Who better to implore us to listen than Stephen Kuusisto, a writer who has experienced much of the world through four of the five senses? Steve, though blind since birth, uses rich imagery and visionary similes in his poetry and memoirs.
Steve’s guide dog, Nira, is trained in “intelligent disobedience,” that is, if she receives a command from him that does not correlate with safe action (e.g. he says “forward” and intends to walk into a street with oncoming traffic) she is taught to disobey. He mused how we, as writers, must practice a form of intelligent disobedience.
If we were to approach writing (and life!) with active ears and active listening, how much would we gain? Even the old motto for writers, “Show, don’t tell,” implies the visual. What about the scents, textures, tastes, and of course, the sounds?
I continue to recall his statement, “[I] stay still because I can hear…” It reminds me again of the absolute patience necessary to tell any story.
Steve posted his entire talk on his blog, Planet of the Blind: The Art of Listening.