When I started practicing Transcendental Meditation, the teacher would talk about how important it was to surround yourself with good people. “You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with,” he would say.
I’ve been pretty lucky to have had some good friends and roommates in my life. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some awful ones too. (Honestly, I could probably write a book about my experiences with bad roommates…)
But one thing that has propels good friends into great friends is the capacity to listen. Sometimes, as I’m formulating ideas, building story machines, or wondering about things, I need to share things aloud. Shaping my ideas into words helps me concisely communicate what I’m thinking and bring the idea closer to becoming finished work.
Since being stuck in the Midwest, my Dad and I have been going for a lot of walks. I’ll talk about techniques using in prose or dramatic structure. He doesn’t always understand what I’m saying, but he lets me talk and listens. And that’s the important part.
One of my favorite bits in Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist is his advice about choosing partners, both romantic and platonic: “‘Marry well’ doesn’t just mean your life partner–it also means who you do business with, who you befriend, who you choose to be around.”
Look for the ones who will listen as you ramble. Who you spend your time with is important.