Some days I spend hours on the phone.
Like, dial a phone number. Hear the ringing. Wait for the person on the other end to pick up. I make calls from a landline – remember those?! We still have a landline so there’s always a phone home with the kids, but it’s also because I’ve got a love for talking on a good, old-fashioned phone. The raised numbers, the clunk of the cordless phone body. It all makes me feel good.
When’s the last time you spoke on the phone with someone? Texting is really, awesome; don’t get me wrong. I think it has strengthened some of my communicating abilities with certain folks. I will admit that texting is easier than speaking at times, and I do fall into the statistic of semi-avoidance via texting. On the other hand, I send so many short, sweet ‘thinking of you’ and/or ‘love you’ texts that fill me with bursts of love and joy as I give them…and it always happens that I get them – and that fills me up more. Sexting is extremely great. (With words, people. Pictures are dangerous!)
The thing is there are people I love who don’t live near me. And sending an email or texting is nice, but it’s not often enough of a connection. I hand-write loads of letters, and this feels mighty fine as well (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love getting mail!), but still…I want to hear a voice. I want to taste the emotion that only a voice can give. So I’ve made it a point to make actual phone call dates with people I love.
I call writers. Writer friends who I’ve met at conferences or through friends. I call writers and we talk about writing. We are very serious about these phone dates. We are clear about the amount of time we have, about who’s calling who(m), and what we’re going to talk about. It’s work. But it’s wonderful work!
Sometimes, because technology is as savvy as it is, we can talk through Skype – and choose if we want to just use our voices or if we want to use our computer cameras and THEN WE CAN SEE EACH OTHER TOO. Hog dawg! It’s pretty freaking awesome. And it’s FREE, YO.
We mean business though. I look forward to the conversations because they give me an outlet to talk about writing with other writers who are facing the same writerly situations. We talk about grants and rejections. Writing process and retreats. We dream aloud about the perfect place to write or we discuss books we’re reading and how the books affect us. Sometimes, we veer away from the subject of writing and talk about life – about making money or not, about our kids, about the state of the house (typically messy!), and about how we’re feeling about general things.
Talking on the phone is a gift.
Often, we get emotional. And we are held in the soft voices of each other as we let tears fall and anger spew out, and we comfort each other through the emotions.
I also talk on the phone as part of mentoring and editing. This is extremely beneficial because we can work in ‘real-time’ – there is no ‘wait for her email response’ or ‘what did she mean by that text emoji?’. Again, the simple act of speaking voice-to-voice makes things happen differently. And when you’re editing, when you’re sharing your thoughts on a line in a poem or the vibe of a stanza – it’s amazing to speak it and then hear the writer’s response. The telephone works like we’re in the same room – when we can’t be!
I know this is nothing new, but I think that interpersonal communication has shifted so very much over the last bit, that we can deviate from these types of deeper human connections. Talking on the phone takes time and planning and commitment and, most importantly, accountability. If you hear someone’s words as they same them, you can respond in real-time and get qualifications if you’re confused. We, I believe, can be more accountable for our actions when we talk about them to each other with our voices in real-time.
I mean, I still call restaurants to order food. Do you? I know I can do everything online. Choose whatever food I’d like, fill out some form on a website and get it delivered to my door without talking to anyone but the delivery person. I was shocked (then shocked that I was shocked), that we can even ‘order ahead’ at coffee shops. Really? That shi* freaks me out. Why would you do that? Are you so busy you can’t use your voice to face a person to ask for a half-caf-triple-sow-cow-mocha-whatever?
We forget to slow down. Talking on the phone slows me down. I have to pay attention and listen differently. I want to pay attention and listen differently.
Sometimes, I plan the phone call on my writing day at home. I make a tea. I keep my jammies on. I snuggle on the couch with the pooches, and I make the call. I am relaxed in my home with my pets in our space – and I just listen and pay attention and talk. And it’s magical.
It is inspiring. Like, having a pep talk with your ears and heart. Post-phone calls, I get to work. My writing is focused. My heart is full. And time continues to flow more slowly.
There are also times when we make a phone date but life happens. And our conversation is short, but honest. Emotional and helpful. These times are also important because we are vulnerable and open, and the fact that our ears and voices are there makes a difference.
The message here is – don’t just text or write a message – speak it!
Make a phone date with a friend or someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Get your ‘business’ done on the phone with your voice. See how it goes. Feel how it feels.
Recently, I used the phone to break the rules.
The Rules for Getting An Agent are such that calling an agent is simply out of the question. There’s no calling in agent-getting! (Yell in Tom Hanks’ voice). I was frustrated and tired of waiting for a response from some agents I’d sent a query to, so I did a bit of sleuthing on the world-wide-web, found some phone numbers and I CALLED THE AGENCY.
Now, some of them didn’t have a contact number. Huh. They are prepared for rule-breakers like moi?
The ones that did though…I spoke to three people. Two were not the actual agents I sent my work to, but were members of the team. The conversations were hurried and, well, bumpy. I don’t think they expected to hear from a writer. Two of the people I spoke to sounded like they didn’t quite know what to do with me! They took my name and contact info, and I told them, please, any response will be welcome. I haven’t heard from either of the agents.
The third – if you can believe it – I talked to the ACTUAL AGENT. I said, “Um, hello, I am me and I am breaking the rules…” After a brief pause the agent said: “Wow. You’re gutsy! What’s your name?” Within 45 minute the agent read my query and responded via email. It was a ‘not for me, but good luck’ rejection – still, a true WIN for me.
The phone – connected me to my dream in a way that only a phone can – with my actual SELF and voice. I felt empowered – and the rejection didn’t even hurt. I was relieved and happy to have received an actual response. So thanks for answering your phone AGENT ANGEL.
This getting-an-agent thing is proving to be a big fat challenge…that’s a whole other blog, but the point is using the telephone for voice-t0-voice communication is something we shouldn’t forget to do.
May your conversations on the phone with your voice be long and lovely…and helpful and inspiring and relieving and vulnerable.