The Happy Writer

The Need for Quiet

Shh
Shh by Caitlin Burke (CC)

When I say quiet, I don’t mean the absence of sound, but the space to hear your thoughts, the stillness of the mind. I’m finding how important it is to cultivate that quiet.

I hit a wall in my writing last week. I was extremely busy. I still managed to carve out my regular writing time, but I couldn’t get any words on the page. My joyful writing time slowly turned to painful writing time. Every word took its toll. It felt as if every moment my brain was filled up solving problems that had nothing to do with writing. There was no space for story.

And it was my fault.

I’d fallen into the old habit of making work for the sake of being busy. There’s a certain thrill to checking things off a list, and feeling like a task is ‘complete’. It feels like control. Novel’s take so long that there’s so little of that instant gratification.

And so, I had to tell myself NO. I would stop giving myself such a rigid daily task list, and leave some nights free. I would cut back on the internet, email, and TV – all noise.

I sat there for a while bewildered in the silence. I’m not good at being still, which is a bad habit. Even if I’m watching TV, my hands get twitchy. I need to be making something or doing something like folding laundry. I didn’t know what to do. I felt guilty for sitting there, even though I was dead tired. But the next day, in the silence, I picked up a notebook and a pen and started throwing down words (not even sentences). Jotting down notes, and what if’s, and then it started to snowball.

There was the story after all! I had a story! I was just too busy, and it was too noisy, to hear it.

This article also got me thinking:You can be busy or remarkable, but not both. I really do believe that at least for me, the silence is important. I need to cultivate it in order to be a happier person, and a better writer.

Sometimes the answer is as simple as silence.

8 Comments

  1. “You Can Be Busy or Remarkable — But Not Both”

    What an idea.

    And yeah, sometimes we all just need a break. I think I’m nearing a wall myself… Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to take a moment, a step back, and recoup.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. It’s so easy – too easy – to get swept up into the go,go,go nature of life. We all need a breather sometimes, though, both for our minds and souls. Giving ourselves that freedom can open up entirely different perspectives.

    So glad to hear your writing time has become joyful again!

  3. I was raised a Quaker, so I was taught to appreciate quiet (Quakers worship in silence). The Quakerism didn’t last for me, but I still appreciate silence.

    “Writing time” is not only when the fingers are moving on the keyboard. Sometimes it’s the time sitting quietly, too.

  4. I understand this completely. It’s funny, during the past few weeks, being unable to write due to various circumstances, I’ve been deluged by a storm of creative ideas. Ideas to beef up the short story I’d recently finished the first draft of (and to follow it up with companion pieces). Ideas for board game and table-top RPG game designs. Ideas for video game designs (even though I can’t actually design video games, as my coding proficiency is nowhere near competent enough to do video game coding; but I can sure design me some story and concept). And, of course, the unscratchable itch to get back on my novel.

    Having the “time” and space gives the brain room to fly (my mind is pretty free to wander while holding and gently bouncing the new baby, or washing dishes, etc).. Now I just need time and space to act on what my mind has imagined…

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