Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Karl. A. Menninger
It is a rare moment when we are afforded the opportunity to listen deeply to the stories that others have to tell. Most typically, our listening skills become dull and impotent as we age, when the stressors in our lives loom large and bloat. When the incessant news spin that we all seem to gravitate towards, churns on relentlessly spitting out negativity. But when those golden opportunities present themselves to listen to the stories others are telling, it both elevates and transports us.
Last week, I had the privilege to attend the launch event for the reading of my stories published in a literary magazine. Along with more than a dozen other writers. Albeit nervous and out of practice attending public events, I was thrilled to be a part of it. The venue chosen had a serene and sacred atmosphere, quietly understated and elegant. A perfect space for the telling of stories created deep within so many hearts.
Sitting, masked in an audience of peers, fellow creatives and aficionados of the writing arts, sent shivers of excitement up my spine. But I quickly found myself drawn to the readings of every writer that night in a manner that I can only describe as magnetic. Each story, spoken through the voice of the creator, seemed so vibrant it was as if the words shimmered and then planted themselves deep within me.
Listening is a skill that I realize I often take for granted. Hearing these stories live not only moved me in unexpected ways but brought home the fact that listening deeply to what others have to share doesn’t happen often. There are times when a life lesson taps you on the shoulder when you least expect it and you know you must pay heed to it.
Perhaps as I move more bravely out into the world, it is time to seek out more opportunities to hear the readings of creative work. So I can again, listen with intent and heart to hear the stories shared by those around me.
There are two of you – one who wants to write and one who doesn’t. The one who wants to write better keep tricking the one who doesn’t.
Maria Irene Fornes
We all experience those moments – where something we love to do, like writing or creating art, feels overwhelming, or lacks that wondrous sparkle, or we are simply buried by the minutia of life’s responsibilities and obligations. So we park our creativity on a shelf. Thinking we will return to our dreams in just a moment or when things simmer down in our lives.
But the reality is that the risk of never moving forward with our artistic aspirations or creative goals becomes incrementally higher until it is something we can no longer surmount.
Letting the part of ourselves that just doesn’t feel like writing take over can be a subtle and insidious process. And once we arrive at that place, it becomes a destination. That is hard to get away from.
So putting one foot in front of the other, or the pen to the page and going through the motions may be likened to exercise. The more frequently you do it, the stronger the “muscle memory” you will be able to call upon during those times when you just don’t feel it.
We all have days when creating a piece of art in any form is just not within the realm of possibility. But the trick is to make that the exception rather than the rule. Learning to take small steps and just do one thing that contributes to your craft will keep you moving forward and strike a note of manageability at the same time.
So even when life places more demands on you than expected or you simply don’t feel emotionally able to write a word, if we are just able to focus on the simple act of writing anything at all, or any activity that supports your writing goals, then we haven’t given up, we are just managing our own expectations.
Then when the time is right, you are able to resume your practice without having to scale those mountains of self-recrimination, shame and blame which may keep us from experiencing the joy of our artistic practice as a writer.
We use a variety of measures in many stages of our lives to determine whether or not we have been successful. Most of us will have some perspective on the shape of our lives as it unfolds and whether or not we believe that we have achieved some measure of success. Most often we measure ourselves and the worth of our activities based on external factors.
In the field of work, an entire industry exists to create numerous metrics by which we can measure our achievements. In the world of sport, we either win or we lose. In the world of the arts, we create and assign success by whether or not others either purchase our works or admire them in some way. In the political realm, you are either voted in or you are voted out.
Long lasting relationships are often deemed to be successful, and family members sometimes measure their self worth based on achievements of their partners or their children. For some of us, the number of friends we have has become a symbol often used to assess our self worth.
Since I have started blogging, I have read many posts on how to develop your brand and write about your niche. There are many strategies and techniques described and shared so you can have readers follow you, like your posts, etc. Content concepts seem to outshine the creative process of writing. One begins to wonder if the way to determine the achievement of blogging success can only be determined by statistics.
When was the last time you did any activity in your life without the expectation of measuring up, without checking the graphs, number of likes, and analysis of insights?
What if you enjoy becoming lost in the flow of writing and posting ideas that emerge in a creative daily life with the hopes of engaging others but not worrying about whether or not the idea measures up through statistical analysis?
Is it possible to create, connect, and enjoy the writing that abounds in this blogging world simply for the pleasure of the experience? Surely, if we could quantify and measure our intrinsic satisfaction, it would precede any other measures of success that we strive to achieve.