Today I’m struggling. I miss my dad and there is nothing I can do about it. He’s been gone four months now and I should be moving on with my life. I have, and mom is too, we all are. But sometimes someone will say something that he used to say and BAM! I miss him all over again. So today, I was listening to the radio and one of the announcers asked the other, “Did you hear what I said?” and man #2 says, “Yes, I heard you say something but I wasn’t listening.”
As a sassy eye-rolling teenager my dad would often ask if I were listening. I’d usually complain that yes, I heard him and he’d say, “I know you heard me, but were you listening?” See hearing is passive. If there’s noise, speaking, music, whatever you can’t help but hear it. It’s physiology – sound waves and vibrations in the ear. But listening is different. Listening is active. It involves deciphering the sounds. It means paying attention to the words. It means understanding the meaning. It means accepting the lesson and applying a reaction.
We tell toddlers “Don’t touch that, it’s hot.” And they hear us. They just don’t listen. Perhaps it’s the meaning of the words they don’t know. Perhaps those are new words all together. Inevitably, the toddler will touch and get burned and thus define “don’t” and “hot” for future understanding. And the next time you say, “Don’t touch that, it’s hot,” they probably will listen and not touch. Learning to listen is part of the growing process.
As people we want to be heard too. We want people to listen to us. But are we listening to each other? Are we listening for clue words so we can prepare our response while the other person continues talking? Or do you listen to them completely before digesting their words and then preparing a response? Do you jump in and interrupt thinking that you know what they are going to say? How can we expect to be listened to if we don’t listen first? How can we grow if we don’t hear other ideas and thoughts?
Writers are storytellers. And whether or not our storytelling is oral or written, we want the reader’s ear. We want them to pay attention, to listen. Whether we are writing a spellbinding mystery or an historical essay or an instruction manual, we must grab the reader. We do this with particular care in our words, imagery, structure, and tone which match the message of the writing. We want to hook the reader so they listen and absorb our words. And to do that, we must mean what we say. We must have meaning in our writing.
I wish Dad were here. I’d gladly listen to anything he wanted to say even if I’d heard it before.
We are accepting submissions to the May/June issue! The Theme is Conspiracy Theories. So, get out your foil hats and your debugging devices and send in your best stories or theories! Is there a space ship in Area 51? What is the government hiding in the Mariana Trench? What’s on the dark side of the moon? Does the government use fluoride in the drinking water for mind control? You tell us!