Wednesday morning, a dear friend of mine came over with her mom so that the kids and I could help her stuff and stamp wedding invitations.Only two of my four kids were available. My 12-year-old daughter, a task-oriented girl, devoted herself to the work, happily stuffing and licking envelopes. She completed a giant stack in record time.Meanwhile, my eight-year-old son placed stamps on reply cards, working slowly not only to do the job neatly, but also because he paused a lot to chat. He would look up from the task to make eye contact, leaving a stamp stuck to his thumb that emphasized complicated plot twists in his story during his theatrical gestures. As we worked together, he talked and talked and talked and talked.
He could talk that much because my friend and her mom listened and listened and listened and listened.
We finished the job and ate lunch together, continuing the conversation. After we cleared the dishes, my friend and her mom packed up to leave. They thanked us for our help. My son looked at them and then up at me. “I’m just glad they came here to do the invitations,” he said. “I love having people over who listen to me.”
I remember feeling that way. I suppose I still do.
In this week’s book club post at HighCallingBlogs.com, Laura Boggess quoted from Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write:
…I believe that each of us already has a unique voice. We do not need to “develop” it; rather, we need to discover or, perhaps better, uncover it.
In the comments, I responded:
On page 159, Cameron writes, “Sometimes we do not know we have a writing voice because there has never been anyone to listen.”At a recent gathering that included some members of my family of origin, I began at least three sentences only to be cut off a few words into them. I spent my formative years being shut down like that; just when I would put words to an idea, opinion, or thought, the door was slammed shut. I ended up saying very little during our recent visit, just as I struggled to express myself as a child.As a result of this upbringing, many years passed before I found my voice. I discovered it through writing, both private (journals) and public (creative writing classes).When I won a poetry contest in college, I was asked to write a little bio to go in the publication. I included this thought: “I write … because no one listens to me.”Over the years, I learned to do what Cameron recommended–to listen to myself: “When we begin to listen ourselves, the inner voice grows stronger.”
I know what it feels like to be shut down and cut off. I need to be sure that my son has opportunities to develop ideas and share his thoughts. I want to listen and listen and listen and listen.
So he can tell his stories.
So he can be heard.
So he can find his voice.
In the meantime, I still have a few things to say, too. So I tell my own stories in various ways and forms, including books and blogs. And in community, I have found listening ears.
Here are some of the responses flowing through the comments following mine about being cut off and shut down as a child:
Sam Van Eman June 22, 2010 at 7:27 amThanks for sharing this, Ann. Takes so long to overcome some of these childhood wounds, doesn’t it? Praise God for the grace you’re finding to do this very thing.
L.L. Barkat June 22, 2010 at 12:58 pmThis just made my breath catch. The reason you began writing. Today, I fancy that you write because someone does listen. We listen. And you make us smile.
Marilyn Yocum June 22, 2010 at 1:04 pmI connected with that comment by Cameron, too, Ann. My growing-up home was noisy, with very little listening and it was in my nature to withdraw rather than join the fray. I became an avid letter writer – cousins, pen pals, etc. First signs, I think. After a spiritual awakening in my teens, my voice began to come out, both on the page and with people. God has ways of drawing out what He has put into a person, often despite upbringing.
Jessica McGuire June 22, 2010 at 1:52 pmI can relate so well to this Ann…my first journeys into creative writing as a child and young student were actually laughed at by others. To not have the voice to speak…to have no one who really hears.I love this article that Laura recommended. It speaks right into my life at this moment. Where I sit on the edge of guilt and frustration: guilt when I am writing, frustration when I am not. Finding that space in between.Great discussion everyone…I am learning so much.Thank you.
Yes, thank you to everyone.Thank you for listening.
Photo by Ann Kroeker © 2010
The fundamental purpose of writing is communication, true. But I think a necessary adjunct to that would be that we, as humans, long to communicate on a consistent and frequent basis, to (often) more than one person in their lives. These can be achieved largely through writing.
