Reading with Camaraderie
Sophomore year of college, my creative writing professor taught me about the idea of reading with camaraderie.
Whether I'm reading an article in The Atlantic or an essay written by the person beside me, my goal should be to read with an attitude of friendship and grace. This is simple enough to grasp but much harder to carry out. It's wonderful and easy when you have a Pulitzer winning piece of journalism or a Sherlock Holmes mystery in your hands. It’s frustrating when it's a Christian living book full of platitudes, or a piece of short fiction written by a 15-year-old.
The difficulty of reading an average piece of writing with camaraderie doesn’t detract from the importance of it. Most everyone will read great works with generosity because it comes naturally. Very few will read an average piece with an attitude of love and support for the author. I think this is because we confuse support with recognition of greatness, when we can actually support something simply because it's a creative step that someone took with bravery. Everyone executes creativity at different levels, but it belongs to all of us nonetheless.
This matters to me because I depend heavily on generosity when my work is read. Of course I want healthy criticism, but I also need to know that I will be supported throughout my learning and growing. I am a post-undergrad writer who most days doesn’t produce much of anything that feels worthwhile, and often what keeps me going is the support that I know I have from others, and the way that my practice of generosity with other writers has made me more gracious with myself, too.
As I’ve tried to practice this posture of camaraderie and generosity, it has pushed me into the surprisingly hopeful space of lending an ear to those who I would perhaps otherwise turn a blind eye to, or inwardly scoff at. The ripple effect of this posture is that on my best days, I am able to be gracious to all kinds of writers, but also the people I follow on social media, the executive who chooses not to hire me, and the people I love and see every day.
I am encouraged in the fact that hopefully this will create a ripple effect. Of course, I want my words to be read with grace. If I can do that for someone else, they might do that for me, and more importantly, for more and more people down the road.