Life is loud. And because of the loudness in our lives and minds, it’s often difficult to find the time for silence. When was the last time you sat, on purpose, in quiet for any length of time? Silence is important and powerful. We need to find this stillness not only in our writing lives, but also within the words we create.
1. Ideas come in silence
It never fails that if I struggle to come up with a good idea, it’s because too many things are clogging up my brain. To do lists, work projects, blog posts, laundry. Even books. I often fill the silence with an audiobook, which is a great escape, but doesn’t aid in the idea process. Yet, if I turn on some quiet music and drive with no words around me, the ideas fly in and expand.
2. Ideas are improved in silence
The rush of an initial awesome idea is great, but it can sometimes feel overwhelming to sit down and begin the outlining and plotting process (or the writing of it for you pantsers). But, if I hold onto an idea for a while, mix it in with the silence I put in my mind, I will surely come away with new plot points, character ideas, and dialogue. It’s like the book starts to write itself in my mind. That can only happen if nothing else gets in its way.
3. Gives you time to notice the little things
I’m not much an of outdoor person, but I do wander out into the green yonder from time to time. Especially in nature, when you get quiet, you will notice things. You will hear the snap of a twig or the babbling of a brook. It’s easier for me to envision better descriptions when I sit in a place—inside or out—get still, and notice everything from the hum of the furnace to the way the light reflects off the picture frame in the corner. It reminds me of the scene in Breaking Dawn 2 when Bella wakes up and looks at everything in extreme detail. Take away talking, TV, music, and it heightens everything else.
4. Lets you hear the quiet things
Some things won’t be noticed in a busy world. I once heard a writer ask, “What does a small flower want to say?” Now, Harold Schweizer is also a poet, so he spends time thinking of these things, but it’s important for all writers to consider what happens in the tiny gestures of the world, in the opening of a flower or the forming of a raindrop. The world is not just about us and our characters. There are completely unexplored worlds right under our feet.
5. Silence can both add tension and bring peace
When used in a scene, more so with dialogue, silence can do things. A well-placed pause can heighten tension, make an innocent statement turn sinister. But, it can also be relaxing and bring peace. The comfortable silences of the world are places we find rest for our selves and our characters. Moving the placement of the beats and actions around dialogue can change the tone of a scene in big ways.
6. Words are more powerful because of the silence around them
Silence and space are closely related. Just like the silence can cause tension or peace, we need to pay attention to the space we give to words. Some statements are too much for a paragraph. But others need to be nestled deep where they are safe because they can’t stand on their own. We can create certain reactions from our readers depending on where we place line breaks or section breaks. The space of the words create its own silence. Even if it’s only the silence of the time it takes to start a new chapter.
It may seem hard to find time to get some silence. I grab bits of it whenever I can. In the shower, in my car, in the grocery store. Experiment with different types of silence. Sometimes it might be sitting where there is no sound, but it can also be quieting your mind and refusing to focus on the things causing noise around you, by doing something like putting in headphones and playing music to drown out the TV.
Make a bubble for yourself. A mini escape in the midst of the chaos and see what gets turned up.
What ways do you have of finding silence and getting still to focus on your ideas?