“I didn’t really hear a thing you said.”

I read more of Peter Elbow’s 25th edition of Writing without Teachers this evening, at my hair stylists.  As I read his chapter on the teacherless writing class I had to go ask for a pen to underline some pointed, provocative sentences while the color worked over my gray.  The first was:

“Do you want to learn how to write or protect your feelings?”  p.78

The next underline is something I’ve learned by experience as a teacher, however, Peter Elbow says it so well and lets me take it for my own process:

“Learning to write is an exercise in slow, underground learning.”  p.84

In the section he subtitles Never quarrel with someone else’s reaction, Elbow writes, “Your only chance of trying to sharpen your eyesight is to take seriously his seeming craziness and try to see what he sees.”

I was reading at the bar in the bistro after I walked back from the hair stylist.  Again, I went to the cashier and asked to borrow a pencil to underline this:

“Everyone walks around mostly out of communication with everyone else.  Someone has turned off the sound, cut the wires.  It’s all fog and silence.  If we really said what we were feeling in many situations, it would be, ‘Did you say something?  I thought maybe I saw your mouth moving, but I wasn’t sure.  I guess you did look sort of worked. up.'”

Funny and true. I want to gather 6 or 8 people together who will commit to 10 weeks and write weekly and seriously try this listening and feedback approach that Elbow describes and has revised so beautifully.  This chance to learn by knowing, understanding how different people are reacting to my words.  I’ve tasted it in summer institutes.  More!

I am sharing his quotes for my blog readers, without my racing thoughts and commentary for the moment.  I smile at how I’d take a bite of steak, a sip of zin and then grab the book for the next thought…hungrier for the read.

4 thoughts on ““I didn’t really hear a thing you said.””

  1. Those quotes resonate with me. I had not heard of Peter Elbow before your post. I think I might just order Writing without Teachers. Thanks for your inspiration.

  2. When I’m reading I do not hear a thing anyone says. For some reason my husband thinks my ears still work, but they don’t when my mind is engaged in other activities. I hope you can find your group to work with this summer.

  3. This sounds like an interesting read. I love how you described reading it while getting your hair colored. That’s a great time to catch up on reading. I love when lines from a text grab you and make you pause and think.

  4. Peter Elbow is one of my favorites and thanks for your reading journey with his great one and that you shared it with us. Too bad I didn’t share more of him with my students in the early days.

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