Interpret, but slowly

I’ve met with a lot of students over the years to discuss their writing, and often they tell me the same thing: “I don’t understand how to write a literary interpretation. I’m just not good at it.”

After some probing, I find that many of them have trouble with interpretation–of literature, of art, of music, of nonfiction–because they skip a very important step.

They either rush through, or fail to ever attempt, the part where they simply notice. They either rush through, or fail to ever attempt, the part where they allow their eyes to see what they see, their ears to hear what they hear, their minds to think what they think.

Then, and only then, after noticing, should they attempt to find patterns and anomalies in what they’ve seen, heard, and thought. Then, and only then, should they attempt to make meaning.

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