Yes, I think we want to make contact with others, engage in conversation, respond and see what others think about a topic of interest or a story that changed us.
That’s what blogs do exceptionally well. As an author, I rarely hear from my readers. But here I am interacting with you about something I just wrote, almost in real time! Thank you for taking time to communicate with me. Thank you for listening. 🙂
Lisa Smith (@stretchmarkmama) says
Yes, that hit home with me too. I grew up in a wonderful family, but a very talkative family. So I know what it’s like to be quiet — both because of personality and because of environment.
I think listening to one another is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other today in our time-obsessed race-around (always looking at our phones) culture.
Another friend of mine grew up in a loud, boisterous family, and it just made her loud and boisterous! She jumps right in and speaks her mind. She says everyone in her family is like that, so somehow they avoided producing any quieter folks, like you. And me.
Love your thoughts on listening as a gift. It forces us to slow down and engage with people. Very true. Very important.
You really opened up something with that comment, Ann. Thank you for sharing that. It must not have been easy. Sometimes, I’m surprised by what ends up on the other end of my fingers. I believe cameron is right when she says that sometimes the writing wants to write itself.
Thank you for hosting it at HCB. You’re right–sometimes it all just pours out, from heart to brain through fingertips on keys…and onto the screen to share.
I feel so sad that no one listened Ann. You have found your beautiful voice and so many are honored to listen.
I have been trying to be a better listener. I often find myself so focused on what I want to add to the conversation I don’t even really hear what the other person is saying. A listening heart is a gift that we can give to others. I want to have that kind of heart too.
You are too kind, Linda. Thank you for listening and encouraging!
L.L. Barkat says
And I love what your son said. So sweet.
He’s got a lot on his mind, and the stream of consciousness that flows can sometimes require tremendous patience. I do encourage him sometimes to “land the plane.” I hope he doesn’t grow up and resent that. I need to help him find balance.
my mother in law would have loved the title of your post she loved to find her greens wild and fix them herself they were her pride and joy and she would get everyone she knew to try them
Hi Ann – I just recently stumbled across your blog (I was reading the blog of someone I know who had a link to someone else’s blog who had a link to yours). I am brand new to the blogging world! I have always loved to write, but have done very little of it in recent years…actually, very little since college. I’ll write little articles for things here and there (church publications, my MOPS newsletter, etc.) and keep a journal (in which my entries have been sporadic). As the mother of three (ages 8, 6, and 3), I’ve been busy. At the same time, as the mother of three, I’m wanting more and more to write and record and notice and ponder and remember. So, encouraged by a friend (and my mother who is a writer), I am now blogging. It’s giving me the motivation and outlet I need to write more regularly.
Back to your blog. As I’ve read through several of your posts, I resonate with what you write about and how you write about it. Thank you for sharing yourself through writing. I’m commenting on this post in particular because it’s where I am now. Through blogging, I am looking for that community with listening ears. I tend to be more quiet in person. Not shy, more of a listener. Yet thoughts are swimming in my head. Thoughts that I want to capture and put down. Thoughts that I do want others to hear/read…because like anyone else I want to be known. I am working on “uncovering” my voice through blogging and writing more regularly.
Thanks for writing. For sharing yourself with others. I will definitely come back and visit. This is my first comment to someone I don’t know, by the way. I’m trying to figure this whole blogging world out. It’s strange, yet fun, to be writing to someone I don’t even know. Would love for you to stop by my blog and give feedback…on my writing, my thoughts, etc. Even some direction on how to pursue this blogging thing as a writer.
Thank you so much for this wonderful introduction–I slipped over right away to visit your post and enjoyed your bean-salad post very much. Please check your comments, as I answered you at length over there. I’m delighted to make your acquaintance–and I hope you love your new blogging venture! I know your kids will love looking back on it in a few years, with all those posts capturing their big and small moments…it’s a gift to them (and to yourself) (and your readers).