Friday, February 25, 2022

Do You Need Quiet or Noise to Do Your Best Writing?

My home is noisy these days: two young dogs, all their toys and bones and chewsticks, the running and growling and play they love. I love it too, and I'm not in any hurry for it to change--they will only be puppies once. But my writing is. It craves quiet.

So just like a new mom or dad with an infant or toddler, I set my writing times when the pups have natural naptimes.

Before the pandemic, I wrote best in a noisy, bustling coffee shop in the next town. I'd head there with my laptop and earbuds and phone and order an exotic tea, a big enough one to keep me a few hours. Then I'd plug in my earbuds, find wordless music on my playlist, and begin writing.

The background of the coffee bar was never completely silenced, but it created a pleasant white noise most of the time. Along with my music, I had the perfect background.

I've always been good at tuning out background sounds. My mom used to tell me I had such focus I would be able to read in Grand Central Station, and that was true. I used to love writing to a soundtrack--tunes chosen to bring forth the character, for instance, or the tension of the plot.

It's changed, though, as I've gotten older. My hearing is more sensitive and quiet more required. External quiet, that is. When I'm deep in a book, my internal life is rarely quiet. It's clamoring! Wanting to come out on the page. Ideas churning. I'm sure you know what I mean.

But internal stillness is important, I've learned, in creating. Not just the clamor of ideas but the emptiness of waiting for new ones.

I've been back at painting this winter, as well as writing, and I love the advice of Nancy Hillis, M.D., a psychologist and abstract painter, who writes about the struggle artists face at not repeating themselves. (Check out her books on The Artist's Journey, which I've mentioned before in these posts.) To not repeat, to not just copy what you've done before or already know, takes courage and that internal stillness. It's almost a listening.

This week I came across an interesting post by Lauren Hubele who writes about three kinds of quiet she's exploring. quiet in solitude, quiet in partnership with another, quiet in nature. if I were to rework this into my writer's language, it might translate this way: quiet within myself, with my own thoughts and feelings, an almost-observer stance, where I've been able to step aside from the churning and the worries and the endless to-do's; then quiet in partnership with my book, which means that listening for ideas and new frontiers I don't already know--one of the real joys of writing, in my view; and perhaps the third might become quiet within my surroundings. I don't often write in nature, but I go to nature for its gift of silence, especially right now. Our landscape is frozen: I walk the dogs in our back fields and there's hardly a sound. I get filled by this and can access the other two kinds of quiet more easily.

It's all gotten me thinking. What do I need most for my best writing?

What do you?

No comments:

Post a Comment