When was the last time you sat down and appreciated a moment of silence in your day? Unless a tragic event has occurred, these moments of silence are relatively rare in our days, but they’re immeasurably important for gaining a sense of perspective, focus, and serenity. I’m not just talking about for your spiritual or mental health, either — silence, I believe, is a necessary ingredient of your creative life, and one that’s too often neglected.
The convenience of portable music players these days has made them ubiquitous. While thirty years prior, people traveling or working or walking would be forced to listen to the noise around them, today people can shut the world out on a regular basis by putting in a pair of earbuds. Listening to music on the go is great for entertainment and for passing the time, but there’s a reason why I choose not to listen to music for my daily commute on the train. If I did, I would feel strangely disconnected from the world around me, uncurious about the people I’m sitting next to, unable to imagine their lives, all because of the distraction of music. Sometimes just listening is needed.
People who meditate will testify about the feeling of calmness and clarity that can come from just sitting and listening. You don’t have to be a monk or a practicing Buddhist in order to benefit from meditation. The next time you’re planning to write, begin the session by sitting quietly in your chair. Don’t stare at your computer screen. Don’t check your email. Instead, look and listen all around you. Listen to the sound of your breath. Look at the quality of light outside your window. Listen to other ambient sounds and try to figure out what they are. It’s moments like this that not only give you a feeling of calmness for your writing, but can also prove very inspiring. We need details about how the world looks and feels and sounds to make our writing vivid, and we can only get those details by looking and listening ourselves.
For me, therefore, moments of silence and listening are a crucial part of my creative process. What do you do to make sure you see and hear enough to inform your writing?