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It doesn't matter what you say. It matters what they hear.

posted Sep 4, 2016, 11:56 AM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Nov 10, 2016, 10:34 AM ]

It doesn't matter what you say. It matters what they hear.

I introduced my idea for a writer’s room. It doesn’t exactly fit in with what was originally thought up and it takes a while to relay what it is exactly that I’m thinking—after all, why would a writer need a room, I mean other than whatever one they are in at any given moment? They can write anywhere, can’t they? They don’t need any special light, or tools, or ovens to bake their ideas in. 

Speaking of baking, I had heard the word “incubator” used to describe this new-found space which implies a certain amount of sitting and waiting and the hatching of eggs or ideas. But perhaps what they said or meant to say was not “incubator” but rather “demonstrator”. Demonstrating is much more dynamic, while incubating can take a while and if you have ever stopped to watch those chicks hatch at The Museum of Science only to see absolutely nothing happen, well, you know what I’m talking about. So, I don’t blame them, it’s understandable to see the value in incubating and yet not want to stand around and patiently wait for eggs that may or may not hatch any time soon, while around the corner there could be something much more interesting to watch being demonstrated. 

Oh words, why must you confuse us? Walking away I realize what seemed like something straightforward is not to anybody but me. I do not leave empty-handed though. I will have to demonstrate before I can incubate without any guarantee of actually incubating. And, although that is not what I was hoping, as we writers just love to incubate in our quiet and crisp shells, that is what I will do. I will throw myself into demonstrating until I’m weak in the knees. Hopefully it will gain me just enough traction that upon seeing my knees weak I will be invited to just sit a while. Here is more on that if you can stand it:

So, I have an idea. I want to tell you about it. I can see my idea. I know what my idea  sounds like. It’s quiet and muffled, sort of like cars driving by when there’s snow on the ground. It’s calm and peaceful except for some books being thumbed through and the sing-song tapping of fingertips on keyboard. I can practically smell the coffee brewing around the corner as it’s been left on the burner for too long. People are writing. They are writing on their own, but together. There is an unspoken hope in the air that the words spilling onto a page or up on a screen are akin to paint on a canvas or the perfectly sculpted foot of a soft clay bowl on its way to the kiln. The art of writing, I have to admit, is so much cleaner and almost too clean—starched, perhaps to a fault and at the risk of being looked over as “not-art” when all things art come calling for input. Not even so much as a smear of flour across the cheek like the baker of artisan breads could attain if he wanted to. There’s just a pen, pencil or keyboard and then the white rectangle that serves to contrast. I guess it is boring to watch and so we writers curl up into a ball on the couch, arch over a desk, or scribble something onto a napkin hiding it from the rest of the world.

You will not walk around our houses and see various 8” x 11” rectangles of white hanging to display what we were doing all that time. Not even the refrigerator acts as a display at this point in our lives. Often times the words we craft go into a pile or under something readily available lest somebody stumble by or happen upon our transcribed thoughts—our unedited musings. The picture we just painted with words often remains in a notebook among other lost or hidden works. The works remain and so do we—hidden, even from each other. I would like to change that if even for just a few. 

I’ve always imagined that there once were days when writers gathered and talked at length through puffs from long cigarettes of what they were working on, the magic of the written word and how it can transform us and our minds. There just had to be something akin to a silicon valley, but instead of OMG and letters to represent whole sentences there was all the long-form and flowery language a person could handle. I envision these lovers of language gathering at some glorious estate and reading their writing. Some throw back their heads with raucous laughter while others make ready their cloth handkerchief to dab the corners of their eyes before they sweep away dramatically out of the room not wanting to show how a piece may have moved them. 

Alas, here we are in the present day. Despite all the varied medium through which we convey art and ideas I still can’t help but appreciate the power of the pen and how through the test of time it remains all-the-more-mightier than the sword. Still our art is not hung in galleries. It requires a talking head. I suppose Siri could do it for us if we really wanted her too, but no doubt she would sound too monotone in her digital-borne voice and not rise or bellow when need be to make tingles shoot up spines and some sort of fizziness inside rise until it reaches the eyes where it holds, holds, holds . . . steady. 

And so I try to talk fast and paint a picture of my idea with words, but it’s hard because I am painting over a picture already formed in a mind. I am not merely throwing brushstrokes on clean, white canvas. I have to work with the colors already there and tinkering with what may be the listener’s favorite part of the picture. I didn’t know. I don’t know. And neither do you. You only know what you have said and have no control over what I have heard. I paint with a different palate than you and so we try to step back and look anew. We try to see what colors we have in common and what parts of the painting are still under consideration and so could benefit from new paint. It’s hard painting one picture with two different palates and from two different points of view, but my—it is a thing of beauty to see when it can be done. Collaboration and unavoidable frustration can yield to understanding and a wholly fulfilling swell of appreciation. 

We know what we have said. Now, we must try to hear what the other has heard and it is so very interesting—eye-opening. We step back, we look up, and we try to imagine. We don’t think too hard, though, because time will tell. It always does. 

We must be patient.