I'm heading out again first thing tomorrow morning. It is unusual for me to book trips so close together (I got back from Nashville less than a week ago), but it is just the way it worked out this time.
Tomorrow's destination is Diamond, Oregon, way over in the southeastern section of the state, a near-eight hour drive from Portland. I first visited this area last fall, which you can read about here, complete with photos of cows.
This time I'm going with two writer friends and we're staying at the hotel. Hoping to get writing and hiking in, as well as planning for a retreat one of the writers and I want to host (perhaps at the Diamond Hotel).
Here's the catch: I'm pretty sure there's no internet at the hotel, so I won't be posting this week. I'm sure it will be good for me not to have internet access, but still, the thought is a bit unnerving. I'll report how I do when I return on Thursday evening.
In the meantime, go check out the blog of Roz Savage, ocean rower. She's amazing, and she's just set off on another leg of her journey to row around the world. I love reading her daily blog posts about her adventure.
Can you even imagine doing such a thing? I can't, but I love that there are brave people in the world who do.
It has been raining here forever. Worst spring in ages.
It is not for me to complain, however, because when I was in Nashville last weekend, the temperatures hit 90 degrees. And the sun shone nearly every day I was there. Plus, bad storms hit the day before I arrived and a few days after I left. (The storms yesterday and last night were truly awful, read more about the havoc they wreaked here. Love and prayers to all affected.)
But, weather is always good to write about. (And that's the great thing about being a writer: good or bad, no matter what happens to you, you can always write about it.) So here are a few prompts inspired by the weather:
When the rain started, they ran for cover.
After the storm…
The sun eventually shines.
Winds howled and the lights flickered.
There's no sense in worrying about the weather because you can't do anything about it.
Snow fell faster and faster.
Heat rose from the asphalt in waves.
Have at it! What's the weather like where you live?
I have been away, not only from my home, but from my writing.
At least, I've been away from the writing writing part of writing, the actual putting words on paper part.
But I've been doing a couple other activities of vital importance, the first being brainstorming and planning and the second being connecting with other writers, which is what I want to talk about today.
Often when I lead a workshop, I start out by considering the importance of connecting. This surprises people, because they expect me to begin by talking about choosing a pen, or finding the perfect journal, or carving out time for writing. When I talk about connecting, I'm actually talking about a multi-faceted practice which includes:
* Connecting with the work
* Connecting with other writers
* Connecting with family and friends to gather their support
* Connecting your work with the world
All of them are important. But sometimes we writers, being solitary creatures, tend to forget how important connecting with other writers is, how inspiring and motivating it can be. I've spent part of the last week, from Thursday to Sunday, at Room to Write, the twice-yearly writer's retreat at Scarritt Bennett in Nashville. It is held in April and October, and it offers exactly what is advertised: room in which to write on a gorgeous campus in the middle of Nashville. You retreat from the world in order to have time and energy to connect with your writing, which is why people sign up for the event.
And yet, they get so much more.
Through connecting with other writers at meals and optional events, they get the invaluable sense of being a part of a creative community, where everyone speaks the same language and nobody thinks you're nuts if you admit that sometimes your characters talk more loudly to you than the real, breathing people in your life.
It is easy to forget how important this is.
We're such solitary creatures, writers are. We have to be, in order to get words on the page. Most of us can't get much work done when people surround us, and so the natural inclination is to shut the door and stay inside our writing caves.
But the rewards of connection with other writers are so great, its well worth it to open that door and step out into the big, wide world.
How do you connect with other writers? Is it important to you?
I'm leaving for Nashville tomorrow, and I don't want to go.
I do really, because I'm the "book doctor" at Room to Write and there are going to be a dozen fabulous writers there. And I'm going to see lots of friends. Stay on the beautiful Scarritt Bennett campus and then with my friend Candace. Get a lot of writing done.
But at the moment, everything is going wrong and I don't want to go.
When I leave Nashville for Portland next week, I won't want to leave Nashville.
I've gotten used to this push and pull of emotion before I leave for a trip. It always happens. I think of all the reasons I shouldn't go and long just to be at home. Which is really just a silly illusion because I adore going to Nashville for all the above reasons.
