Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Depth As Hearing

Kris and I Had a Great Discussion About Depth Today…

All because I was getting fitted with nifty, programmed hearing aides. Why that discussion? Because for the first time in a long time, maybe decades, I could hear certain things.

Things I didn’t even know I wasn’t hearing.

And that lead to the discussion about depth in writing in all its forms. Some writers had trouble with it in this last workshop and that was because they didn’t even know they were missing it.

I didn’t know I was missing sounds. I just knew I had trouble hearing at times, not that a massive range of sounds were not available to me in general.

When the doctor started programming the hearing aides to my hearing loss areas, the very first thing I noticed was that I heard my own voice differently. She said I would get used to it and I knew exactly what she meant.

Again, like a writer. We are so used to our own voices, when suddenly we see them or hear them, they sound odd. I was hearing a brand new range in my own voice inside my head.

Next thing I noticed was that I could hear small, higher-pitched sounds, like cellophane crinkling. Or fingernails lightly on a desk. Or a faint sound of music from another room.

And so, so much more.

I know what I am missing with only one eye. But mostly everything remained the same around me when I lost that vision. But today I really understand how much I was missing in the hearing loss from decades ago.

So Kris and I talked about how that is the same with writers and depth in their stories. They think they are putting in the full range of what is needed to relay the story, but in reality, they have no idea what is not there.

You can’t know if you can’t see it.

So I thought I could hear fine, just like many writers think they can relay story fine, but like me not knowing what I was missing, writers can’t see it either without a lot of training and practice.

For example, the doctor took me outside the office, faced me toward a busy intersection, and stood behind me, talking softly and I could hear every word she said. Never in decades could I do that. Before I would not have known someone was even talking behind me.

All this new experiences for me is levels of depth I can now hear, levels I had no concept were even there. Just like in writing. When a writer understands how depth works and starts to practice it in all its forms, suddenly their stories have details in them the writer didn’t even know they weren’t putting in.

And just like writing, this is going to take me some time to get used to. I only wore them for a few hours today and when I took them off, it felt like a blanket of dullness settling over me. So I will practice with them more and more each day for a few weeks, then go back to the doctor to learn more, and keep on learning.

Learning how to once again hear things I didn’t even know I wasn’t hearing.

Just as if I was learning how to add more depth and richness and thickness into my writing.




  • Marsha

    What a fabulous example! My husband has severe hearing loss (unfortunately aids won’t help) and like you cannot hear voices when there is background noise. One thing he misses most is the higher registers, especially birdsong since we live out in the country. I never thought about sounds like cellophane and how flat his world has become.

    I just finished reading a Nora Roberts. I’ve been studying her because she is so far above most writers and prolific as hell. One thing that really stood out for me is the level of depth she brings to her stories. It doesn’t matter where I open the book, I can find depth on nearly every page. Talk about thick and rich.

  • Kate Pavelle

    I’m glad your hearing aids are working out! Between my old lab job in a glass factory, where even occasional visits to the hot floor was an assault on the senses and where the little sponge earplugs did very little, and other “hobbies,” I’m headed toward hearing aids as well and so’s my husband.
    That depth analogy is really great, and I’ll see how I can use it.
    But hearing loss can result in humor, like when you hear your sword teachers shows the class something and you hear him say, “And this is called a Great Bear!” Upon asking why does a Japanese sword system have a bear technique you’ve never heard of, you find out that he merely pointed out that running up your opponent’s blade would result in “a grave error.”
    I was the youngest in the class that night, and my betters were laughing until tears flowed. They welcomed me to their club. Sigh 🙂

  • Ellen

    What brand and model are your hearing aids? I ask because while mine have improved life in many ways, and I would know if someone was speaking behind me, I wouldn’t be able to understand anyone speaking behind me. I also can’t understand anyone who speaks to me from more than about 8 feet away. My aids are in their third year, so I’ll be thinking about whether or not to replace them in another year or so. Thanks for any info.

  • Chris York

    Lovely essay, Dean. So glad you did this, and that it is already helping. But now I will have to stop saying stuff behind your back….

  • Jamie DeBree

    Yes! This is exactly my problem (or one of them, anyways). I know I’m missing “depth” as a writer, but I don’t know what that depth *is*, necessarily. I do read a lot, and I’ll occasionally get those “Ah-ha! I need to do that!” moments, but it’s not enough (or I don’t feel like it is).

    And yes, I’ll be taking the depth workshop as soon as I can save up for it. In the meantime, it drives me nuts knowing I’m missing that “something”, but being unable to put my finger on it. Incredibly frustrating, but I keep working at it, and I do think I’m improving, slowly.

    Congrats on the new depth in your hearing! My husband had his ear operated on several years ago and had a lot of hearing restored, but it drove him about insane with all the noise, and he was happy enough to have it fade a bit over time. LOL I’d imagine adjustable hearing aides would be nice for a more gradual transition.

  • emmiD

    Congrats on the improved hearing! In noisy crowds I can hear the people next to me but not across from me. That’s frustrating.

    I took the Depth workshop last July, and immediately started seeing a difference in my writing. The concept in the first couple of sessions “sounded” too simple until I really worked to apply them. Then I realized how hard they were. I really struggled with that first assignment! Loved the second one, though!

    When the class was over, I applied the lessons to the novel I was working on and immediately felt happier—but I still needed to just “write into the dark”. Took me weeks and weeks before I tossed the plotting myth LOL.

    I’m heading for Depth in Plotting after I finish Endings. Advanced Depth will be soon!