When I first started my graduate program, I expected to do plenty of reading, especially in my field. After all, as writer Joseph Addison famously said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” What I didn’t realize though, until I started working at the Virtual Writing Center, is how much I would get out of reading outside my own genre. If reading is like doing the same exercise every day, interdisciplinary reading is like cross training—it allows variation so you can perform at a higher level.
I am primarily a fiction writer and personal essayist, whereas many of the writing and research that come through the VWC are from a multitude of disciplines such as psychology, urban sustainability, and environmentalism. However, as I read other students’ papers, something started to happen: Reading their work informed my own.
This went beyond simply learning new information. Interdisciplinary reading created context for my own work, and I had powerful “aha moments”—an experience I found intoxicating and addictive. What I learned helped me shape my characters, and I even ended up writing a critical paper and doing a presentations based on concepts I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Apart from improving my craft, I find cross-genre reading also shapes my personal and political ideas outside the classroom.
As I prepare to graduate, this lesson about interdisciplinary reading is one of the most valuable things I’ve learned during my time at Antioch. From now on, I’ll always seek out writing and research beyond my field so I can continue to enrich my thinking and writing.
Peer Writing Consultant, Antioch Virtual Writing Center
This piece was originally published in the June 2015 VWC Newsletter