It took me a long time to be comfortable with silence. I am, in essence, a Golden Retriever crossed with an otter, so I’m all about fun, fun, fun! I gotta play, gotta move, gotta be in the middle of whatever is happening. Whee! Ain’t life a barrel of puppies??
But plunk me down to sit still and be silent? AAAHHHHH!
I used to think I was alone in fidgeting when it got too quiet. As for flat-out silence, I knew everyone else was okay with it while it drove me to…well…noise. But since jumping into the publishing world lo, these many years ago, I’ve realized I’m not only not alone, it’s downright crowded in the noisy places!
Now, I’m not talking about the silence we writers deal with when we write. That doesn’t feel silent because there’s so much going on as we create. I’m talking about S I L E N C E. An absence of sound. Even worse, an absence of input. Friends, I’m here to warn you about the dark side of silence. I’m here to warn you about cavitation.
Ever been out in a boat run by an outboard motor? Your Evinrude is propelling you along, sending you sailing over the waves, and then wham! It’s like you’re suddenly suspended, going nowhere. Enter cavitation. The outboard’s blades have encountered a momentary void and are spinning like crazy but not accomplishing anything. We tend toward cavitation when we encounter silence in our writing journey.
Like when your agent has sent a proposal out and it’s been months and NO ONE has responded. Or you put out a blog post or comment on social media and the result is a resounding NOTHING. You know what I’m talking about. Those silent places where we convince ourselves that the meaning of the silence is that we’re hacks, that we’re not doing things right, that we never should have thought we could write and why did we ever quit our jobs?? Mama was right: I shoulda been a secretary! Or a doctor! Wait, maybe I need to send out another proposal, cuz if they don’t like that one, they’ll like this one. Igottadosomethingthissilenceiskillingme!
Okay. Deep breath. Say it with me: “Silence is good.” Yes, it is. Now, stop disagreeing with me! Silence is your friend. It reminds you to stop for a moment and be still. Yes, be still. Relax. Give yourself a break. Take an honest look and determine if you’ve done all you can about that proposal or post or whatever. If not, fine. Make a strategic plan for doing better. If so, let it go. And move on to the next task, but do so with a calm spirit.
Let the silences work for you, not against you. You’ll enjoy the journey a whole lot more, and you won’t drive yourself—and the people around you–crazy.