Now this little creative fountain is in us all. It is the spirit, or the intelligence, or the imagination – whatever you want to call it. If you are very tired, strained, have no solitude, run too many errands, talk to too many people, drink too many cocktails, this little fountain is muddied over and covered with a lot of debris. The result is you stop living from the center, the creative fountain, and you live from the periphery, from externals. That is, you go along on mere willpower without imagination.

It is when people really listen to us, with quiet, fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way.

I discovered all this about three years ago, and truly it made a revolutionary change in my life. Before that, when I went to a party, I would think anxiously: "Now try hard. Be lively. Say bright things. Talk. Don’t let down." And when tired, I would have to drink a lot of coffee to keep this up.

Now before going to a party, I just tell myself to listen with affection to anyone who talks to me, to be in their shoes when they talk; to try to know them without my mind pressing against theirs, or arguing, or changing the subject.

Sometimes, of course, I cannot listen as well as others. But when I have this listening power, people crowd around and their heads keep turning to me as though irresistibly pulled. By listening I have started up their creative fountain. I do them good.

Now why does it do them good? I have a kind of mystical notion about this. I think it is only by expressing all that is inside that purer and purer streams come.

It is so in writing. You are taught in school to put down on paper only the bright things. Wrong. Pour out the dull things on paper too – you can tear them up afterward – for only then do the bright ones come.

If you hold back the dull things, you are certain to hold back what is clear and beautiful and true and lively.

Mr.B