Gentle listening — a tip for writers

Last week I heard writer Felicity McLean speak on a panel at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. She wrote Leisel Jones’ autobiography. (I know you can’t write someone else’s autobiography, but this was a panel on ghostwriting.)

Leisel planned a suicide attempt down to pricing the cost of a body bag and the cost of shipping it to Queensland from Spain, where she was going to do it. Ask how you talk to someone about that, Felicity used the phrase “gentle listening”.

Most of us who write for other people won’t touch on anything as delicate as that, but it was a reminder that good communication, when you’re writing on behalf of someone else, is about listening as much as writing.

(Forgive the sunglasses, but the sun was setting fiercely and if I turned the other way I was just a silhouette.)