So, its separation anxiety. And the only thing there is to do about it is live through it.
Like so many things in life. And writing, come to think of it. Rejection comes to mind.
What do you get anxious over, either in writing or in life?
Tomorrow is the new moon. Yesterday we had our first 60 degree day here in Portland (it actually hit 68). Spring officially began a couple of weeks ago. New life, new energy and new excitement is blossoming everywhere.
Time for some creative writing prompts that focus on the new.
The thing that I love about prompts is that they are all about the new. Prompts help you start a project anew, develop an idea anew, inject life into a project anew. That's lots of anew-ness going on. And, truly, until your book is published, or you've hit "publish now" on your blog post, or you've sent the article off to your editor, there's always room to look at your project with new eyes.
Prompts work for any kind of project, and they also work for any stage of project. The thing is, you never know what is going to break you open to a whole new level of understanding. Sometimes the most random comment, thought, something your read, or, yes prompt, can get your brain spinning in a new way. So wherever you, use these prompts to kindle the new:
The best way to start over.
April is not the cruelest month.
Let's start at the very beginning.
New moon, new energy, new life.
Spring as sprung.
Spring is the season for…
When starting anew, it is important to remember…
Energy is popping.
The new moon glittered in the sky.
Life blossoms anew.
Have at it! This week you might also consider using one of the prompts to write a haiku, just to loosen up the flow. Feel free to share any brilliances that arise.
I'm so pleased to present to you another amazing Creative Cognoscente Interview this Friday.
Please welcome Whitney Freya and hang onto your hat as you read this because she is a force of nature. I was pleased to invite Whitney to lead a workshop at the Writer's Loft last September and ever since then I've been wanting to get the chance to find out more about her and her work. Whitney exudes passion for the topic of creativity. It is impossible to talk to her, attend a workshop, or read her blog without getting excited about her right-brain activities.
I feel especially lucky, because even though Whitney now lives in Nashville, this summer she's moving to Oregon. I'm hoping this means our paths will cross more often now. Be sure to check out her site here, and if you want to get a hold of her, her email address is at the end of this post. It is a long post, but guys, its really worth reading. This woman is full of ideas and tips. I've been doing some of her creative right-brain exercises to enhance my writing, and they work!
You maintain that doing simple creative activities will change your life—can you explain why?
Before my clients became Creatively Fit, they would have wonderful, creative ideas, but they would never get further than the “idea”. Why? Because, with their left brain, logical, critical mind dominating their consciousness, their brilliant, creative idea was met with all the reasons why it would never work, why they weren’t qualified, etc. That is the job of the left brain—to protect the ego. Your creative, brilliant ideas are a threat to the ego because these ideas haven’t been done before and there IS a chance of failure and that would hurt your ego. “So what!” That is what your right brain says to the left brain’s logical, critical, self-absorbed perspective. Once you engage this voice in your mind, open up to your “Artist Within” and give it equal platform with your left brain voice by doing the Creatively Fit Workouts…THEN things can start changing!
One of the quotes that jumped out at me from your website is this one: "If you want to change your life, you have to do something different." Can you explain the process by which creating change through creativity happens?
Einstein is the one who said, “Problems cannot be solved by the same consciousness that created them.” He also said that it “all comes down to whether or not one believes in a friendly or unfriendly universe.” So if something in your life is not going the way you desire you have to CREATE change. You have to DO something different to get NEW results.
The way we have all been programmed to think and to act is very linear + logical. We think, “Well, if I do this, this, and this, then, this has to happen.” We are so busy trying to figure “it” out that we have completely ignored an entirely different skillset that we have at our disposal—our right hemisphere. This is the creative side, the holistic side, the intuitive side, AND the side that believes in a friendly universe!
When you engage yourself in one of the Creatively Fit Creativity Workouts you are throwing your left brain voice a curve ball. It will whisper (or shout!) into your conscience, “What are you doing? Have you ticked those last couple items off your to-do list? Have you called her back? Mailed the bills? Done the laundry?…..on and on!” This is how you can tell you are on the right track. This left brain, inner judge/critic voice is about to be given a well-deserved rest, but it will fight you. Just a couple of minutes with paper and colored markers and it MUST CHECK OUT. It doesn’t get it. Aaaaaaahhh…now your right brain, the one with the universal, everything-is-working-out-perfectly, YOU CAN DO IT voice, can check in. “Hello! How can I help you create the life of your dreams today?” This is when the inspiration hits, the “coincidences” start happening, your intuition gets clearer….
