “what the heck was that about?”
In the old days, I’d have just moved on. But this time, Professor Evans’s words came back to me, and I went back to the top of the page…
A good 20 minutes later I thought I had it. Whew! It was work. I had to slow down my reading so much that I felt I could hear Shakespeare’s voice, his cadence, his inflections…
So, in class the next day (and mind you I was getting about a 2.5 at the time) the late Professor Douglas Peterson asked what that section of text meant. Several people tried, and failed, at which point I raised my hand.
What happened next changed my life. After I explained, Professor Peterson cocked his head to the side and slightly back, causing his mid-length hair to shift from one side to the next. With a smile creeping across his face he said, “exactly right.”
Now, I can’t say that I’ve always had the discipline to carefully examine every passage for true meaning since that moment, but I can tell you that I discovered a combination, a key, to unlock a world of wonder and satisfaction.