|I'm a teacher, so this sign especially appealed to me.|
A couple of weeks ago my 8th graders asked me, "Mrs. R,
when are you going to bring a gun to school?"
I replied, "To keep you safe, I'm not going to bring a gun."
I'm not like my two friends. I only have one cheek. If you slap it, I'm gone. There's no way I'm gonna turn so you can slap me again.
At the march we ran into someone my two friends had met before... and even they couldn't make excuses for how adept she was at turning the focus of every single conversation onto herself. What will Sioux think of her? they wondered.
They weren't surprised.
When another friend met up with us and asked about a recent writing retreat I'd organized, Mrs. All-About-Herself chimed in and said, "Oh, I've led many writing retreats. And I teach graduate classes at Webster University." The woman yammered some more, but I'd already tuned out. Her face was expressionless as a piece of granite. She was waiting for me to bow down in admiration, I think.
She was disappointed.
I connected this moment to my life as a writer in a couple of ways.
How much do we learn if we're not open to others? Writers eavesdrop. They observe. They ask questions. We pick up so many quirks and details when we pay attention to others. Spending more time being quiet and listening, and less time talking about ourselves will help us create characters, along with learning about the world that surrounds us.
How can we live a truly writerly life if we're always tooting our own horn?
I belong to a writing critique group with some well-known local writers. They've won contests and been published in hundreds of places and have done speaking gigs about writing. And boy, can these women make words sing.
Never do I hear them talk endlessly about themselves. When they hear of a call for submissions, they share it. When they get something published, they mention it (for sure) but they also usually mention the revising help they got from the group. When one of us talks about an experience, the rest of us are leaning in, listening closely... and then we're asking follow-up questions.
Am I saying priceless pearls would have dropped out of my mouth if that woman asked me about my writing retreats? Definitely not. But perhaps if we'd genuinely conversed, both of us would have learned something.
So when someone else is talking, lean in and listen... even if they're strangers sitting at a nearby restaurant table. (However, if you do that, be sneaky and unobtrusive about it. I once eavesdropped on a group at a winery. When one of them noticed me, she screamed, "That woman is writing down everything we say," and then I had to run to a faraway table. Quickly.)
Lean in... and learn.
Sioux Roslawski is a mom and grammy who believes that arms are for hugging... they're not something that should be available in assault versions for ordinary citizens. She's a teacher who believes is arming educators with more books, more pencils and smaller class sizes... not with pistols. Sioux's also a dog rescuer, and if you'd like to read more of her stuff, head to her blog.