This is the REAL you. The you that is balanced and centered and knows when to access your left brain voice and when to access your right. Now you are mindFULL. You are living more authentically. You will feel more fulFILLed. It is all because you learned how to tune in to your WHOLE mind—not just the side that is broadcast from every street corner. Ooooh, it is fun!
How does developing your brain and being more creative lead to a happier life?
Imagine you had been going to the gym for the last five years and only exercising the left side of your body. Imagine the difference that would exist between your left and right arm. How would you walk? Stand up straight? Then, imagine that you were able to balance both sides of your body, creating equal strength on both sides. How much happier would you be? It is the same with our minds. Maybe our right brains have not been so underdeveloped as I described above, but, for the most part, it is still left brain thinking, the linear, logical, factual, “scientifically proven” way of thought, that is the most accepted way of thinking in this world. Being more creative, which means doing, thinking, or being in a different way, will inherently contrast our left brain routine and bring us back to center, closer to our authentic selves and the way we are supposed to move in our worlds.
I know that when you present workshops, you talk a lot about your right-brain research. What's the latest?
The biggest themes coming out of advances in neuroscience involve three areas: 1) the brain’s neuroplasticity, 2) the greater connection between left and right hemispheres in highly creative people, and 3) Quantum Physics and the fact that we create our own reality.
When you look into any brain research, you will find that the mind is ultimately more intricate than just right/left. The greatest theme is that creative individuals use more of their brain, more areas light up under the MRI simply because they are thinking about things from many different angles. I emphasize “right brain” because there are confirmed distinctions between the left and right hemisphere and it is a fabulous working paradigm for us as we go through our day, “I just had a very left-brain morning doing accounting work, so I should balance with some right brain work this afternoon.” What the research into neuroplasticity has found is that we CAN change the way we think, develop new patterns, and “learn new tricks”. This is huge for the creative world. If I had a dime for every time I had heard, “I’m not creative,” I would be rich. Whether or not you FEEL creative, you CAN be creative.
Other research into the nature of the creative mind has revealed that highly creative people have a larger corpus callosum connecting the two hemispheres. These people are able to go back and forth, draw from a greater mental resource, than less creative people. Again, it is evidence that with regular diversion from the routine, new ideas and ways of doing things develop.
What does developing our right brain do for us?
Developing your right brain in the Creatively Fit Program does two fabulous things (among many others): first, it teaches you to look at your life as art and to accept your role as the artist. This is a huge shift. It happens as you learn to paint. You learn about the value of contrast, the lights and the darks. Contrast is so important in our own lives. Contrast is the hard days vs. the good ones. With your new perspective of the art that is your life, those hard days become catalysts for new beginnings; they illuminate the good and take you there.
The second thing that happens is you, literally, completely change the way you think about things AND you change all the new ideas coming to you by diverting the flow from steady left brain to an even infusion of BOTH left and right. For example, any of the BIG dreams we have are not going to manifest themselves in our lives coming at it from “logic." In order to achieve those big dreams you have to do something radically different and, without a doubt, take a big risk, an act of faith. Your logical left brain does not thrive in that kind of environment. That is why it will shut you down, get you “stuck” before you can take action. Think of “writer’s block." What if you write something really fabulous? You will have to do all kinds of things that you have never done before and then there is that chance that you will fail. That would be horrible—ego voice. For the “Artist Within” (right brain) voice this kind of challenge is just like contrast in the painting. It is what makes the art (and the life) interesting and valuable. It will urge you to trust (in the friendly universe) and to take bold action. It is your right brain that will lead you into the uncharted territory of all your dreams and ideas—not the left. NOW, once you get into that uncharted territory, you are going to want your left brain back to help build the new structure and store all the new information you are learning. It is the classic yin & yang. Most of us have just been living with too much yin and not enough yang.
