Listening across the border

 In The Writing Process, This Is How It Is Anthology

It’s a topical issue in the world – who do we allow to cross our borders? What entry criteria determine our choices?

We face exactly those dilemmas when reading and listening to others’ life stories.

Where differences jostle up beside us in an anthology that includes a diversity of styles and content, how might we respond? We have been trained to maintain borders, to keep company with the familiar, with ‘people like us’ and to develop the part of the brain that measures, judges and separates. The voices we allow in are too often those that soothe and reassure us,that align with what we believe to be ‘right’.

Voices that are different might interest us, even excite us by their uniqueness. But there are more  we might dismiss because they make us uncomfortable, or they speak in a voice that we don’t immediately recognise. They have lived lives that are foreign to our education and experience, they express themselves in ways that are strange, naïve or even shocking to our sensibilities.

There is however, another part of the brain, one that has an open border policy, that is curious and inclusive, that lets in the strange and challenging, that wants to incorporate difference and learn from encounters with alternative ways of listening, reading and seeing.

Perhaps, when hearing or reading another person’s story, if we are not too quick to judge or find fault, we might experience a meeting of curious hearts. Both writers and readers might stand at the threshold of what we usually allow to enter, we might have an encounter that encourages more compassionate ways to live together.

Of course, we need to have boundaries and be discerning, but at the Life Righting Collective, we want that to be  helpful, not  harmful. In publishing life stories, we do have criteria. Anyone can learn these pointers, however. It’s what the editing part of the course is about, after the free-fall of words onto the page.

Our criteria for inclusion for publishing are:

  1. Does the writer take the reader into the story (inviting the reader across the border and into the heart home of their story)? Can we feel, see, smell, touch and hear what is going on?
  2. Does the story ring bravely and honestly? Does it show vulnerability, allowing the reader’s heart to be opened?
  3. Does the story show what went on, letting the reader make up their own mind about what happened? Or does the writer tell the reader what to think?
  4. Does the way that the story is written enhance what the story is about through experimenting with form or language?
  5. Does the story reveal something new or important about our collective humanity?

Please consider submitting your story if you have completed a life writing course with the LRC. We are a small but enthusiastic band that can publish one to two stories a week online, which is why we urgently need funding to enable this service to writers to continue.

Please read these stories with an open and curious heart. Through deep listening to each other’s stories beyond our own internal borders, we can learn to care.

Image by Couleur courtesy of Pixabay

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