Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Slice of Life: The Lessons of Silence

   It's Tuesday, and Tuesdays are for slicing.  Anyone is welcome to join us through Two Writing Teachers, slicing, sharing, and commenting on other slices! 


For weeks, I've both dreaded and looked forward to the Writing Institute from Teachers College Reading and Writing Institute. Four days of 7 hour zoom sessions is a lot. Today was Day 1. At the opening welcome, Lucy Caulkins greeted all of the participants, and part of her challenge was to think of a story from our own lives, one that happened to us, one that was maybe bad. Tell the story across our fingers. Make it better by thinking about the weather and incorporating details about the weather as we told it. 

Later in the day, our session leader asked us to revisit the same story. Do some oral rehearsal, envision it, use a video she shared as a mentor. Tell the story out loud in a breakout room to people we'd met that morning. 

In the breakout room, I listened to the other participant's stories. I commented. I let them know that I was glad and relieved they were okay. And then I shared my own story. 

My story wasn't one I'd written ever before, and it was more emotional for me than maybe the other participants--or even myself-- realized. Raw with the proximity of Father's Day and acutely aware of my own father's absence, I shared the story of our ill-fated sailing adventure together. I wove in the details of the weather, and I dug into the emotions of the day when our boat tipped, and I as a seven year-old, was scared beyond the point of rational behavior. My oral rendition had emotion, elaboration, and a greater meaning than the importance of swimming underwater even when a life jacket prevents you from doing that. But when I finished, the other two people in the breakout room said nothing. 


Not one thing. 

Not a comment of wow, our stories were similar. (They were.) Not a comment of wow, I'm sorry about your dad. Not a comment of wow, you tried out some craft moves and I noticed them... 


A silent breakout room. 

I like the story I told, and I may even write it down. I may work on it and polish it and revise it and share it again with people I trust and respect as writers. 

I also appreciate the realization I had, not for the first time, probably not even for the hundredth time, that writers thrive on reactions and feedback. I so wanted them to say something-- anything-- about some element of my story, be it the content, the craft, the potential next steps... anything! 

Sometimes, I learn the most from silence. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow. The absence of something can really highlight how important it is. I'm so sorry that you didn't receive any feedback after sharing such an emotional story. I'd be curious to see if these same writers would respond the same way (or rather, choose not to respond) by the end of the week in this workshop. Hopefully they have opportunities across the week to experience/learn the value of feedback in building writing communities.