Pursuing the mantra of quiet writing

Word count: 332 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help writers. Today, I discuss the idea of quiet writing.

I spend much of my life reading about writing. Few essays capture the core truth of writing as The Art of Being Still, a short, insightful piece by American novelist Silas House and published recently in the New York Times.

The Art of Being Still is not only an apt headline, it’s also an excellent ambition: to be still enough to observe, to think, to understand. I agree with House when he writes:

We must use every moment we can to think about the piece of writing at hand, to see the world through the point of view of our characters, to learn everything we can that serves the writing. We must notice details around us, while also blocking diversions and keeping our thought processes focused on our current poem, essay or book.

When House describes how he turns his morning bicycle commute into an opportunity to put himself directly in the mindset of one of the characters for his next novel, I nod in agreement. Essentially, he’s describing method acting! You become the character. As House puts it:

When pumping those pedals toward my office, I am not myself on an orange-leaf-strewed campus. I am my character, pedaling down to the beach after a long day of working as a hotel housekeeper. I see the world through his eyes. I imagine what he is thinking. I use that brief time to become him.

I also agree with House’s regretful analysis that too many writers spend too much time going to workshops, classes, conferences and bemoaning writer’s block on their Facebook posts. Instead of talking about writing, just write, he says. Do some quiet writing. And if you can’t do that, then just watch. 

You might begin by reading his excellent essay.

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