Brenda Ueland On “Listening”

As creative people, we can get lost in being distracted by our own thoughts, listening to our voices as we talk to others, and by bombarding our brains with books and TV when we are bored. But we know, if we are having a hard time with the “doing” side, the creating side, then we need to focus on the in-flow- the in-flow of ideas, of seeing other art, of dreams, and most, importantly of inspiration.

It might help to learn how to listen because we’re quick to get distracted on what’s the loudest, most colorful, and most talked about people and things. Instead of being hyperactive, try to just be still, not worry about acquiring ideas and spending your time doing better things elsewhere.
Listening intently, you might find yourself in a world of ideas sparking you that you never saw in your mundane bedroom and building. 
Most importantly, the act of truly listening is both therapeutic and gives a chance to give whomever is being listened to (a friend or yourself) a chance to word all the muck and whiny surface level thoughts and finally reach that deep source where all the gold thoughts and inspirations are kept. Brenda Ueland says that when you can start listening, authentically, you “begin to hear not only what people are saying, but what they are trying to say, and you sense the whole truth about them.” Give up your self-assertiveness. Brenda Ueland says this: “I think it is only by expressing all that is inside that purer and purer streams come.”
You know that friend who tells the same story many times, or seems to only have very unoriginal, surface level comments? You keep trying to instigate conversation to spark something deeper out of them. Have you tried listening?

I know you may have thought of someone else immediately, but let’s say that friend is you, you keep finding yourself painting or writing things that are just whiny, surface level sludge. So stop pushing and wracking your brain out, just listen, uncritically to yourself, let yourself just write out every last piece of sludge, let yourself paint out every cliche, ugly, normal thing that crosses your mind and eventually it’ll all get cleared out because it finally got attention and not a critical mind that listens half-heartedly while they think of so many better things they could do.

We know when we are really, authentically being listened to. In Brenda Ueland’s article “Tell me more: on the fine art of listening,” she says that “listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.” Think about it, when you want to complain, do you go to the friend that is going to judge spill out everything they would do? Most often we go to the one who will sit relaxed, sipping on a tea, and just listen to everything with pure attention. Because often, we know exactly what we need to do, and once we get all the surface, bursting thoughts said, we access the deeper side of our mind, our wisdom. Often, we never needed someone else’s opinion in the first place, just a good friend to pour everything out and see the shimmer of creativity and truth at the bottom; our “creative fountain.”

Ueland says “if you hold back the dull things, you are certain to hold back what is clear and beautiful and true and lively.” So many of us have not been listened to in the right way and so our creative fountains are blocked, “no one has called out of [us], by wonderfully listening, what is true and alive.”  Listening means listening with such “complete, absorbed, uncritical sympathy, without one flaw of boredom or impatience.” Ueland says that boredom is actually death of love, pushing us to pick fights because “when feelings are hurt, [we] really begin to listen.” She says: “I have come to think listening is love, that’s what it really is.” I think we could all use at least a little bit.

This is next on my to-do:
If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland.


About drunk with magic

Bonjour! Je m’appelle Maya Joy. I am a recent graduate from the University of California: Santa Cruz. I currently reside in San Francisco, California, where I work, study and create collections of art works (among other things). I have great interest in writing, painting, drawing, reading, dancing, physics, Eastern thought, photography and more! If you have any questions feel free to email me at:
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2 Responses to Brenda Ueland On “Listening”

  1. Oooooh! Have you read the one I posted up there?

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