Apparently, Mercury the Messenger is visiting - and that guy just never knows when to shut up.
First, I don't know how this Rick Levine guy keeps getting this stuff right, but he's amazing. Second, yeah - I said more today to Meredith and Andrew about my business and ideas than I've said to anybody but Bruce in the past year. Heck, maybe ever. This was a total of about 10 minutes. "My head is exploding," I told Andrew. "I hardly know where to put all this stuff."
The main reason I've always written is that if I were confined exclusively to what I could say verbally to others, I'd communicate little. I'd never say what I really thought. When I was young, I was painfully shy. I was also discouraged from expressing my opinion at home. I also grew up in a home and among a larger extended family where only a few people listened -- it was nothing personal. It was simply the way things were.
At the ConDor convention this past weekend, I was reminded once again of this. I vividly recall a notable dinner at Denvention in 2007 - the World Science Fiction Convention - at which I attended a large dinner with Alan Rodgers, Russell Davis, and a pretty big group of other writers and industry professionals. I remember sitting at the end of this long table across from Russell and beside Alan. Russell's a very thoughtful and careful-spoken guy. Alan was hardly motor-mouth himself, but after years in the NY publishing industry, had developed tactics to make himself heard. He often said, "When I want people to listen, I just speak more and more quietly."
Not so around this table! Of course we'd gone to where Alan wanted to eat -- a Brazilian barbecue. This is a great type of place for socializing and good times.
Ah, and it was like convention of the barnyard animals in more ways than one. Braying, bleating, honking.
When someone started grabbing food before others got a chance, I thought - "That's it! I can't believe this!" Russell and Alan were both nonplussed at the rambunctiousness. I doubt whether Russell and I got more than three words in edgewise all evening. And he was the new SFWA President, I the new SFWA Treasurer. It wasn't like we were, oh, Thialfi the Goat Boy or anybody like that.
Now that I'm melding my non-profit, teaching, business development and writing careers, I realize.
I've never known a successful entrepreneur or truly successful executive who did not know it was better to listen than speak. I've never known a great salesperson who also did not know this simple fact. Nor have I ever known a great teacher who was inclined to go on for hours about him or her self, scarcely remembering student names.
This past weekend I visited with a number of writers, including newer and aspiring ones and well-established writers. Almost to a person, with a few notable exceptions, the quality of writer was in direct relationship to the carefulness of speech and ability to listen. For example, many people know how quiet Vernor Vinge is. Well - and that's how good a writer he is as well. There are many people I talked with who haven't a clue about what I'm doing with Chameleon, nor how different it is from other models in the industry. And perhaps, they never will know.
I've seen many times in the classroom that it is often the quiet student in the back of the room who is thinking the most deeply, and who has the most to contribute. Over time, in a strong classroom, this student can develop confidence and respond more freely and openly.
Of course I'm not "motor-mouth." But just as in a poorly-run classroom, the world is such that any time anyone but the motor-mouth speaks up or speaks out, he or she is well-prepared with tactics to keep that voice endlessly blaring, uninterrupted. Oh I suppose there are a few interruptions here and there. To, like, grab somebody else's food.
This is how I am discerning now. Those who listen are those who will thrive. Those who must talk and cannot listen? Will not.