How to Read Creatively

Some Ideas

     There are many tools to use in reading creatively including Ron Padgett's Creative Reading, T. Elabsy's Successful Reading Strategies, and numerous websites including those at Salisbury University and others. 
    I will discuss some strategies for creative reading drawing on these and other sources and from my experience. I will also suggest how you can use creative writing techniques to improve your creative reading.

Good Techniques to Use Before You Read Creatively

Remember How You Learned

     1) How and when did you start reading? I remember lying on the floor with the Sunday comics sounding out syllables. And you?
     2) What's the first book you remember reading? Mine was The Little Engine That Could, and probably primers in school. Yours?
     3) For grandkids I've played the alpha game asking them to find a sign for each letter. Makes them alert to words. I read Burma Shave signs.
     4) Did you learn phonic reading and Palmer script in grammar school? Or what?
     5) Did you take a speed reading course (with or without mechanical help) and read clusters of words or a line at a time?
     6) Did you like picture or photo books? Our favorite in grade school was National Geographic, especially the nude natives. Your answer?
     7) What slowed your reading down? I read Hebrew from right to left (not at speed), where a flyspeck could change a word's meaning. And ancient Greek with a strange alphabet. Not sure it improved reading, but improved concentration.
     8) How did your reading habits change--for better or for worse--as you moved along academically? In college I created a list of "must-reads" and moved through it methodically.
     In sum, how you learned to read and your normal reading patterns affect how you read creatively. This helps you understand your feelings about reading.

Before You Start a New Book 

Follow some suggestions and ask yourself questions like these. Skim and preview the book to get a grasp of its organization and content. If something strikes you, ask how it challenges or reinforces your values and beliefs to heighten your own interest. How do you understand the author's purpose at this stage--to entertain you, enlighten you, take you to another time or place? Why did you choose this book in the first place? Ask whether you can tell​ a book by its cover, or not? Are you ready to mark in the margins (if it's your book) or is this not your usual practice? If not, why not? What do you know about the author? What more would you like to know now, before starting the book?

 Write Creatively to Read That Way

Here are some creative writing exercises that may help you read more creatively.
  • Write the first line of the novel you've always wanted to write.
  • Write the last paragraph of that novel.
  • Outline a novel based on a female temptress who uses a time machine to move among many places and times in the last century.
  • In any novel you would write, what would be the names of the three most important characters, and why?
  • Write a short nonsense poem addressed to Dr. Seuss's "Cat in a Hat."
  • Write a five page novella.
  • In what sort of novel would a woman named Wilma play the major role? Why?
  • Write eight lines of dialogue between Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) and his wife or his friend upstairs named Ed Norton.
  • In your own words, tell what happened after the U.S. bomb detonated over Hiroshima. 

Strategies for Reading Creatively . . . Try Them All or One at a Time

  • write your questions in the margin as you read and try to answer them, now or later.
  • play a trick on your mind: read every other line for four pages and see what difference it makes.
  • ​Read a full page aloud. Then ask yourself what it sounded like.
  • Read one sentence aloud 8-10 times and see if you emphasize different words as you read.
  • keep a "character bible" of every person who appears in a novel and see if the author is consistent throughout.
  • when you hit a sentence or paragraph that is more difficult to understand than normal, ask yourself why that is. then write down why it is difficult or complicated and answer your question later.
  • if the scene is set in another place or time than your present, "translate" a page into your present time and place and ask how it made a difference.
  • if something challenges your beliefs and values, ask why. How would you rewrite that section to make it conform to your beliefs and values?
  • summarize the novel you are reading when you reach page 50, 100 and 200. have your views about the book and story changed, or are they the same?
  • when the author makes some kind of argument in the book (if...then, or this leads to that), evaluate the strength of the evidence.
  • IF YOU HAVE READ ANOTHER BOOK BY THIS AUTHOR, COMPARE THE STYLE, PACING AND NARRATIVE DEVELOPMENT BETWEEN THE TWO books.
  • COPY THREE OR FOUR PAGES FROM THE BOOK. THEN CUT UP the pages into SEPARATE PARAGRAPHS AND READ THEM RANDOMLY. THEN MIX all the paragraphs AND READ again. FINALLY, PUT THE paragraphs in what you think is the correct order and compare with the printed pages.

Wake Up and Read Creatively!

Put Your Reading Puzzle Together

Throw Out the Dry Bones in Creative reading