FINE TUNING YOUR SENSIBILITIES
BEING ABLE TO REALLY AND TRULY LISTEN IS EXCEPTIONALLY IMPORTANT. FEW OF US DO THAT REALLY WELL
WE HAVE EVOLVED A CONSUMPTION CULTURE—NOT A LISTENING ONE.
I have been giving a great deal of thought recently to how much people know and understand—two states it is important not to confuse. Just for starters, most of us almost certainly know more than we understand—but our comprehension is limited by lack of context, intellectual curiosity, education, intelligence, or some combination thereof. I should probably add impatience and laziness. We often tend to be too impatient to think things through—and laziness speaks for itself. Thinking is hard work. Totally focused thinking is something else again. It is so exhausting—it is downright relaxing.
Am I missing anything? Yes, I am—and it is a factor of no small significance. It is fear. All too often we are afraid to think things through. The conclusions might make us uncomfortable—drag us out of our comfort zones—and worse. Best not to go there.
Actually, ‘best not to go there’ is almost certainly the wrong conclusion—but it is almost certainly the easiest one.
A writer is in the business of communicating thought into the written word, but in order to do that effectively, he or she has to have some idea about his readers knowledge, comprehension and capabilities.
How do you do that? You try and be as culturally aware as possible—both through human communication, and through the normal channels such as the media. Many writers aren’t too good at that because we are, by nature of our craft, more cerebral than many, and since book writers , in particular, generally write alone, we lead—by many standards—rather isolated lives.
It is a moot point as to whether we writers are as isolated as many consider us to be. We might not engage in social intercourse for as much time as the general public, but we endeavor to compensate by being acute observers of the human condition, and by being as empathetic as possible. The best of us also read a great deal (by which I mean prodigiously), travel, deliberately have many and diverse experiences, and—perhaps above all—we listen.
We also never stop working. Writing is a 24/7 occupation because even when a writer is asleep, his subconscious is grinding away. Damn useful!
Listening is a curiously important—and much under-rated—skill and it includes the ability to encourage your subject to talk while you, in the main, stay silent. To do it well requires total focus. In fact, it can be so intense, it is almost like an out-of-body experience.
I know that after I have completed a successful interview, I feel almost dazed—and typically it takes me long minutes to wind down.
Am I a good listener?
When I’m prepared, focused, and on form, I’m an excellent one. I just wish I could be better still. Writing isn’t about being totally satisfied. It’s about striving for the impossible—perfection.
I find interviewing nearly as satisfying as the actual process of writing—but not quite.
Writing is just plain beyond words.
VOR words 502.