The Lost Art of Listening

11049228_sI don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is an epidemic of people not listening. You only need look next to you or across the room to find an example of this. People ignore each other, people put words in the mouths of others, and people just aren’t reliable listeners.

Writers cannot be unreliable listeners. It’s just not an option, folks. Not if you want to be a good writer anyway. Here’s why….

In order to tell a good story, you need to be able to recognize a good story (and why it’s good). Quality stories come in a variety of forms like books and movies. The best stories often come from the people around you. Unbelievable and astounding things happen frequently and we need to catch those gems. I don’t mean you should go and copy the stories you hear. I do mean you should practice the art of listening and see where it takes you.

For me, tidbits of stories that people tell me inspire other ideas and they grow from there. For example, in my third book, I knew the general plot before I wrote it, but a story that a pastor told me about her experiences tending people on their deathbed changed my story. It added an element that was not like anything the pastor told me, but was inspired by it. The novel grew much stronger because of it.

Other times when we listen, we can discover character traits that we might not have thought to use. (This requires observation and listening.) Maybe the way the story teller describes the story is memorable because of the way they move their hands, change their voice, or do neither and tell it straight faced and expressionless. Or maybe the way they describe other people offers inspiration. Any of these possibilities could be a learning opportunity if you’re open to it. After all, writing comes from our creativity, but creativity does not spring from a vacuum. It comes from living and observing life.

Understanding the art of listening is imperative within our stories. Our characters will be more believable if they cover the gamut of real listeners in the world. If conversation carries on with everyone always understanding the full meaning of each speaker, you’ve created a fictional situation that may not be believable. Why? Because the world is full of bad listeners and some of your characters should be bad listeners too.

So, take your listening skills to the next level. Sit back and listen to people, ask them questions, and go talk to people you don’t usually talk to. You will learn something, you may change, and you will certainly become a better writer. Then, throw some bad listeners in your stories (some good ones would be nice too) and let the fun begin.

Happy Writing,
Madelyn March

Unbound

 

I am bound by my maladies–

fears, pain, insecurity, perception,

they keep me from seeking,

they keep me from being,

all that I could be–

my dreams, possibilities, potential,

left like limping question marks.

They shall claim my life no longer.

Freedom is not free,

but I am ready, willing, able

to stake claim and break these chains,

no longer shall fear shackle and bind me,

it will not control me.

I will chart my route, take the steps,

not without fear, but in the face of it.

 

Madelyn March

 

Inspiration in the Woods

 

This summer I had the privilege of visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For those who haven’t been there, it is a rugged sort of beauty, one in which outdoor lovers are in their element.

Now, I’ve spent lots of time there in the past, but it’s been awhile.  Yet, I’ve been there, in my mind. The Upper Peninsula is almost like a character in my book, The Nature of Denial. It was part of what inspired the story.

I remember working through the entire book in my mind over hiking and camping trips. I snuggled in my sleeping bag, listened to the snores of others, and imagined how the rugged nature of the U.P. could help heal a person so badly in need of healing.

Anna (my main character) is not taken from my life or any  other person’s life, but the scenery is very much what (for the most part) I’ve seen on my own. And it has, in many ways, healed me, again and again.

Visiting some of my old “haunts” was exhilarating for me, like meeting an old, dear friend. I couldn’t help but smile at references in my book that only I would get as I passed an old (not to be named) questionable motel, a dazzling waterfall, or heard the calming whispers of the forest leaves.

So, that was a part of my inspiration for the book. The other parts are too long to get into for this blog (maybe another one?) but they have to do with themes that I seem to revisit in my writing–struggle, hope, friendship, and love.  The world is full of darkness, but there is light around every corner.

Happy Writing,

Madelyn March

 

 

Dreams

“Dreams.  Don’t be afraid of them.  Immerse yourself in yours.  Remember, they exist today, in the here and now, in the what you do in this very moment.  Dream big, break goals down small, and start checking them off the list.  It’s empowering.”

This is part of an email I sent to some of the high school students that I work with.  One of my jobs is to mentor students in an online program.  Many of these teens need to hear that they are capable, that dreams are possible, and other positive affirmations.  I’m sharing this because I think it’s important for all of us to dream, and dream big.

Whatever the goal–being a writer, promoting world peace, making a decent living doing something you love–it is okay, imperative even, that we are dreamers.  Dreamers have created the beautiful parts of humanity and advancements that have altered how we live.  So, go ahead, dream a little, and if you have kids, encourage their dreams too!

29001346 - dream big and stars