An ordained Zen monk, teacher, and writer, Gail Sher believes that listening is both a touchstone spiritual practice and a key to creativity. In One Continuous Mistake, she focused on the "four noble truths for writers." This masterful paperback filled with colorful anecdotes and juicy quotations is divided into four sections: listening to oneself, listening to the world, listening to words, and process exercises for writing regularly.
Composer/performer Philip Glass once observed: "The problem with listening, of course, is that we don't. There's too much noise going on in our heads, so we never hear anything." The challenge for the writer is to develop what Sher calls "the imagining ear." The author lifts up 12 aspects of this process: non-aggression; creating gaps; surrender; compassion; favoring the ineffable; precision detail; rapt attention; non-discrimination; bowing; composure, grace, and decorum; austerity; and authenticity.
Throughout the paperback, Sher includes helpful exercises on hearing life authentically. We liked the idea of finding a word that has perished (Sher calls it an endangered species word) and resuscitating it. We also agree with her contention that quality listening arouses openness and gratitude, two more spiritual practices that serve writers well.
"Listening is the meeting point of souls," Sher notes. This handy paperback contains tasty illustrative material from choreographer George Balanchine, painter Harlen Hubbard, monk Thomas Merton, Zen master George Aitken, and many others. One quote is from Les Kaye: "If we create a trace in someone's mind because of what we say or do, that trace may last for a lifetime." The traces this volume will leave in your mind are substantial, so check it out soon!