The Editor: Debra Evans
Over more than four decades as an author and inspirational teacher, starting with Your Erroneous Zones way back in 1976, Wayne Dyer changed the lives of countless people. Including mine.
Here’s what happened.
For almost seven years, I was the national director of conference programming for Whole Life Expos. At that time, Whole Life was the largest event company of its kind in the U.S., bringing three days of personal growth, natural health, and spiritual exploration to major cities across the country. Being a part of it was incredibly exciting, fun, and rewarding, to say the least.
As grace would have it, Wayne spoke at almost every event we produced in the late 90s and early 2000s. Getting to know him during those years—and bearing witness to how he moved through the world as an author and speaker—was a powerful learning experience for me. He was exactly the same person on stage and off—down-to-earth, good-humored, passionate about spiritual growth and awakening, and endlessly enthusiastic about connecting with people and finding out about their lives.
Whether his workshop in a given city would end at two in the afternoon or ten o’clock at night, Wayne would stay afterward for as long as it took to talk with every single person who stood in line to have their book signed or to just chat with him. There was no impatience and no wavering of presence. He was fully there, listening and exploring ideas and caring about what they cared about.
How is he able to maintain that level of energy and stamina time after time? I used to wonder. Was it a healthy diet? Was it those long runs he took every day (I often saw him running through the hotel corridors when he was traveling with us)? Did he sleep better than most? Although good self-care must have helped, I ultimately decided that it had to be his fascination with and love of the human experience that fueled him.
The Phone Call That Whispered of the Future
Back at Whole Life headquarters one spring day, I received a phone call from Wayne’s long-time manager, Maya, a remarkable woman and force of nature herself. Maya was calling because she knew we were just a day away from our print deadline for the event program guide for a conference that was coming up in Austin, Texas. There would be 150,000 copies of this magazine-sized publication hitting the streets, and Wayne would of course be one of the headlining speakers.
“Debra, Wayne has absolutely no idea what he wants to talk about this time, and I know you guys have been waiting to get his write-up from us. Can he call you in a few minutes? Maybe you can figure it out together,” she said.
A few minutes later, the phone rang again. It was a joy to hear Wayne’s warm and lively voice coming through the line.
I asked him the simplest of questions: “What are you feeling most passionate about right now—even if it’s something you haven’t yet uttered to another soul or imagined bringing to the stage? What’s lighting you up?”
With that, the flood gates opened.
One of the things that poured out was a spiritual perspective he had been applying to his life, experimenting with it like the psychologist he was. Being a committed student of life, he was allowing it to shake up some of his old beliefs and open new vistas of awareness. As he talked at a rapid-fire pace, I listened—typing as quickly as I could on my laptop.
Less than ten minutes later, I said, “Wayne, I think we have it! I’ll write up a description based on everything you just shared and come up with a few title ideas to consider. I’ll send it to you and Maya within the hour.”
When I looked at the notes I had taken, I was grateful that I had bolded, underlined, or used all caps to draw my attention back to certain places. These were the words (the ideas, experiences, insights, and questions) that he had spoken with the greatest fervor or wonder or curiosity. In some instances, the markings denoted places where his words spoke of a deep knowing and a desire to know more.
On one level, working to shape all of this into an event description with a catchy title was a simple and humble little task. One more thing checked off my conference director’s to-do list. Excellent.
However, something else happened that day that I didn’t fully recognize until some years later.
During those Whole Life days, my job description included being the chief copywriter for the company. I loved making the attempt to clearly and concisely convey the hope, healing, and possibility that was to be found at our events. By the time the phone call with Wayne occurred, I had already written thousands of lecture and workshop summaries, author bios, press releases, articles, pieces of ad copy and website copy, and more. I had written something almost every day of the week for several years.
But through that conversation with Wayne, writing and copyediting took a backseat to listening.
Even more than listening to the words he spoke, I found myself listening for how and sometimes why they may have been spoken.
What moved him the most?
What was he saying when his voice faintly cracked?
What was he saying when I felt a little choked up?
What was he articulating when it felt like time fell away?
What door of perception might he want to open for others by sharing that particular story or anecdote?
There were so many distinctions and shades of energy and emotion to be heard in what he was saying.
And maybe Wayne’s ability to listen intently to others was supercharging my own in that moment.
Whatever the case may be, the kind of listening that gave birth to a 200-word workshop description is the same kind of listening that led to my career as an editor and writing partner to some of the most extraordinary authors and teachers in the world. That day, Wayne gave me a homeopathic dose of listening into what a person has to share in a way that is an incredibly exhilarating, co-creative experience. Sometimes even blissful. This is how blurbs turned into entire books. More than twenty-five books thus far.
Thank you, Wayne, for being an eternal, inextinguishable flame of love—a love that listens to the deepest yearnings and callings of the human heart. I'm grateful for crossing paths with you.
PS: Deeply receptive and creative listening is an integral part of a training course that Kris and I are going to make available in 2021. It will be a digital program for those who either want to launch their own book editing service, uplevel their existing skillset as an editor, or for those who simply want to become more adept at editing their own writing. More on that in the months ahead.