Monday, June 8, 2015

The Listening Life

In 2009, at about 4pm on Christmas Eve, as I lounged on the couch watching A Christmas Story, I was jolted by one of those creative revelatory shock waves that come along about every 6 years, if I'm lucky. I had published my first book two months earlier, and after the requisite phase of "I'm NEVER writing another freaking book again!" I was of course starting to think about my next project. I've heard that women have a mechanism in their brain that helps them forget about the pain of childbirth, so people will have more than one child. I'm pretty sure that writers have a similar coping mechanism, to help us forget about the agony of publishing the first book.

I had spent much of the afternoon walking, trying to burn some anticipatory calories before the next 24 hours of gluttony, attempting to conceive of an idea for book #2. Direct thought usually leads me to nothing but frustration and hopelessness. So with one eye focused on the movie and another eye trained on despair, I mumbled a prayer. "Lord, I've got nothing. But I think you've called me to be a writer. So, I'm listening."


As soon as I muttered the word, it did a U-Turn right back on me. My second book would be about listening.

Over the remainder of the holiday season, as I tried to avoid relatives, a plan fell into place. I would devote the next season of life to writing about listening. I had devoted the last ten years to the practice of listening, and now it was time to share what I had discovered.

I dove into the project, and read everything I could find on listening. I interviewed friends and colleagues. I even hired a fancy agent.

My book proposal was rejected by 10 publishers. Listening wasn't an edgy or eye-catching topic. One editor said, in a phrase that will haunt me to my dying day, "Your prose is workmanlike but uncompelling."

One publisher disagreed. InterVarsity Press, the publisher I never should have turned from in the first place, offered me a contract.

It has been a tumultuous 6 years, and I am excited and relieved to announce that my second book is available for pre-order. The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction will be published in December.

I have some things to share with you. First, the back cover copy:
Be quick to listen, slow to speak." ―James 1:19. How would our lives change if we approached every experience with the intention of listening first? In this noisy, distracting world, it is difficult to truly hear. People talk past each other, eager to be heard but somehow deaf to what is being said. Listening is an essential skill for healthy relationships, both with God and with other people. But it is more than that: listening is a way of life. Adam McHugh places listening at the heart of our spirituality, our relationships and our mission in the world. God himself is the God who hears, and we too can learn to hear what God may be saying, through creation, through Scripture, through people. By cultivating a posture of listening, we become more attentive and engaged with those around us. Listening shapes us and equips us to be more attuned to people in pain and more able to minister to those in distress. Our lives are qualitatively different―indeed, better―when we become listeners. Heed the call to the listening life, and hear what God is doing in you and the world.

And second, I am exceedingly grateful for my endorsements.

"Listening is one of the best gifts we can give or receive. Listening changes things. Listening, the way Adam McHugh describes it, could just change the world." Ruth Haley Barton, founder and president, Transforming Center, author of Life Together in Christ

"Adam McHugh is a voice worth listening to. His new book will be a gift to anyone who wants to cultivate what Jesus called "ears to hear" - John Ortberg, Senior Pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church

"The Listening Life is the kind of book that made me at times not want to turn the page because I needed to! What the book did was still my soul and remind me to be still before God -- to silence the noise and open the closed doors to hear, and in hearing we learn that in listening to God and to one another we enter into the graces of love. On every page Adam McHugh offers wisdom that slowly marches us into a deeper kind of life, one marked by listening to God in a way that teaches us how to listen to one another and to ourselves. There are two kinds of people: those who talk and those who listen -- the former need to read this book slowly and listen well to the lesson about reverse listening, while the latter will discover fresh light on a discipline now deepened." -Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey Professor in New Testament, Northern Seminary.

"If it was possible to combine the voices of Dallas Willard, N.D. Wilson, and Jim Gaffigan, then what you would get is Adam S. McHugh. His writing is profound, lyrical, and self-deprecating in all the right ways. There are few books I want start again once I've finished. The Listening Life is now one of them. I adore this stunning, important book and want to give it to everyone I know." -Emily Freeman, author of Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World.

"Adam McHugh has been a significant contributor to the conversation about how introverts experience the world. His new book The Listening Life has the power to reshape how both introverts and extroverts make space for deep listening in a world that swims in the shallows. Highly recommended." -Susan Cain, author of Quiet

I realize that listening isn't the sexiest topic, but I believe it to be an incredibly important one. Everyone seems to be seeking to find their voice these days, but who will help them listen for it?
Thank you, everyone, for your continued support over the last few years. And thank you for helping me to tell others about my new book.