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Writerly Introversion and the Power of Silence

Photo by Nick Kenrick
Photo by Nick Kenrick

Since leaving a nine to five job, I’ve grown more introverted. My extroversion, necessary for my previous job, was always a skill learned from being part of a big, boisterous family. Today, I prefer interactions in smaller groups. Large gatherings feed my curiosity about people but are ultimately draining.

In a world full of megaphones, where the intrusive call of social media and mobile phones can be overwhelming, there’s power in silence.

Silence is inherent to the process of writing novels. I enjoy the novelist’s silence. It soothes me. It’s a clear page on which to paint my thoughts. It leaves space to explore ideas in depth, to probe my hang ups and my interests. Silence fills you. It magnifies flaws. There is no hiding. It calls you out until you can hear the echo of your own mind.

Words, on the other hand, can distract as well as illuminate. If I’m assembling the building blocks of a novel, I need quiet and solitude. For drafting, I prefer piano music, rainfall or the swell of the ocean to lyrics. Lyrics steer me off course from the seedling I’m trying to nurture.

In the early days of a project, when the jigsaw of a new story is only just coming together, I turn inwards. Speak too soon and the magic dissipates. If I stumble over the telling of the bones of a new story to a confidante it punctures my own belief. Better to hold the story close, like a newborn, until it is ready for the world.

Photo by Alice Popkorn
Photo by Alice Popkorn

Yet, no man is an island. Writing can never be passive. It’s absorbing the world, drinking up new experiences, listening to the stories around us, analysing, moulding. It’s momentum.

It’s funny, but five years ago when I started this journey, I didn’t realise that I’d be cycling back to topics on this blog. I thought that by now my creativity would be seamless, well-oiled, robotic even. Now, I realise my creativity, while easier to access, still works in ebbs and flows. Somedays it is easy, others not so much.

On tougher days, it becomes tempting to fill my workspace with noise, to distract myself from my lack of progress. It’s then I remember that writing doesn’t have to be lonely. I’m grateful for the writers and colleagues I’ve met along the way, the ones who understand the vanities and fears, the risks and the joys of writing. I’m grateful for the books, forums, podcasts and classes that help me grow and for the creative friends that remind me that while writing may be a solitary pursuit, we are sailing the same ocean.

Carry on, my creative friends. I believe in you.

If you’d like to be considered for Nillu’s In the Armchair series, in which she interviews those in creative jobs, then please contact her here. You can find our about Nillu’s books here, join her Reviewers Club here and sign up to her occasional newsletter here

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