Shaun Levin

Silence

In Writing, Writing Workshops on August 1, 2011 at 9:25 pm

I love the silence of a writing workshop. People around a table writing together, everyone focused on their own page, the movement of the pen across a blank page, slowly filling it. The occasional quiet whistling of nose hairs, the scurrying of the nib across the page, tapping the i, again and again, especially with words like biking and inimitable and invisibility, the tick tick, or the tick tick tick. The pausing to think, the surprise of a word or thought that is unexpected.

Go somewhere quiet.

Somewhere where there is no noise. Somewhere where nothing can disrupt a thought except thoughts themselves. Somewhere where it is just you and the landscape. And the more you write when you are there the further you will go from thought, deeper, until there is just story, pure telling. For a few weeks when I was in the middle of nowhere in New South Wales, Australia, somewhere outside of Nowra, at the end of a nine kilometre dirt-road, I had days of complete silence. Even an hour a day was enough. I think that’s where painters go to paint landscapes, what they search out, that place that takes them somewhere inside, a place in them that is reached when they are in the landscape and all there is is you and what is around you. The past doesn’t matter, and narrative doesn’t matter, and all you want to do is put the trees onto the page, and the cows, and the sky, and the wombat that’s ripping at the grass with its teeth, the kangaroos that come down from the hills to graze at dawn and at dusk. And the light that is changing. And the river that snakes its way through everything.

Here in the city the noise is constant. The whirring of the extractor fans from the pub, the jabber of the whatever it is that comes out of the door of the William Hill betting shop across the road, scores and races and football matches, and the drilling that started this morning – again – because whoever it is who digs up roads is digging up this road for the second time in the past couple of months, and the traffic, although somehow traffic doesn’t disturb, it is the necessary sound of the city, almost a natural sound, like water, or passing comets.

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