I wish I could open my case
take silence out
and breathe it gently
into the minds of others
That’s the first verse of the first poem I wrote for the collection titled debris published by Urbane Publications at the start of this year. There is, of course, a glorious paradox created when you decide to make noise about the value of silence. It’s much like jumping up and down with excitement as you proclaim the power of stillness. Or being in a leadership role without ever understanding that you are therefore a servant.
When you make noise about silence, you draw attention away from the actuality and towards the intellectual consideration of it. However, the noise never actually fractures or disrupts the silence; it never damages or dismisses it. Silence is ever present. It accommodates noise. It is the willing medium through which noise travels. Silence just like its twin, Space, is ever-present. Hidden in plain hearing. So it’s quite OK, I think, to spend just a little time talking or thinking about silence. There is no harm in it. Indeed, it’s probably as good a starting point as any.
The question is: What is the relationship between silence and writing?
The answer is: Intimate.
Writers gain much inspiration and insight from looking and listening. Both are activities best done in silence. Writers tend to do their explicit work removed from the noise of others. (And this removal can occur in a public place, a bustling environment or the midst of a crowd.) Writers often surrender to the silence of their subconscious; seeding a question or problem in that fertile plain beyond the noise of conscious thought. And often, so very often, something magical happens there. Something relevant and exciting and meaningful is born.
Silence is a womb, capable of combining and transforming. It is an active source of creation rather than just a blank page, passively inviting any form of content. Silence is the go-to place that’s always right here. It is endless and all encompassing. More than just the writer’s friend it is a secret soul mate, providing comfort, creativity and challenge in equal measure, there from the beginning to the very end of all our work.
Silence isn’t just with us for the journey it infuses that journey. Silence permeates every aspect of the writing process because it permeates every aspect of life. The more we, as writers, learn to recognise its presence, to welcome and trust it, the more clearly we might hear the words we most need to write. And then we will really cut through the noise.