A Willing Listener

I always end my interviews by asking the writers with whom I’m speaking what advice they would give to a less experienced writer. While this is by far the most generic of all the questions I ask, and is in fact the one question that has remained essentially unchanged since Author’s very first interview, I still find the answers as compelling as ever. For although the writers appear to be entering teacher mode, appear to be speaking from a pinnacle – however high – of wisdom and experience, this moment is often the most intimate and personal of the entire interview. With few exceptions, the writers are talking to themselves. The advice they give are the lessons they needed to learn to find themselves in the chair across from me. The advice they give are often lessons they themselves must continue to learn, and in that moment they become both parent and child, speaking backwards and with love to that part of themselves perhaps still not convinced that he or she has arrived at a destination that had once seemed unreachable.

I wish everyone in the world could be given a chance to be interviewed in this way. I wish this for the same reason that I know everyone has an interesting story to tell. Whether you grew up on the streets of Bombay or the suburbs of Philadelphia, you have an interesting story to tell. Not everyone, however, is ready to tell that story. Not everyone is convinced yet that their story is different enough, or exciting enough, or dramatic enough, or heartbreaking enough, or triumphant enough to bother sharing with another person.

Which is why my success as an interviewer will always depend on my willingness to listen without judgment. Everyone has their fears, even bestselling writers, and the open space offered by the attentive listener is the friendliest platform from which to speak. Sometimes it takes only one wiling listener for a voice to feel heard. Sometimes, as on the page, the one listening and speaking are one in the same.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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