Shhh…Writing is Silent Telling: Reading is Solitary Listening
Losing a Job is not Like Misplacing Your Keys
Three years ago, I lost my job. That sounds as if I was careless and misplaced it like keys or something.
As if I was going to run around in frantic circles, or reflect on the last place I saw them, and then magically, I would find my job again. Jobs, unlike keys, are not just hanging somewhere, misplaced.
My job, after more than 20 years ended, and I felt lost and stifled. There, that is accurate. Still, however, I phrase it - misplacing, losing, or not having a job prompted me to look at other ways to advocate, encourage and talk about the benefits of recovery. Writing could be a continuation of helping women at the recovery home.
I had opened and run a women’s recovery home and had learned to listen, and learned to write. I found that writing something served several purposes. One, to make sure that the writing reinforced what I was saying, as I could not guarantee that I had given the information to each woman verbally.
It is rather like teaching; you have heard yourself say the same thing so many times that it's hard to keep track of who you've said something to in your mind.
Writing on the other hand guaranteed that even if I missed telling someone or phrased it slightly differently; the underlying message was in their Personal Discovery Guides. The other self-serving motive was that I knew I could reference it should I need it for groups, or to avoid an argument if someone said, “You never told me that.”
Silent Telling: Diminishing the Shame and Defensiveness
Reading about addiction reduced much of the shame as the women soon realized that I was writing about my personal struggles, how I had harmed others and the benefits of recovery.
Even when I referenced my self-defeating behaviors in group, some women only heard another condemnation of their actions.
Addiction carries so much shame and guilt that pointing out what needed to change verbally meant that many women understood this as merely an attack. They could not listen to or sometimes hear the similarities in my life and theirs if I told them. They could not listen to the hope that I had for their changes and a new life because they got defensive.
However, they could hear my message of recovery, redemption, and renewal when they read my guides. They heard, felt or saw the truth of my life before and the changes to that way of living.
When we would meet to discuss their interpretation of the guide, I listened. “Listening is a gift of spiritual significance that you can learn to give to others. When you listen, you give one a sense of importance, hope, and love that he or she may not receive any other way. Through listening, we nurture and validate the feelings one has, especially when he or she experiences difficulties in life.” ― H. Norman Wright
When people no longer feel attacked, because they are relating to the words of another, it is easier to acknowledge their struggles. When they read about the experiences, dashed dreams and the demons in the night, it is comforting and validating that someone else has experienced the same situations.
When I reflected on what I missed the most from the house closing, I remembered the listening. I could listen when I read the comments; reading about fears, courage, guilt and sometimes answer a question about changing. Addiction is lonely; healing from addictions are shared.
Sharing the Pain and Promise
I questioned whether my writing would help a larger audience. I took a gamble and showed my Personal Discovery Guides to a friend, a published author of a book of poetry. Not an easy genre to write and not my style, however, I could learn from someone who does write good, published poetry - if I listened.
I tentatively gave my works to him to review and edit. He knew my fears of turning the writing over to someone to edit. However, editing is like believing you have a lovely tulip patch, full and rich with color, all standing erect and reflecting your care. The editor knows that there are hidden bulbs of wisdom just under the surface. They prune, cull, and ask you to elaborate on a word a phrase or a concept.
I learned that each word counted. I could not correct an impression in a group. What I had written was what the reader got. He took those early writings, edited and gave me what I wanted; stories of the pain and the promise.
Do you have someone review your articles before you publish them?
Finding an Outlet for the Stories
With the house closed, and my work edited, I reflected on how much I missed hearing about the pain of addiction and the promise of recovery. After twenty-one years of listening and talking; hearing and advising; surrounded most days by as many as seventeen women in various stages of recovery, my world became almost silent.
This same friend wrote for several sites, earned an excellent monthly wage as a content writer, created a blog and in general got his message to people.
He suggested that I write from my personal experience on sites like LinkedIn, joining groups about addiction. Testing the waters; seeing if I made sense to those in the field; listening to their responses to my words.
When I read the feedback, although positive, I knew that I was preaching to the choir as we say in the south. They too understood the untold misery of addiction and the rich rewards of recovery. So could there be other avenues and opportunities to write about recovery? Several publications approached me about writing articles. I was appreciative of these outlets, yet the audience was already familiar with the subject.
Hub Pages and then Wikinut were opportunities to share the lessons; often to those who did not label themselves as addicts but had been harmed by people like me.
Do You Write for Other Sites besides HubPages?
Do Not Judge the Opportunity
Do I care that I am “only” writing articles for particular sites? Do I care that only certain magazines have picked up my articles? Do I care how often an article is retweeted? Do I care that the message is free if an ad is not clicked?
Is my ego deflated when it only gets X number of views a day? Do I wish to make more money for these articles? On some days, I fall victim to these internal traps.
On other days, I recognize, internalize and listen, and what I know and remember are two inspirational writing and life quotes:
“Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
“It doesn't matter how obscure or arcane or esoteric your place of publication may be: some sweet law ensures that the person who should be scrutinizing your work eventually does do so.” ― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir
Do you respond to all of the comments on your page?
Listen to the Responses
Reading comments was not the same as a conversation in person; however, I could reflect and listen to the reader’s response to the article.
I found readers from around the world who struggled with addictions and found comfort in the articles. I know that they took their time to leave a comment, and I took my time to reflect before I gave a response.
Too often in regular conversations, we are often thinking about our response while the other person is talking, not listening, just waiting to interject our thoughts, opinions or ideas.
Having to read all of the comments expanded my concept of conversations, telling and listening.
I have found that missing key; misplaced for a while when I thought it only had one door, the recovery house. When I changed my focus and perspective, I realized I had other opportunities. When I reflected on Marcel Proust, "...the writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen himself", I know that the format does not matter. The writing and telling, and the reading and the listening will reach those who need it.
My good fortune was that the writing opened other doors; other vistas to spread the word of recovery and listen to the voices of those who were changing, growing and becoming their better selves in recovery.
“Where the rivers meet
you tell me of your black dreams.
Your memories make me uneasy.
But I listen because I know
my listening, like all other listening
allows you to heal.” ― Holly Payne, The Sound of Blue: A Novel
© 2013 Marilyn L Davis