Let Them Overhear

Writing is a way of letting others overhear your life.

But, strangely, the verb overhear means to hear without the speaker’s knowledge or intention. So you’re writing (or speaking) as if the audience doesn’t actually exist. If you think about it more, overhearing connotes a kind of accidental stumbling upon a conversation you weren’t supposed to even know about.

This means that when you write, it’s so authentic and so raw that it’s not crafted to please a certain audience. It has no intention other than as a pure expression of what you’re thinking about or experiencing. As a teacher of rhetoric–where every lesson is about audience and strategy and how you’re coming off to an audience–this idea reverses or contradicts most of what I teach.

So I’m still thinking about it. I sit here in the irony that writing without the audience in mind pleases the audience, so write to please the audience.

Arriving at this place of authentic and disinterested expression, the kind devoid of manipulation or even strategy, seems more loving and more rewarding for readers somehow because it’s honest. Really honest.

In whatever we do–writing or other art forms–I pray we do it honestly and authentically in 2015 as folks overhear our lives. If our audiences influence too much of what we write, perhaps they are too near. Let them step away and accidentally overhear.


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