The volume of writing I have to complete during the course of any given week is comical. And the speed at which I need to complete said writing is even funnier. Although it would be humiliating, I sometimes wish I had a hidden camera on the “plate-spinning” fiasco that goes into the copy I turn out. It would be entertaining, but I have to tell you… it’s usually not pretty.
Being in a position where the wheels of creativity don’t have the luxury of getting rusty or, Heaven forbid, grinding to a halt, I’ve had to rely on a handful of survival skills… the most important of which is listening. The moment I begin drawing from my own limited well of thoughts, the word flow quickly slows to a stilted trickle and, if I let it, doesn’t render a salvagable thing.
On a day when I have many, many deadlines in front of me, this morning I woke up keenly aware that I needed fresh thoughts and I ran across Isaiah 50:4… “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue…” [or pen… or keyboard…] “…to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught…”
Oh how I needed this reminder to tune in to a different frequency other than my own thoughts – even during the countless times when I think I don’t have time to listen. Especially when I think I don’t have time.
My 10-year-old daughter is particularly adept at this listening thing. She is a GREAT writer. Her work is all over our home in the form of thoughtful notes, stories, poems and handmade signs on countless surfaces. Although she is still learning about grammar, punctuation and other technical aspects of the craft, her words are moving because she listens and understands what her audience (our family) most needs to hear. Just this morning, my husband found a welcome home note from her and it spoke deeply to his desire to be a great father. This little note is a keeper. It will make the family archives, without question, and he will undoubtedly pull it out whenever he is discouraged, simply because she has been listening to our conversations and even to our unspoken hopes. Don’t tell her yet, but I believe she is in training to say some important things to her generation using that same skill – the skill for hearing things that others miss.
Skillful listening – to the world around us, to what the people in our lives are really saying, to the Voice of our Creator and even to one’s own heart – is the one practice that separates stale, uninspired copy from messages that have the potential to move and sustain our readers. Stories, personal letters, descriptions, blogs, emails, songs, scripts – even commercials – and any other written expressions can nearly write themselves when the art of listening is combined with basic writing skills.
It is difficult to make time for listening because it’s not a tyrant. It doesn’t scream at us nearly as loudly as the deadlines and the noise of a busy life. But when you make it a regular practice, your work will become more informed and will most likely fly like a well-directed arrow into the souls of your readers.