" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

March 14, 2012

Pull Up a Chair and Really Listen

Outside a restaurant in Steveston, BC

How many times have you left a conversation wondering, what exactly did she mean by that? Is what I think he meant, really what he meant or am I completely misinterpreting that? Am I projecting? It's so easy to be so passive, to never think critically and like a sponge move through your days, as if you're watching TV, without really knowing if what you thought you understood is what someone else was actually trying to communicate or if it went right over your head (maybe like this blog post is doing right now for you?) 

And, that brings me to the small-group workshops that are a part of the SFU Writer's Studio. In my group - every second Tuesday, 10 of us gather around a table in a very small room downtown. When it's our turn for one of our pieces to be work-shopped, we receive the luxury of receiving both verbal feedback and then, in writing, from 9 other people to take home and keep. A first draft of creativity, handed back with our fellow classmates' impressions, opinions, feedback, corrections and philosophical musings. It's quite a luxury.  

And, then you take those home and put them in a drawer and pull them out a few weeks later after you've mulled over how you want to change what you've written or you want to completely revise. You could even choose to go back to the person and ask them for a more thorough explanation of their comments if you want really want to.

Your assumptions get reflected back to you. You get to see if you're being gender biased or if because of your age you're making statements that nobody under 30 would understand.  You get to see how people are reacting to your writing. You get to see how a character or a story that you feel you've explained completely is confusing your readers or leaving them wanting a lot more. Too many colloquialisms? You actually end up learning quite a bit about yourself. You get glimpses into where you might be stuck, your natural tendencies in approaching how you tell your stories and how you might consider challenging or experimenting with those. You get to see where your fellow writers unanimously agree or disagree and you have to go inside, use your intuition, for where the comments are at direct odds. You learn what's weak and what's strong and whether you're leaving them confused or making them think or getting across your message in exactly the way you intended to.

When we go around the table and the person giving feedback has their 5 minutes to speak, it's as if they hold the talking stick. Nobody else gets to interrupt or speak. We're all listening. 

Where else in our world do you get to be in a group of  people, listen, and have all the information that's streaming out of each one of them, as they take their turns, be directed towards a creation that you've pulled out of your imagination or your personal history? 

Better than group therapy!


harriet glynn said...

Amazing and intimidating I would think. But it's true, we rarely listen to a living, breathing person for five minutes do we? Sounds like the course is suiting you well!

Gayle Mavor said...

Harriet, Yes, I'm loving it. A great group and exactly where I should be right now I think.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous insight. I should take this piece to my book club!!!! There are about 3 people who "hold the floor" constantly! I am one who rarely speaks - this, I tell myself, is because I am waiting for a slight gap in the talking - an opportunity, I suppose - and am not willling to interrupt. Perhaps I should change my approach ….