Monday, July 16, 2007

importance of quality conversation for writing

Fourth from What Do I Do Monday?" by John Hurt

A writer, therefore, needs a strong sense, awareness, not just of himself, but also of his listeners, readers. It follows from this that no one can write well who has not learned, and many times, what it is like to talk long and seriously to a trusted friend (or friends) about things deeply interesting to both of them. Such friends need not be of the same age; one such friend, when I was a boy, was an uncle.

What is vital is mutual trust, respect, and concern. To get or encourage good writing, we must start here. We must make schools and classrooms where there is plenty of time, and spaces large and small, and above all encouragement, for the civilized art of conversation, some public, in groups, much of it private. Edgar Freidenberg has often pointed out how in all but a few schools there are neither times nor places where students can legititimately be by themselves. This would be a bad mistake, if only for its effect on students' writing--and this is among the least of its bad effects.

How often do we shush our children? And not just the toddlers. How often does our frustration with our older children's interruptions to our own conversations lead us to snap at them or otherwise discourage their participation?

Maybe it is only me that stands guilty of this. How often have I excluded there participation in stimulating conversation? How often do I look askance at questions for more information?. How often have I considered it an invasion of privacy for them to enter into a conversation not originally including them?

And by doing so, what have I denied them?

The chance to think through their own ideas. The chance to explore them in an environment of mutual trust, respect, and concern.


Poodles Rule said...

Perhaps it is because I don't have children, and maybe I just don't know what to do with them, but I have had many stimulating conversations with friends kids. I guess I never learned to not speak with them like little adults and like "babies".

As I have watched my sister in law grow up (she is a sophomore in HS now) she told me that she always respected that I treated her like an equal and not like a "child". She is a very bright girl, who I hope to help deconvert one day... >:P

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

From what I can tell Fiery, you have pretty high contact ratio with your kids.

They joy poodles and myself can get from talking to friends children is, I think because we
don't have them around us all the time, we have more mental reserves we can bring to the discussion while yours will have been exhausted throughout the day.

I don't think you are the only one who "denies" their children meaningful conversation.


Poodles Rule said...

I agree Sean. If I had to be around a child most of the time, my experiences might be different. Also, as a parent you are probably trying to sheild them from your world. You need to be a parent, not a friend.

Fiery Ewok said...


You have made an excellent point. And looking back on my post it does rather give the impression I might be of the "children should be seen and not heard" variety, which most certainly is not the case.

Mental reserves. An insightful phrase.

And Poodles- you make a good point as well. For my own sanity, sometimes I need to have a portion of my life that isn't sole dedicated to my children.

Gramomster said...

Sean certainly makes a point about mental reserves. The more mundane crap that is running through my brain, the shorter I am with my kids.

Now that they are quite large, we often have long, deep meaningful conversations about all sorts of topics. We actually always have, but as they gain deeper perception, our conversations have gained depth.

My son, at 15, is one of the deepest people I've met. He's been like that since he was little, and it is really firming up in his teens.

But, I am their friend. Having them, and having had a friend/mom, I value beyond words being able to probe my kids' minds for a perspective I may have missed, and to have them do the same with me. I too have treated my own and other kids like thinking people, as Poodles describes with her sister in law... that is being their friend! Perhaps it is just my definition of 'friend' that makes me bristle a bit... easily could be.

I wrote about the friend/parent thing on my blog, if anybody's interested...

I love these discussions! I suspect, Fiery, that your kids have ample opportunity to engage in long, enlightening discussions, both with you and with others. And really, part of good conversation is knowing when input is inappropriate, as well as workable timing. It's not always the right time for a real 'talk'. I think it sounds like you are doing awesome with your kids.

And yeah... some peace of mind, and 'own space' as a sanity maintainer... absolutely necessary.

Where's that damn Applebee's?!?!

Fiery Ewok said...

The best Applebee's on the planet for food and fun is
106 26th St W
Williston, ND 58801

It's about a 9 hour drive from here. I do occassionally make do with the local Applebee's at
4900 13th Ave S,
Fargo, ND 58103

The food isn't quite as good, but the Strawberry Shortcake mixed drink was O-M-S-Goddess delicious. mmmmmmmmmm

Fiery Ewok said...

My two are both talkers. In fact, sometimes so much so that I have to apologize and say, "Look guys, Mommy's ears are full right now. No more new information can get through so I just need to take a break from listening. I'm going to go...X...and when I come back we'll talk some more."

I had to develop that idea or start bopping around the house like Daffy Duck losing his mind. Wahooo wahoo wahooo YIPEEEE!!!! WAHOOOO!!!! It kind of freaks the kids out, so I try not to do it.

Sean- the fact that you didn't have Looney Toones is a cultural travisty and we should remedy that. So- come over to my house next Friday and we'll show you what you've been missing!


Fiery Ewok said...

Both of my kids are getting to the stage where it is possible to have real conversations. Not just listen and nod while the blab on and on about whatever interests them at the moment. But an actual give and take, what do you think about, meaningful conversation.

If I were still keeping "baby calendars" it would have been something to make a note of. Mama Ewok went on and on about how interesting my daughter was to visit with. And about a month back in a restaurant, my mate and I were actually talking and laughing WITH my son instead of him just being there while we visit between us.

It is an amazing thing watching those two blossom into the people they will be when they grow up.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Very funny fiery Hahaha