Silence can be very powerful for the creative mind.
On the weekend I attended a writer’s retreat in bushland at Brahma Kumaris in Wilton. It was held by the Society of Women Writers NSW and there was an amazing bunch of successful, inspiring and fascinating women writers.
I arrived early Saturday morning, where along with a group of writers, was led on a silent bush walk. At first it felt a bit odd to walk alongside people and not speak. A few moments passed and I felt relieved that I didn’t have to make smalltalk, especially as i’m not the chattiest at 8am anyway.
My muscles loosened and as I took in my surroundings, my mind cleared. Gone were thoughts about writing, about whether my toddler would be ok without me for the day and the mental to-do-list that seems to always be floating around in my head. I tuned into the sound of birds calling, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the ripples and reflections in the dam, the crisp, fresh air on my face and how nice it felt to move rhythmically in line at my own pace. Waking up those stiff bones and tired muscles. A sense of peace came with the silence.
The stroll was followed by engaging, informative and useful workshops and presentations along with delicious vegetarian meals and plenty of time to mingle among the writers. My tribe.
It was a long day and by 9pm I felt connected and optimistic, but also emotionally and mentally exhausted. My manuscript had been critiqued and i’d once again experienced the highs and lows of having someone read my work. The validation coupled by self-doubt. It’s relentless. This being a writer gig is a constant battle between insecurity and passion; the not knowing if it’s good enough and then continuing to do it just for the pure pleasure of it.
The day ended much the way it began, this time with a guided meditation and body scan. The feeling of tiredness seeped away and we were guided out the doors in silence once again.
I got into my car and for the first time in a long time I didn’t immediately hit play on a podcast and fill my head with other people’s voices. Instead i opted for silence. I felt calm, centred and re-energised.
I’m sure i would have fallen asleep the moment i stumbled in the front door if it hadn’t been for the adrenaline kick i got when i hit a large Kangaroo on my way home (thankfully neither my car or the kangaroo appeared to be damaged).
The point is, the silence did something. I presented my manuscript for critiquing and though i had some ideas for how to restructure the story, i didn’t have a clue how to start yet another rewrite. In the days to follow, i found ideas began to form and with it the enthusiasm and motivation to continue working on the one manuscript that has never quite lived up to my expectations. Now i have a clearer path to make the story the way I always wanted it to be, rather than how i thought it should be.
Of course you don’t have to go on a writer’s retreat to experience the benefits of silence. In fact, i’ve just started to attend a local yoga class again after a partial winter hiatus (ie. hibernation) and I’ve found the meditative exercise at the beginning and end of the class is a breeding ground for ideas. I know the point of meditation is to not think but what happens when your mind is cleared of tasks and worries, is it allows for ideas to stream from your consciousness. In my experience, it tends to have a similar impact as journalling. I find that if i am due to write a blog post about what’s been happening, i could either write and write until i find what it is i’m trying to say, or the idea will form clearly in my mind during meditation. I’ve taken to bringing a notebook with me now so that i can write down any ideas that arise once the class has ended. In fact, this very blog post came to me while meditating.
So, while silence doesn’t come easy when you work and have a husband and a child and a dog and a mind that wants to keep telling stories, it is something i’ve found extremely valuable in this past week. So i’ll keep trying to find ways to be silent, without a phone or a podcast or even a notebook, just once in awhile.