Day five of the A to Z Challenge. Let’s have a wee look at (or, perhaps more appropriately, a wee listen to) eavesdropping, but not in the usual writerly way.
If you’ve taken a few writing classes, it’s fairly likely that some teacher along the way has given you the eavesdropping assignment. You know, take yourself into a bar/coffee shop/department store/baseball stadium/brothel (no, not the last one) and casually plonk yourself down and eavesdrop.
This post is not about that kind of eavesdropping. This is about listening IN.
In meditation, the goal is to try to quiet the mind, to clear it of all thought and be fully present. After years of practice, you might get to something more than just a moment (or a handful of moments) of clarity. Along the way, there are going to be lots (andlotsandlotsandlots) of thoughts. One way to deal with them is to recognize each on as it comes along and to watch it float up and away, like a balloon (or thought bubble) leaving your head. I’d like to encourage you to pay attention to what those thoughts are before you release them to the world in their little balloons. The practice goes something like this: find a comfortable seated position, do as your mother or Granny or whomever told you and sit up straight (really, it helps you breathe, which is important), try to let everything else go and just breathe. When each thought comes along, acknowledge that you’re thinking it and repeat it to yourself. Thinking about why I can’t make a perfect souffle, for instance. And then let it go. Try this for ten minutes. Set a timer or get a free app (like Insight timer) for your phone or iPad so you don’t have to keep checking. At the end of the ten minutes, before you evacuate the seat, make note of what was occupying your thoughts. No judgement, just a note. This is about learning yourself. Accepting yourself (have a look at A to Z: Authenticity for more on that).
I think this tags to writing in a couple of ways. First, if we can learn our own inner workings, it can give us insight into inner workings in general, thus some keys to character. Second, if we can’t be brave enough to really look at ourselves, how can we expect to be brave enough to look deeply enough into anyone else (real or fictitious) to truly do them justice on the page? In my own writing, I’m aiming for work deep and honest enough to get the sort of review Jackie Kay’s short story collection, Reality, Reality got in The Guardian:
Listening to the voices in these interior monologues is like eavesdropping on the private thoughts and secret lives of a host of women, many of whom share a quiet desperation and self delusion. – Bernardine Evaristo, Friday, 11 May 2012
So, spend some time, daily if you can, eavesdropping, carefully and bravely listening in.