Edith, on the frigid North Shore
As we head into busy, noisy holidays, my thoughts turn to silence.
I am accustomed to silence. I have been a Quaker for twenty years. We sit joined in silence on Sundays, only occasionally broken by a message someone among us feels moved to share. Not everyone is comfortable with this form of worship. At one time I brought someone to Meeting who fidgeted his way through the hour. He’d been raised a high Episcopalian, and church for him meant somebody else creating an hour full of sound and activity.
At home, we hold hands before meals for a moment of silence, which for me is always filled with blessing and gratitude, and which I usually want to continue for longer than my hungry partner does.
When I walk, I don’t listen to music or news through earbuds and I rarely walk and talk with others. While it’s not exactly silent, I have the birds and rustling leaves to cushion whatever thoughts might arise out of the quiet solitude; sometimes those thoughts are plot inspiration, which only happens when I’m out alone. I treasure my long walks up Powow Hill or out along the Powow River on the rail trail.
Silence is perhaps most valuable when I’m writing, though. I live with someone who is fond of playing music from his large and eclectic CD collection pretty much all the time. We also both like to listen to NPR news and talk shows.
But I find that I have to turn it all off (and ask him to turn the music volume down) when I want to write fiction. I need to hear the characters’ voices, to be able to heed their thoughts and intentions. For this, it has to be quiet. Preferably I’m alone in the house, but living with a self-employed person, that doesn’t happen very often. I’m fortunate to have a lovely office of my own with a door that closes tight, though. And I use it!
Oddly, I am able to write in coffee shops. Maybe it’s so much bustle that it turns into white noise.
(A version of this post appeared on my first blog in 2010.)
Readers: What about you? Do you need quiet for your creative endeavors? Do you prefer a bustling noisy surround? Or a mix tape?