I’ve recently started a job where I have to commute about a half hour, to and from, every day. Before, when my only job was to go to class five minutes from my apartment, a commute seemed like a cool idea. Like a break, almost. An hour each day of doing absolutely nothing but shuffling from A to B.
Of course, it’s getting old fast. I’ve discovered just exactly how strange the shuffle on my ipod is. I started doing that really depressing thing where you add up all the hours of your life spent doing one thing, like sleeping, or, in this case, listening to dumb music and deciding where to stop for coffee.
When I added up how many hours of my summer this was going to take, it was a lot (over two days). Normally I wouldn’t care. Zoning out is something I consider, ranked among other things, failr worthwile. But I decided I wanted to change, so I started listening to things.
I’ve listened to news podcasts, interviews, stories, books. And I really, really like it.
Listening is so much different than reading. I think that’s why reading poetry is so nice sometimes—because it’s kind of like a mixture of listening and reading. Certain sentences in poetry, that you read but hear so vividly in your head, will stick with you longer than the most meaningful prose sentence.
And some characters just need to be listened to. The best written dialogue can even better spoken out loud. The most interesting author can have an even stranger twist when you listen to them interviewed—when you hear their voice, their pauses, their enunciations.
There is something about listening that is important, something about the way people talk, rather than write, that adds to a story. I’m glad I started listening on my commute. I think sometimes writers and readers, we get too caught up in the text and stature of it all, too impressed with hard covers and highlighting.
So I’ve decided to leave that behind for 50 hours this summer. To listen.