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.

Resources for Writers

Angela Crocker
Angela Crocker

Writer. Author. Editor. No matter your title in the world of words, there is a continuous search for inspiration and a lifelong dedication to professional development. With my Resources for Writers series, I intend to share some of my favourite tools, references and activities. These things fuel my own writing. I trust that other writers will find this series inspiring and encouraging as they sit to put pen to paper or fingers on keyboard.

Truth be told, I struggled to declare myself a writer, even though I’m a published author and a communications professional who has written thousands of pages of press releases, grant applications, reports and articles. My self-perception started to change in May 2014 when I attended Ann Douglas’ inspiring How To Be a Happy Writer workshop in Vancouver. My fellow participants were insistent. “You ARE a writer, Angela.” and somehow, by the end of day, my thinking began to shift. Now, when people ask what I do professionally, I tell them with pride that I am a writer.

Most of the time.

I’m my own work in progress.

When I combine my background in marketing, performing arts, teaching and books with my writing experiences and the transition to declaring myself a writer, I came to realize just how much of sharing thoughts through words is a personal journey. Sure, anyone can take a course in grammar or essay structure or research techniques but those who choose to be writers are passionate about words in unique and personalized ways.

As I started writing this series, it suddenly occurred to me that I inadvertently skipped the market research step. Chalk it up to enthusiasm! A quick Google search for “resources for writers” returned thousands of results.

The top result comes from the admirable and lauded Margaret Atwood offering sound advice that made me laugh out loud. There is a also a wonderful crowd-sourced list of resources on Lifehacker from 2013.  The Writers Union of Canada looks at the topic more broadly including links to organizations of interest to writers, funding agencies, advice on publishing plus much more.  Writers will also find a multitude of resources available at the cost of providing an email address or simply for sale along the lines of the offerings from Writers’ Digest and from the wonderfully personable Joanna Penn on The Creative Penn.

Now, I will add my voice and quirky perspective on resources for writers. Please, let me know how my eclectic, personal collection of resources has been helpful to you. And I’m interested to know what your go-to resources are. You can leave a comment here or on any post in the series that catches your attention or email me.

Write on!

Don’t Write Said, Use Synonyms Instead

Think back. Do you remember a high school teacher or university professor whose lessons stuck with you? One of my most influential teachers was Mrs. Carol Murray. She taught me both English and Journalism classes in Grades 11 and 12. She was kind, thoughtful, encouraging and didn’t let us get away with anything. Much to my Mum’s delight, Mrs. Murray assigned Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice as winter break reading and was the catalyst to my lifelong love affair with the novels of Austen, the Brontës, Dickens and their contemporaries.

Mrs. Murray, like me, found grammar lessons to be a necessary evil and worked with us to do a grammar intensive once each semester. While we both understood the importance of grammar, months long discussions didn’t inspire either of us. Those two weeks were a “swallow the frog” moment for sure!

One of the lessons I most remember is Mrs. Murray’s ban on the word “said”. Said. Say. Says. Saying. All were verboten. Characters in our stories and people in our articles never “said” anything. Instead, we had to use more descriptive synonyms.

At some point in those classes, I started a list of alternatives in the margins of my notebooks. Some came from examples in our text books, others from articles or novels I read. I’ve continually added to that list and here, for the first time, I’ve typed them all out in one master list. A Resource for Writers I hope other writers will find useful over and over again.

What “not said” words would you add?

  • accused
  • acknowledged
  • added
  • admitted
  • admonished
  • advocated
  • affirmed
  • agreed
  • alleged
  • announced
  • answered
  • apologized
  • approved
  • argued
  • asked
  • assented
  • asserted
  • assumed
  • assured
  • avowed
  • began
  • begged
  • belittled
  • blurted
  • boasted
  • bragged
  • broke in
  • cautioned
  • challenged
  • charged
  • chided
  • chuckled
  • cited
  • claimed
  • commented
  • complained
  • conceded
  • concluded
  • concurred
  • confessed
  • confided
  • confirmed
  • contended
  • contested
  • continued
  • contradicted
  • contributed
  • countered
  • cried
  • criticized
  • cursed
  • debated
  • declared
  • decreed
  • defended
  • delivered
  • demanded
  • denied
  • denounced
  • directed
  • disclosed
  • discussed
  • divulged
  • elaborated
  • emphasized
  • enumerated
  • estimated
  • exclaimed
  • explained
  • exploded
  • expressed
  • faltered
  • frowned
  • fumed
  • gasped
  • giggled
  • gloated
  • groaned
  • guessed
  • hastened to add
  • hastened to say
  • held
  • hinted
  • implied
  • implored
  • indicated
  • inquired
  • insinuated
  • insisted
  • instructed
  • interjected
  • interrupted
  • intimated
  • jeered
  • jested
  • joked
  • lamented
  • laughed
  • maintained
  • mentioned
  • mumbled
  • murmured
  • mused
  • muttered
  • narrated
  • noted
  • objected
  • observed
  • offered
  • ordered
  • persisted
  • persuaded
  • piped up
  • pleaded
  • pledged
  • pointed out
  • posited
  • postulated
  • praised
  • predicted
  • presumed
  • proceeded
  • promised
  • pronounced
  • prophesized
  • proposed
  • protested
  • proved
  • queried
  • questioned
  • quibbled
  • quipped
  • quoted
  • ranted
  • reaffirmed
  • reassured
  • recalled
  • recited
  • recommended
  • recounted
  • reiterated
  • rejoiced
  • rejoined
  • related
  • remarked
  • remembered
  • reminded
  • repeated
  • replied
  • reported
  • reprimanded
  • requested
  • responded
  • restated
  • retorted
  • resumed
  • revealed
  • said (Remember Mrs. Murray’s rule!)
  • scoffeed
  • scolded
  • shouted
  • shrugged
  • sighed
  • smiled
  • snapped
  • sneered
  • speculated
  • stammered
  • stated
  • stipulated
  • stressed
  • suggested
  • swore
  • teased
  • testified
  • thought
  • threatened
  • told
  • urged
  • uttered
  • ventured
  • volunteered
  • vowed
  • warned
  • wavered
  • went on
  • wept
  • whispered
  • yelled

Write on!