As I have mentioned here before, my son was diagnosed with a “language delay” when he was about three. The delay was his in comprehension, meaning he did not appear to understand what was being said to him at the rate other boys and girls did. It is an unusual problem to have, and it was not until I began working with him that I saw how conversation is far more an act of listening than speaking. This is about more than mere politeness. Almost everything we say is in some way a response to what has already been said. One does not merely speak in a thought vacuum, but joins and expands upon the thoughts already in motion. All of life is in this way a conversation, as we expand and expand and expand upon what exists.
I believe my son spent his early years as if he had stumbled into a convention of theoretical physicists. Here one has a choice: either admit you don’t understand and ask for help, or pretend as if you do and hope you are not found out. Unfortunately, much as his father would have, he opted for the second approach.
This is a lonely and terrifying way to live, as if waking up every morning to a test for which you forgot to study, and explains much of his very odd behavior in those days. Gradually, he learned to listen and the behavior began to change. It was several years after helping Sawyer that I learned to see writing as listening and not talking. It was a far friendlier way to write. Better to add your flower to the tree of life than to try to build the whole business from nothing.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.