Sunday, August 19, 2012

Monday Musings: Reading, Listening, and Writing


One of my traits as an introvert seems to be that I know a lot of stuff. I know trivial things to minute details about the state of the world. I can usually hold intelligent conversations with just about anyone...usually. I am often asked how it is that I know so much about various topics.

Today, I am going to talk about this in relation to how it has improved my writing. There are two things in this world that are important on many different levels. The first is reading, and the second is listening.

Reading:

I have read since I was old enough to sound out the words in the Dick and Jane books in the first grade. I loved to read then, and I love to read now. There is nothing more pleasing in the world to me than the feel of the pages between my fingers.

I enjoy reading fiction to a certain degree. However, books aren't the only source of my reading. I read blogs - I'm world class blog stalker - I read various websites, professional journals, newspapers, etc.

I don't limit what I read to simply the things I enjoy. I read the news coming out of Afghanistan and I certainly don't enjoy it. Yet, it is a necessary act to know what is going on in the world in which I live. I also read the financial pages (you would think I would be a better money manager...). It's a quirk of mine to abhor the insane acquisiton of money to the point of greed. I view the financial pages as a study in human behavior. Just how far will people go to acquire wealth, what do they do with it once they get it, and in some cases how long will it last? I read to know the details of life as we know it.

If I am writing, I read a great deal about the subject; before and during the process. In the process of The Butterfly Fields, I have had to read many different things about the subjects of religion, culture, and finding one's place in the midst of it all. I will be the first to admit, I had no idea what the Augsburg Confession is, let alone the important role it plays in the history of religion in the world. In fact, the important role in the religion I have chosen as my personal path. I found the Book of Concord (the hardcover) fascinating. What an interesting time in the world. Another important book that I have had to read is the Bible itself. I'm still working on this one. I truly believe a person could study the Bible for an entire lifetime and still not know all that it says. Or, maybe I just started too late. I have also had to read a lot of information about the Dark Ages. I have another quirk about things being as historically accurate as possible. This includes dialogue, descriptions, and the way people really were, not how we seem to romanticize this era in our history. It was called the Dark Ages for more reasons than the religious discord in the world. Writing is a process. It is not something that can be typed out in a few sittings and offered to the world with any expectation of respect in the industry.

Listening:


Many times when we are sitting together in a room as a group, or just two people having a conversation, we fall into the poor listening skills area. Instead of truly listening to what the other person is saying as an active and engaged listener, we start planning what we are going to say next. There are even times when we let our minds wander into what's for dinner tonight or how am I going to pay a bill, and so on. Lastly, we do the ultimate act of poor listening, we cut the person off in mid-sentence assuming we already know what they are going to say. Personally, when someone does this to me enough times, I will just get up and walk away in the middle of the conversation. One it is without manners to interrupt someone when they are speaking, and two assumption is the mother of all miscommunication. We all exercise poor listening on some level, every day.

Growing up, I learned the fine art of listening due to the generally observed rule of children should be seen and not heard. I would also watch with great interest the interactions of the elders in the family and how they conducted themselves. They were far from perfect, but they had some things that always seemed to be engaged in the moment. An elder was always allowed to finish speaking, no matter how long it took, before anyone said anything. Many times a silent pause would follow what was said while the listeners processed the information that had been shared. I learned to think before I speak. Some people today don't grasp the concept that I don't like to give an immediate answer until I have taken under consideration what had been said. It makes it very difficult for some of us introverts to be actively engaged in meetings filled with extroverted people.

Listening to others plays a significant role in the trust factor of relationships. If you are a natural people watcher like me, listening coupled with picking up on body language, you understand how much of the story is never tranferred in the spoken word. We naturally learn a lot about and make judgments of other people based on these two things, more than any conversation we will ever have with them. This helps in character development in the story. I have a tendency to build characters based on the mannerisms of people rather than what they say.

I find listening more interesting and comfortable than talking. I learn a lot more when listening than when being fully engaged in the conversation. I view this as a strength. Through active and engaged listening I can make better decisions even if it takes a bit longer.

While working on The Butterfly Fields, I have had to do a lot of listening in addition to reading. Sometimes I didn't necessarily enjoy what I was hearing. However, I feel through this listening process, The Butterfly Fields, and The Chrysalis Series as a whole, is a stronger story. Also through listening, I have gained some personal skills in regards to who I am and where I am heading.
Reading and listening play an important role in writing. If you want a strong story with lots of detail and interesting characters, you have to know your subject. I will always read and listen for the rest of my life, otherwise the world will be very flat; very flat indeed.