Monday, October 25, 2010

Are You Listening?

I've heard for a long time that people don't listen to each other.  I don't know that I believed it until recently. I've been noticing people on conference calls repeatedly asking for the speaker to restate their question because the person being spoken to wasn't paying attention.

I always shake my head in disbelief at this. 

Another version of this is asking for an opinion and then not listening to the response.  A friend of mine does this.  She works on a brochure or a web site and then asks for my opinion.  Before I can even answer, she answers for me, negatively.  When I do answer and say "It's good" or "Nice job" she still thinks I don't like it.  She wants me to gush and rave, but that's not me. Sorry.  I have repeat myself several times in the hopes she's heard me.

Writers get this way too, I've noticed.  I don't often have the occasion to comment on another's writing but when I do, I never sure if they hear what I am saying.  I do get a lot of reason why the story can't be changed.

I understand that reaction. I'm the same way. At first, I resist any modification to my story because it will change too much and cause to many rewrites. But then, after thinking about the comments I've received and realizing what was really meant, I begin to see how I can incorporate the change and keep the story the way I want it.  Often when that happens I begin to see the story from another perspective and by making the change I improve the story and make it better.

But to do that I have to be open to receive the comment and understand what was meant by it.  Often this means ignoring the literal meaning of the words and paying attention to the spirit of the remark.  I need to step back and see the bigger picture.

I also have to remember that the rules for telling a story have not changed since Aristole.  Stories have beginnings, middles, and ends, and that readers care about characters to get them through it all. Tension for the characters and frustrating the character is essential because it keeps the reader interested. When I see my story deviating from this path and I need to change it.

After all, I want to write the better stories I can and then share them.  If I'm not going to do that then there no point to promoting my work or trying to get published.  This goes back to an earlier posting of mine: writing is sharing.  Writing that is not shared is like talking to yourself and God knows I've had my fill of that!

So if you receive comments on your work, try to dig under the surface to find the intent of what the reviewer meant. It might be worth your while to do so.

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