Another one of your quotes is that the "mind responds like muscles." Can you explain this in terms of creativity?
I just posted a video on our YouTube Channel and I referred to the fact that we go to the gym to exercise and to create change in our physical body the SAME WAY that we can go to Creatively Fit and do the creative exercise to create change in our spiritual body. Thomas Edison said, “The mind can be trained just as a set of muscles, if one will only take the time to train the mind to think.” If you have watched the movie What the Bleep you have seen their illustration of how our minds create new neural networks when we do or think new things. SO, every time you do a creative activity you are reinforcing those synapses, strengthening them, creating a closer connection, so that you can summon those creative abilities whenever they are needed. Likewise, in the movie, it shows how if you stop using a neural network it will eventually disengage and you will lose that connection. I find this all SO fascinating!
I know you've been following the press that creativity has been getting, such as the Newsweek cover story last summer. What are we finding out about the role of creativity in our lives and the current state of creativity in our country?
It is so exciting to see in the media every week more and more about the value of creativity and right brain thinking. The February Oprah Magazine issue read like my blog—it was incredible! I just read another article about the increase, or addition of, right brain thinking in college engineering programs. A friend just shared with me that the keynote speaker at a huge conference for operating room nurses lead off his speech declaring that they were ALL artists. It is coming from all sides. The disconnect I see, and that I love to fill, is that there is not much advice on HOW to become more creative or HOW to strengthen those right brain abilities. Creatively Fit provides a HOW that truly works.
What are some examples of simple creative workouts we can do?
I just got off the phone with one of the women in my Creatively Fit Coaching Training and she shared with me how the “Scribble Drawing” Creativity Workout rescued her from a breakdown in the middle of doing her taxes! This is the kind of news that makes my day! She was literally so frustrated and on the brink of tears (I SO get that—not a numbers gal) and decided to take a break and scribble. ALL YOU DO is scribble for 2 seconds on a piece of paper with whatever pen, pencil, marker you have handy. Then, you simply look at the scribble. What does it make you think of? Add that to the scribble. Do you see a face? Add the eyes and nose. Do you see a dog? Add the ears. Do you see a bird, or a car, or a platypus!? Just add to the scribble. Let one mark lead to another for 5 minutes. Then, write down the first five words that come to mind. Somewhere in those words is insight into your question, situation, OR a thought that can balance the “taxes."
Another “exercise” I just gave to a client was to simply cover a canvas with paint. I told her to pick two primary colors and white to put on her palette (I use a paper plate) and just scribble, color, mark the paint to cover the white canvas. I told her not to worry about WHAT she was going to paint, but to just paint. I guarantee that all those art supplies that she has accumulated over the years to collect dust in her corner will gain a NEW life, once she gets started. It is all about disengaging that voice that is pressuring us to PRODUCE something of “value” (as in $$ terms). She knows logically that she is not painting to create a perfect painting that will sell for $100’s, but that is still what is keeping her from doing it. You need to replace that with the “exercise” paradigm. It’s not like we are going to the YMCA anticipating our professional athletic career! We know we are just doing it because it is good for us. It is the same with these Creativity Workouts.
Another fun exercise is the Torn Paper Face Collage. You can see lots of these in the Creativity Workout Gallery on the home page of CreativelyFit.com. We created over 185 of these to send to women in Nigeria in January and February! So fun! The message here: JUST DO IT!
Do you have any specific suggestions of creative activities that writers could use, perhaps to warm up?
In my book, The Artist Within, I have 15 different Creativity Workouts that are really all fabulous for inspiring your writing. One of the most powerful exercises for my clients has been the unassuming “Scribble Drawing” (as I mention above). It is like stream of consciousness doodling. You can literally ask your Artist Within for the idea that you need, scribble for five minutes, look at the results and the ideas will come right to you. It is amazing. You basically summon up your subconscious mind and it delivers the answer. Doesn’t sound “logical”? Exactly why it works. You can see an example of the Scribble Drawing on my blog here.Here is another great blog entry for you, “Writing Prompts from your Right Brain.”
