Listen!

by Nancy Casey

One thing everybody knows how to do is react. Sometimes we choose our reaction, and other times the reaction chooses us. Often the reaction is external—we say or do something. If the reaction is internal, we change ourselves psychologically.

What kind of a reaction is listening? You will explore that in your writing today by practicing listening and noticing what that is like.

Set up your page first. Draw a line at the top where the title will go. Then set aside a small space for writing. Draw a shape (a box, a circle, a blob) that’s only big enough to fit a sentence or two. The whole rest of the page is your drawing space.

Without saying anything, draw in your drawing space until it is filled up. If you draw without talking, you are listening.

What can you put in the background for yourself to hear? Some ideas:

  • A recorded voice that is talking (or perhaps singing.) Such as a podcast, the news, a comedian, an audiobook, a playlist.
  • A friend who wants to share some thoughts. Make sure your friend understands the exercise you are doing. You can also trade places and do the exercise again so that you are the talker and your friend is the listener.
  • Instrumental music, the world outdoors, the non-silence of a silent room. As you do this type of listening, you might also begin to hear the sounds of your own thoughts.

The important thing about the drawing part is to keep your hand moving. It doesn’t matter what the drawing looks like because it is a picture of your listening.

Maybe you enjoy drawing and will dive into this task with delight. If filling a page with drawing feels daunting to you, here are some ideas:

  • Color the whole page one solid color. That counts.  Watch the color grow.  You’ll be listening.
  • Copy or trace a picture. Color it if you want. Make the same picture over and over again.
  • Scribble and doodle. Make dots, circles, or spirals. See how close you can draw lines next to each other without touching.
  • Try one thing, then move to another spot on the page and try something else.

Don’t evaluate your drawing as a drawing. Just draw. Keep the pen, crayon, pencil (or whatever is in your hand) moving. Who knows, you might decide to fingerpaint!

When you have completely filled the drawing space (and not before!) write down one thought in the writing space. Whatever thought comes to mind at the end of your drawing/listening session. Don’t plan it. Don’t overanalyze it. You don’t have to report on what you “heard.” Just write something down. It’s merely a thought that arose out of your listening.

When you have finished, take a good look at the whole page. Notice how big the listening part is compared to the words you wrote. Is there anything interesting about that?  Some people listen better (hear more) when they doodle.  Are you one of them?

If you practice listening, you learn about what it is like to listen to yourself, others and the world around you. And you can choose it as a reaction to any situation.

Don’t forget to give your work a title and write the date on it, too.

Here is one example of what someone’s page could look like. But everybody’s page will be different.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. It’s probably best to comment with a photo that shows all your work.  You could also simply type in the short text that you wrote.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. She occasionally teaches a Write-For-You class at the Recovery Center and offers free online writing coaching for people in recovery. For information  contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center.

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