I think the planets must not have aligned right last month. I got lots more phone calls than usual. Friends and family members alike were having problems. Not huge ones, but upsetting, frustrating crap. Stuff I couldn’t fix or help with. All they needed was to vent. And I was there to listen.
Venting is good. It’s healthy. It takes something that seems big at the moment and helps release what looms large into something easier to deal with. I believe in venting. Holding emotions in gives them more power than they deserve. And that’s where listening can help ease a burden. Occasionally, and thankfully it wasn’t true last week, something is so big, it’s too overwhelming, but if you can share it and have more shoulders bear the burden, it becomes tolerable.
That was my function last week. To listen. Just to be there. And it made me think about Jazzi, my amateur sleuth. One of the things she does best is to listen. In the book I’m writing now, The Body in the Beauty Shop, she tags along with Detective Gaff to meet the roommates of the girl who was killed. These girls are a little on the rough side. They clam up when Gaff tries to interview them, but they’re more than happy to share their grievances with Jazzi after she tells them her sister’s none too happy that Misty’s body was found in her beauty salon. They have something in common. Misty cheated all of them.
Amateur sleuths can’t make anyone talk to them, so they just need to be there and trigger a conversation, then listen. Years ago, when a friend and I attended one of our first conferences, she was so nervous, she wasn’t sure she could even attend all of the panels, so she asked me how she could feel more secure. The only advice I could think to give her was to be more interested in the people she met than she was about making a good first impression. I told her to ask them questions about themselves and their work, and then to listen. And that worked for her. It helped her to get out of her own head, her own fears. We had a great conference. There are many skills we develop to be better writers, but to listen is often underrated. But I think it helps.
Hope you have a good week. And happy writing!