I'm really interested in your global programs, Artreach. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Creatively Fit has been a partner with Women for Women International. Women for Women works with women in war torn countries to help them to rebuild their lives (to create change, right?). I partnered with Women for Women for last year’s National Women’s Day in New York City, so I had met with the marketing director and the founder Zainab Salbi. Then, this past July, I got an email from a woman in Nigeria asking for help. It was an incredible email and within 24 hours two people had randomly brought up Nigeria to me, so I took that as a sign. Because of that email from Vivian, I launched the Creatively Fit Coaching Training Program so that Vivian could learn the Creatively Fit System. The short version, this IS actually the short version of this story (!!), is that since Women for Women serves 4500 women in Nigeria, and since we would love for Vivian to be able to provide Creatively Fit programming to those women, we asked Women for Women if we could send over as many Face Collages as possible. We wanted these to be a visual symbol of our support, our hope and our creative energy to the women there. One of our participants named them “Faces of Hope” and women around the country gathered together to “Create for a Cause." It was incredible. We are still awaiting the news that the face collages have arrived. I am anxious to launch another ARTreach. I want these to always focus on empowering women who have so much less than we do, fewer choices, fewer opportunities, fewer freedoms, and fewer resources, but who have such ENORMOUS need and desire to CREATE change. If we send them our creative energy, it WILL make a difference.
What are you most excited about in your life and creativity right now?
Well, in my life I am MOST excited about moving to our ranch in NE Oregon. You all have to “google” Joseph, OR. That will give you a good idea of where we are moving. I feel very led there. It is a magical place. I am excited for Creatively Fit and for me to be immersed in the energy of this land. I believe it is going to influence greatly the content I create for Creatively Fit and, who knows, for new projects. There is a strong artist community there and I am already planning to design some light fixtures with the glass blower and the metal worker! Too fun!
In creativity right now I am most excited about a new spirit that is being infused into the Creatively Fit experience. For me, in my own Creatively Fit practice, the most thrilling results have always been on a spiritual level. The work creates such a tremendous connection to your subtle self, your spirit, your intuition, to your center. Up until now, I felt led to keep the spiritual benefits somewhat sequestered from my frontline marketing, etc. I did not want to put anyone off and I wanted to give everyone a chance to just get into the creativity work on their own and experience the shift organically—because I know it is an inevitable result of getting Creatively Fit. But now, literally in just the last 3 weeks, I have gotten so many “signs” that now is the time to lead more with this information. I guess more people are open to the fact that they have a spiritual side and that connecting to that side, that awareness, is going to bring them greater fulfillment. It has been really interesting to observe how scared this actually makes me and how comfortable I was to let this aspect of creativity linger in the background until people found it themselves. But I do believe our world is evolving rapidly on the spiritual plane. I believe more and more people are waking up to the shift that needs to happen in our world in order to create a more compassionate and sustainable future. We simply CAN’T keep going the way we have been going. This shift, this waking up, is SO exciting for me. It is the reason I believe I have been infused with this passion, since 1995, to provide an opportunity for people to explore art making, to re-define their creative ability, and to have a new awareness they can take back out into the art that is their life and CREATE the change they desire. The difference is now that everyone is blatantly aware of the need for change.
The other source of immense excitement for me is the Creatively Fit Coaching Program. Once I had created this program for Vivian in Nigeria, and posted it to the site, I had so many amazing women contacting me and joining the program. I have ALWAYS envisioned Creatively Fit as an umbrella that other women could come under to live their life + work focused on the arts. Now, there is a whole team of us, coaches, who are passionate about and working towards liberating everyone from their “I’m not creative” statements and coaching them through the process of creating the life they desire. It is totally thrilling. This spring I am travelling to Cincinnati, N. Virginia, and New York City to lead events with my new coaches. The possibilities have just been exponentially increased by this coaching program and we are ALL so grateful.
Anything else you'd like to mention?
Answering the question above reminded me to encourage everyone with the fact that I have NEVER had ANY formal art training. When I opened The Creative Fitness Center in 1996 I did not even know what color paints to order for the classes—in fact, I ordered all the WRONG colors. Even when they arrived I just thought, “Hmmm, these will make an interesting painting.” The colors were horrendous! So this has always given others hope, I love this about my story. You don’t have to have ANY artistic ability or ANY “creative talent”. Of course, you all have creative ability because it is what makes us human and what connects us to the divine. In fact, my clients who experience the greatest, most radical success in this program started without any art “talent” or history at all. The more these Creativity Workouts contrast your routine, the more powerfully they will move through you and infuse you with its transformational energy. It is such a gift to be witness to this work.
