Peggy Bechko’s World: Writers’ Listening Skills


by Peggy Bechko

All right, folks, it’s time to listen up and shut up.


People constantly interrupt each other. And if they don’t actually do that, then in their heads they’re chatting away with themselves, not listening to what someone else is saying, planning on what they’re going to say next. It’s the truth and you know it. Everyone is guilty of it one time or another. Probably more than we’d like to admit.

But, we need to listen. Really open up and hear what’s being said. Zip your lips and pay attention. Here’s why.

If you’re pitching and actually listening that exec could well tell you exactly what he or she is looking for. And if you’re pitching and armed with just a ‘leave behind’ and not your actual script that could mean you’d have the chance to make a few tweaks and present what they’ve just told you they want.

That is, if after your pitch you’ve had the good sense to shut up and listen to their response. The same could apply to a novel manuscript you’ve pitched.

Here’s another point. People love to talk about themselves. Really, don’t you (when you’re being honest, admit it)? So, if you manage to keep your mouth shut for a bit and let the person you’re pitching go on talking while you make appropriate murmurs the person you’re talking to will have all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings about you. It’s a human thing.

And don’t forget about first or even third or fourth impressions. They’re all good – or at least you want them to be good. If you bull your way into a conversation, talking over others or interrupting them, the impression you give is that all you want to do is hear your own ideas and your own voice. You’re not open to notes or suggestions to improve script or book.

Consider it. Don’t you believe that would be a real turn-off? Producing a film or readying a book for publication is a real time-consumer. From your side of the fence, think about it. It’s one thing to tolerate a ‘blathering interrupter’ for a meeting or a lunch, but quite another to have to work with one for an extended period. Don’t let that ‘blatherer’ be you.

This applies to when you’re collaborating as well. I have a writing partner right now. We exchange ideas almost continually, but one always waits for the other to finish a thought before considering and then responding. If that wasn’t the case how long do you think a collaboration such as ours would last?

Right, it wouldn’t. Sometimes we jot notes while listening to each other so as not to lose a thought, but something big has to be in the vapors for one of us to stop and interrupt the other.

What do you do if the shoe is on the other foot so to speak and the person on the other side of the table, the producer or editor, can’t shut up? Babbles on about everything but the project? Well, a gem might slip in there. I keep a note pad handy always anyway, or at times a laptop and type notes as things happen (you no doubt now assume correctly I type very fast).

Startling what you can pick out when you go back over the notes of what may at first have seemed like a meaningless, wandering conversation. And the act of note-taking keeps one focused. Those gems are more likely to pop out.

Amazing what you can learn once you teach yourself to keep your mouth shut.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. Grab your copy of Book 2 now! And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page