Terry Tempest Williams: On Writing as an Act of Living | Brevity


is one of my most admired writers. Her essay Why I Write, inspired me to revisit and reflect on my own inner reasons as to Why I write. It has taken me many years to find the balance between my adult academic voice and the creative voice I loved so much as a child. To negotiate the tensions and the slipperiness between scientific fact, and creative nonfiction. This is something, I think I will always be negotiating.

Terry’s words are helping me to do this.

Inspired by her craft, I now use her essay in my management classes to help young people not only to improve their , but to start to unpick their inner most thoughts as to “why I create”. By getting in touch with our why, to lay it bare, to pull it open and mediate in its inner most crevices and to not let it go, helps a creative soul to not lose their way in this often complex and creatively unforgiving world we live.

Today I read a recent interview with Terry about her memoir, When Women Were Birds, published in Brevity. As I read half way down the page, I came to stop at her discussion on and its difference to . Her words are poetic. They are also much need in this world where many of us have stopped with our entire selves, and reflecting. Or maybe, we have never learnt how.

Here is an extract from her interview,

You were listening to your mother through the empty pages. Can you define this type of listening?

Recently in The New York Times there was an article discussing the differences between “hearing” and “listening.” Listening engages the entire body and enlivens the brain. We are more creative and energized when we truly listen with our whole being. To simply hear something is to have it register as a noise without delineation. To hear something asks very little of us. To listen places our entire being on notice. We are aroused with a desire and capacity to learn something new and as a result, we have the capacity to change, evolve.

via On Writing as an Act of Living: An Interview with Terry Tempest Williams | Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction.

Image source: Brooks, Elbridge Streeter (1897) The Century Book of the American Revolution. Century Co.: New York.

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