I Heard You but I Wasn’t Listening

Are you truly listening? The opening monologue of The Grand Budapest Hotel offers a truism writers must take to heart. Here’s the text from the opening of the film:

It is an extremely common mistake.

People think that a writer’s imagination is always at work, that he’s constantly inventing an endless supply of incidents and episodes, that he simply dreams up these stories out of thin air.

In point of fact, the opposite is true.

Once the public knows you’re a writer, they bring the characters and events to you, that is as long as you maintain your ability to look and to carefully listen, these stories will continue to seek you out over your lifetime.

To him who has often told the tales of others, many tales will be told.”

I couldn’t agree more. Inspiration is everywhere. You only have to keep your eyes open to see and take time to listen. Truly listen.

Too much is said that nobody pays any attention to. This era of social media is filled with people shouting just to hear the sound of their own voice.  With all that static, its hard for the writer to tune into a particular voice.

I think its a two-sided problem.  Writers  have to be judicious in what they share. Does it matter? Is it factual? Is it kind? It is helpful? No more purposeless noise, please.  At the same time, listeners have to truly listen. What was said? How is it relevant? Is this truly an inspiration? Am I better informed?

My Mum had a great apology that I’ve adopted as my own. She would say “I’m sorry. I heard  you but I wasn’t listening.” What distracted parent (or writer) can’t relate to that?

Quote tile: I'm sorry. I heard you but I wasn't listening.I love that she owned up to the fact that sometimes she wasn’t really engaged in what I said. As a school teacher, her inner monologue would be filled with all sorts of problems and plans related to her classroom. Now that I, too, am a parent I better understand that tricky transition time when it can be a struggle to shift from work gear to parent gear. And sometimes the gear box is jammed!

I’m committed to listening. And I hope you are, too. With a bit of luck, stories will seek us both out for a lifetime.