Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A place of peace and silence

I spent a good part of yesterday sitting around outside. Why? Because it was the first really nice day we’ve had in Toronto for about two weeks. It was once again a pleasure to be outdoors.

Well, I do have to confess that I was outside working on a graphics job that has to get out the door before I leave early on Thursday for Bloody Words in Victoria, BC, but it was too nice a day not to be working al fresco. As the computer chugged away processing image files, I had time to enjoy the gentle breezes and let my mind wander off. About mid-afternoon, having been completely silent for a few hours, the noises surrounding me began to register more on my consciousness.

We have a water garden with a waterfall and that always adds a pleasant aural ambiance to our backyard, and the sound of birds with their singing and chatter is a constant because of our feeders, but I have to say that the noises of the city overwhelmed it all pretty quickly. There were buses, cars, trucks and loud emergency vehicles on the largish street four houses over, and it was really quite amazing how much noise it all makes. Our neighbours had their window air conditioning unit going full blast and someone in the apartment building on the large street was playing annoying music at inappropriate volume.

I’m sure all of it had been going on the entire time I was outside, but my brain had been filtering the annoying sounds out for the most part – right up to the point where it had either gotten too tired to continue, or, more likely, my inner thoughts and voices had gotten silent enough to make it all the more obvious.

Filtering out background sounds (and we humans have gotten good at that!) takes a lot of mental energy. Perhaps that’s why we writers instinctively look for those places where we don’t have to spend our mental energy making the noise around us go away.

I always do my best work late at night or early in the morning, and heaven for me is a week in a cottage out in nature where I can work – and think – all day long. What’s the common element? Silence.

I’ve always wondered why that is and I think a good portion of the reason is that my brain was trying to tell me that, without having to expend all that energy filtering, it has more focus to do what I need it to do. Out of the quiet comes inspiration – because it can.

How about you?

3 comments:

Vicki Delany said...

As someone who hasn't written a word since leaving home three weeks ago to drive across Canada, I know from where you are coming.

Charlotte Hinger said...

For some reason, I've started doing my first draft--or a good share of it by hand. There's something about a computer that makes me feel as though I should be responding to email or making lists. I'm rediscovering focus.

Charlotte Hinger

Rick Blechta said...

That's interesting, Charlotte, because I've found exactly the same thing. I now often write with one of my fountain pens and a sheet of foolscap or in a journal. There's something in the slow and measured way we have to write out the words that allows more to come out.