The Art of Listening

Spring in the foothills after last years fires
Spring in the foothills after last years fires

The art of listening is one of the great skills needed to become a fine and nuanced writer…or an Artist of any kind, for that matter.  I strongly believe this to be true.  The active act of listening, of paying close attention to what is happening around you, allows for personal, as well as universal insights into the human condition and experience.  As the bombardment of sound disappears, shutters open inside our eternal interiors and we come to exchange and experience new insights, understandings, “ah-hah” moments, answers –  and the subtle reckoning of stillness and peace.

The world is loud…louder perhaps than it has ever been before, and certainly much busier and congested. And inside this noise, the perpetual chatter, the constant “feed” streams, the bombardment of FB, emails, Pinterest blasts, phone calls and texts, lies your soul in-wait, cocooning, hibernating, listening for a moment, a span of time that issues forth a quietness so it might reach into the waiting mystery and explore.

As a writer of Literary Fiction – where the human condition remains at the heart of the stories and characters that we write about – a reprieve from the hectic daily barrage of “noise” is positively necessary in order to hear what our characters have to say.  I live in Los Angeles, a city of enormous energy, powerful congestion, and a pulse that pulls at you to join in, become a part of the distraction that ever looms.  This is not necessarily a “bad” thing – it’s an exciting place to reside, especially as an Artist.  There is a stream of creativity here that is incredibly enriching and inspiring…but one must take care to protect the “buds” coming to life inside of you, maintaining enough space for them to prosper, and cultivating and protecting the time needed to help our buds bloom into full form.

I combat the “pace” of my life and schedule with a daily escape into the foothills. The silence of the trail – the endless sky – the psithirism of the wind through leaves – the sun warming my skin – the crunch of dirt underfoot – my dog, joyful beside, ahead, behind me  – and my kids, whenever possible, laughing and running about…there is nothing that brings forward this much needed respite from sound and schedules and lists and demands, than this open territory of solitude.  The photograph above is taken in the foothills behind our house, where remnants of a fire two years back, remain.  My children love these excursions nearly as much as I do – and our dog, Rodeo – definitely looks forward to them each day, at least as much as I do:)

My mornings on the trail allow me time to walk patiently, under the tall sky and wide open fields, and to listen to what my characters are trying to tell me, what it is they need for me to understand so that I may tell their story with honesty, insight, and a touch of grace.  When we “create” – be it a song, a play, a novel, a sculpture, a painting, what-have-you, we are stepping inside a sacred space; a communion with something “other” and we must open ourselves to it, fully and wholly, so that we can usher it forth as it deserves.  Patience is often required, starting over is not unusual, and if you are me – putting in miles and miles under foot is a tool of enormous import, as it allows you to literally, move through the edges and folds and haze, until the clouds clear and the sun shines and Ah-Hah! Insight!

A mysterious “whole” resides inside of us – a “whole” of deep knowledge about what it means to exist, and to be a small part of a terrifically large “whole.”  The need for Artists is of such dynamic importance because they…We, are the very ones who step inside this vast ocean of existence and attempt to understand it a little bit more, a little bit deeper, with greater insight, clarity, allowance, forgiveness… and acceptance.  We are the guides.  We are the eyes of the collective soul.  We are the door, opening…ever opening, and shining light into the spaces where darkness or haze resides.

So to all you Artists out there – protect your moments of stillness and quiet, honor your internal space, and tend to those beautiful buds that are pushing through the soil inside of you.  Our world needs the life force of Art like never before…create, create, and create ever more.