A Writer’s Most Important Skill

listening skillWriters must master many skills. You must have a grasp of good grammar—if just to know when you can break the rules. You have to know the hoops you need to jump to get published or at least accepted for publication. You must know your readers. But there’s more. A writer’s most important skill, however, is listening.

Why Listening Matters

Listening helps writers in a myriad of ways. First, it gives you the inside track on what people care about. Next time you’re at the bar or going shopping, listen to the conversations. What are people talking about? Is it the weather? Or is a local news story reaching out to them?

Listening allows you to feel the pulse of your world. You can read popular media’s explanations about what makes people tick. You’ll likely hear a different story though in the trenches. That is the story you want to get to know.

How Listening Helps Your Writing

For some writers, dialogue presents the greatest challenge. We sometimes have a hard time replicating how people actually talk. For instance, how many times to you say the name of the person you are talking to in conversation? I can’t remember the last time I said my husband’s name.

In normal conversation, we don’t address ourselves by name unless we’re trying to get someone’s attention. For my part, I use more affectionate terms like honey or dear. The later though, often comes up in moments of frustration.

And we don’t always finish our thoughts. When we’re talking to someone we know well, the thoughts finish themselves. Conversations also tend to bounce around a lot. We weave a convoluted path of topics with sketchy segue moments.

Ideas Abound

The added benefit of listening is the potential gold mine of ideas. Life throws out some wacky tales that often transcend imagination. Don’t knock it as the ultimate source of writing prompts.

It also helps to hear different types of people speak. We tend to stay in our comfort zone because it feels good. Taking time to listen opens your mind to other ideas. They can challenge your way of thinking and open new doors to thought.

Then, there are the characters. Sure, you can think up who your next villain may be. A walk around town with some time for listening can add some dimension to his back story. When you get outside of yourself, you can discover all kinds of new worlds. After all, everyone has a story.

Papa himself knew its importance.


When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
~Ernest Hemingway


http://mystery.weborglodge.com/By Chris DR

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