3 Things You Can Do RIGHT Now:
1) Go to www.creativelyfit.com and “Join Creatively Fit” so you can stay posted about all the exciting news AND download my free eBook that shares with you “7 Simple Things You Can Do NOW to Get Into Your Right Brain”.
2) Join me on facebook and “like” www.facebook.com/TheArtistWithinU.
3) Join the online program. Start with Step 1: Meet Your Artist Within. If it does not open up an entirely new world to you, let me know and I will refund every penny and spend an hour on the phone with you myself introducing you to this magically creative and inspired side of you!
I have to add a 4th….I would LOVE for you to buy my book, The Artist Within, and allow it to provide you with so much inspiration and so many tools that you can use to inspire your own creative side. I want to read YOUR book, so let me know when it is available.
You can reach Whitney at email@example.com. Whitney is also available as a Creatively Fit Coach to train you to create whatever change it is that you desire. Email her for more information.
All images courtesy of Whitney Ferre and her website.
You can read the previous Creative Cognoscente Interview with Tara Sophia Mohr here.
Last week, Ray, my mailman, found me washing dishes in the kitchen. He'd been knocking on the front door (haven't had a functioning doorbell in this house, ever) but I thought it was just the noisy construction guys around the corner, so I ignored the sound until he came around to the side door to roust me.
We chatted for a bit about the new roof and gutters (is there anything more boring to spend a small fortune on?) and then he handed me a package. This was exciting, as packages are always exciting, but I didn't remember ordering anything so I was a bit puzzled.
Ah, but once I ripped the package open it all became clear.
A month or so ago I got a mass email sent to bloggers, asking if they would like to review a diet product called Slim Shots. Well, hell, I'm always up for experimentation with my body, especially if it means dropping a few pounds. I sent off my acceptance, doubting that they would choose little ole me for the review, seeing as how I have a writing blog, not a dieting blog. I never heard a thing more about it, until Ray delivered me package which turned out to be a one-week supply of Slim Shots.
What are Slim Shots? They are a dietary supplement that helps to suppress your appetite. As far as I can tell, they are at least not terribly bad for you, their main ingredients being palm oil and oat oil. They come in little plastic packages, shot-size, amazingly enough. You can drink them plain or add them to food or liquid. For the first week, you drink one with breakfast and one with lunch, and then you graduate to just taking one with breakfast.
Dubious as I am about fad diets and miracle supplements, I kind of like these little guys. Thanks to the advice of my wonderful naturopath, I've been working on the 80% full thing, which turns eating into a bit of a spiritual practice. What you do is eat until you are 80% full and then quit. Sounds easy, right? But it is way harder than it sounds, because it forces you to seriously pay attention to what you are eating. Half the time I'm gulping down a meal so I can get to the writing, or whatever else it is I want to do. Or I'm eating with friends and family, and paying more attention to them to what I'm actually eating. Figuring out when I'm full is difficult enough, but actually stopping before then is crazy hard.
So I think these Slim Shots help with that. What I am not sure about is whether or not I'll actually pay for more of them. They are spendy–did you think they'd be cheap? And they make it cheaper if you do the auto-ship thing, which I've accidentally gotten hooked into before and very much regretted. The auto-ship option is the default, so be very careful if you do decide to order. My idea would be to order a month's supply to give my 80% full quest a boost and then take it from there myself.
Because isn't it true that your stomach does actually shrink as you eat less, or is that just wishful thinking? It is probably wishful thinking. But I'm going with the idea, anyway…
6:30. Rise, stumble to the coffeepot, take coffee with me to the journal, sit and write for an hour. Best part of the day.
7:30. Check email; try not to get too engrossed in letters from friends or the latest celebrity gossip news.
8:00. Walk with my friend Sharon. We’ve been walking together, three times a week for over 20 years. Damn, even I’m impressed by that.
