Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Years ago, while in a religious retreat – deal with it – they had us pick a sentence out of a box which was supposedly Himself’s gifts to us. This type of thing makes me beyond squirmy, because – well – it seems too touchy-feely for words. And if you’re a believer you believe that however He worked, He that created the sparrow also created the lion and the Yersinia Pestis bacillus. It doesn’t seem the sort of mind simple enough to give you gifts via picking a phrase on paper out of a box.
But we’ll leave theology aside – c’est pas mon metier – and my squirmy discomfort with it. If I didn’t know the organizers couldn’t in any way control who got what sentences, I’d have suspected them of a joke, because the sentence I got said something like “I give you silence, so that in it you can hear His voice.”
If the organizers had done this, it would be justifiable. Those of you who have had the misfortune of meeting me, particularly on a day when I’m caffeinated enough and not sick, know that my tongue runs on wheels. I learned to speak in sentences at one and a half and – according to my mom – never stopped since.
However, recently – as in the last month – I’ve been reminded of how much I need the gift of silence, and how rarely it comes.
The silence I need is internal. I’m one of those people who can’t meditate because it’s never quiet in there and no technicque works to make it silent.
Even before the kids and the career, my head went a mile a minute. This is not a brag. I suspect it’s a form of ADD. Most of the time it sounds rather like the chat in a doctor’s waiting room. “Oh, I wonder how bad this is.” “By the way, on the way home, remember to do groceries.” “The cats threw up in the living room again.” Sometimes there’s more worrisome chatter “my LORD the public debt. How will we survive this?” Or “Haven’t talked to dad in a week, wonder how he’s doing.”
At any given time there’s two or three worries – and often five or six – foremost in my mind, plus the fact that I am for all intents and purposes the household planner on behalf of kids, husband and the house/repairs itself.
So, what does all this have to do with writing? Well... that’s another layer of “chatter”. Someone once asked Nora Roberts what she did between books and she said “Sometimes I get a cup of coffee.” Now, I’m no Nora Roberts who is – for those who haven’t read her – a d*mn fine writer, but I daresay her books are a lot more like each other than mine are. I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder, but I just flipped from a layered, textured 17th century book to a fast moving (if also textured) space opera set around AD 3000. This makes life... interesting. And I’m having trouble focusing on the new book.
What I’ve found is if I try to “force” it my mind runs into the easiest (often very silly) channel. To keep myself “there” I need mental silence for at least a day, and then I “find” the story track. This hasn’t happened yet for this book.
In fact with the last five books, I found to pull it all together I need to physically go away (usually to a hotel) for about a week. The first day is mostly devoted to sleeping/decompressing. Sometimes the second too. By the third day the writing starts.
But doing this is disruptive to me and my family and costs money, which when a book is on spec is hard for me to spend. So...
What are your suggestions? How do you call down peace and silence to your mind, so you can concentrate on writing? Do you have the same problem with the mind that runs on trivia? How have you dealt with it?