Silence; to some it is frightening, calling up feelings of loneliness and solitude, for others it can be a momentary relief from the constant chatter of the day. When I write, I tend to like having some form of silence. There is always sound present, no matter what we do, it’s just the sounds directed towards you that get you off task. But what about when you are not writing?
I got to thinking about this the other day when I was driving somewhere. I thought back to something my father told me about when he was on his spiritual kick. I believe it came from the book: The Power of Now.
Many of the sounds that we fill our free time up with are nothing more than distractions. They’re meant to take us out of the present and distract our minds with things going on elsewhere. Listening to the radio, having the television playing in the background, they take away whatever moment you happen to be in, and dull your senses. You don’t notice the birds chirping, the sound of the water swirling in that pocket by the canal bridge. When you take away all of those elements that make up the experience of life, you’re not really living. At least you’re not living as spiritually as you could. That’s what the book would say anyway.
Of course, we’re not really looking to be spiritual writers, are we? But becoming a better writer is not confined to the pages of books on writing. We can use the lessons from all facets of life to help us on our journey.
If you take the author’s advice and eliminate distraction from your life, you’ll find that something amazing happens: that silence does not become a void like some of us fear, it becomes a vessel. If you’re not used to the silence you might quickly become bored. Hang in there, and you’ll find that your mind will begin to stir. Slowly, it will start to fill that vessel with thoughts all your own rather than those that some external source has tried to prompt you with.
Let the silence wrap around you, suck up the distractions that cloud your mind, and soon you’ll be seeing clearly. It is in this empty space that the imagination can run free like a child on an open playground. Soon writerly thoughts will crop up. Ideas for stories will form out of the ether. Scenes will develop in your mind and people themselves.
Sometimes we’ll be off to visit a relative and my wife will ask, “Don’t you want the radio on?” To which I will reply, “No. I’m fine.” I learned to be comfortable with silence a long time ago. But as with all distractions, it is easy to fall back into bad habits. That’s what led me to thinking about this the other day when I went to turn on the radio because “it was too quiet.” After the second or third song that I didn’t really care for, I stopped myself.
“Why am I even listening to this?” I switched the radio off and let my mind stretch its legs.
That’s when I formulated this challenge. If you’re used to having distractions fill up all of your mind’s free time, try going a week without. This next week, starting whenever you choose, leave the television off, drive with no stereo, limit your internet to, say, one hour a day for things that we all know are distractions (social networks with their quizzes and games being the prime offenders), and see how much more you get done, how free your mind feels. Give your imagination some free time of its own. I think you’ll be delightfully surprised with what happens.
Let me know if you decide to take the challenge and how it goes for you. I’m interested to see if this works for anyone other than me.
Hope you all have a wonderfully quiet weekend filled to the brim with imaginings.