The Art of Listening

I've been a writer and editor for a number of years now, and in that time I've been called all manner of names (in a good way, of course!). So far I've been a Writer, a Technical Writer, a Bid Writer and a Copywriter (while definitely doing Bid Writing), as well as a Copyeditor and a Proofreader – but what's in a name anyway?

Actually, I think a lot of it comes down to the industry you're in. I've generally worked with construction, engineering and tech-based firms, and a lot of the time that work comes down to translating complex – or in some cases 'dry' – themes and terminology into easy-to-read copy (I'll come back to that word again in a later entry!). Is this different from the skill-set needed to write a lively strapline, or adapt your language to a company brand and voice? I'm not sure – I've been able to adapt pretty well to all of these, because I think at the root of them all is the ability to 'listen and convey'.

I'm going to shoehorn my martial arts obsession into my blogs early, but stay with me. In Tai Chi, we talk about 'jin', or energy. Tai Chi is an internal martial art, so the energies cultivated are to do with the will and the mind, rather than generating brute force. When we work with a partner, we talk about developing 'listening energy' as a kind of heightened sensitivity to your partner's movements. You use your mind and body to listen, rather than just your ears – then you send back your response.

I think of writing and editing in the same way – you listen with your mind (and intuition) to what needs to be conveyed (writing) or what is already being conveyed (editing), and, having heard, you stay as close to the voice, tone and meaning as possible.