9:00. Eat breakfast, laboriously work on the Sudoku puzzle, pat myself on the back for being brilliantly close to solving it and then realize I’ve screwed up.
9:30. Back to work. I know, total grossness–no shower. Lately I’m lucky if I get in the shower by noon. Such is the life of a writer. Spend the next couple hours working on marketing, which always takes tons of time and is a pain in the you-know-what.
12:00. Sneak in a little more work on my new project, which mostly exists in the journal and is way too raw to talk about. Suffice it to say I’m excited. There’s a shower in here somewhere, too.
12:30. Lunch. Oh yeah, that.
1:00-ish. Realize I’ve missed a call from a client, call her back and we talk about a ghostwriting project for quite awhile. I’ve just finished one book for them and we’re in the process of shaping the next one.
2:00. Return a call from a new client. She’s got a book she wants me to write. I like the sound of it. We’ll see what happens but I hope we move forward.
2:30. Panic. Two big jobs and another couple I’ve got to follow up on. When will I have time to work on my own things?
2:45. Breathe deeply; feel better.
3:00. Work on a critique for students who live in Las Vegas. I love these two–they are a husband and wife who write children’s books together.
4:00. Email critique off, head out to bank, PO and Fred Meyer for food. Buy shrimp for dinner and a whole salmon on sale at the unheard of price of $2.49 per pound, plus a cedar plank to cook it on.
5:00. Read a little of a manuscript, swear I’m not going to have a glass of wine so that I can stay sharp and work tonight.
6:30. Pour myself a glass of wine and take it and manuscript and journal outside. Talk to Lewis instead of doing any work.
7:00. Realize I never called Candace back and call her while I fix dinner. Steve is going to be home late, working on a project for the Abu Dhabi folks, anyway. He’s going back there in two weeks and I’m heading to LA around the same time to meet all those new clients.
8:00. Release delusion that I’ll get more done tonight and go fart around on the internet. Burning question: how does Twitter make money? Answer: A. they don’t, yet, because they don’t have to, and B. they don’t know how they are going to, when they finally do have to. Not sure why this fascinates me so.
9:45. Panic, redux: realize I’ve not written a blog post in several days. Sit down and have at it.
10:00. Time to crawl into bed with the wonderful book I’m reading, The Tenth Gift. Its about pirates. Did you realize that millions of Europeans were stolen by pirates and sold into slavery?
One of the best tools a writer can learn is the art of listening. Actually, learning to listen is a useful tool for any human, period. I spent the weekend in a workshop with people who had varying degrees of skills in listening, which has had me pondering the subject.
As my good and wise friend (and leader of the workshop) Mary-Suzanne pointed out, most of us spend time waiting to talk instead of actually listening. I’ve watched other people do this and I know that I myself do it all the time–and I pride myself in being a good listener.
Instead of actually listening and taking in what the other person is saying, our minds race. We start formulating what we want to say in return, or cataloging all the similar experiences that we have had so that we can talk about them when the other person shuts up. Or maybe we worry that we don’t have anything to say, or that we’ll be expected to have something to say and nothing will come out. We worry about what we look like or maybe we’re even worrying about something we did before the current conversation.
If we’re not worrying about ourselves, we may well be judging the person we are supposedly listening to. We judge the speed of their delivery, or think dire thoughts about the awful outfit they have on. We judge the funny expressions they make as they talk. Or the way they are shredding their napkin as they speak.
But all of this is worrying and judging, not listening.
Why does listening matter to a writer?
Because writers need to observe the world and everything and everyone in it in order to gather material. Writers need to listen to conversations of others to obtain an ear for dialogue and how people interact with each other. We need to listen to others in order to understand what it is to be human. Because, after all, that is what writing is all about–describing the human condition.
So start schooling yourself in the art of listening. How to do this is a bit harder to describe than telling people they should do this, I will admit. A quick search of the internet netted mostly descriptions for college students listening to instructors lecture. But this site seems to have some good advice about interpersonal listening.
The gist of it, of course, is staying present and not letting all your mental chatter distract you, whether that mental chatter is worrying about yourself or judging the speaker. You might just be surprised what happens when you start listening deeply to the world around you.