Are you silent when you're creative?

I was trying to get into the groove of reading again today. It can be like writing, in that it is hard to maintain the stream of thought if one is interrupted.

So, this evening, I have been thinking about quietude, concentration and inspiration. When I write poetry, I spend hours in front of the computer - or, as I did before, in front of my Olivetti. And like with reading, I find that I am most effective in spurts. Years can go by with nothing, and then one day, I wake up and have the urge to read or write. Otherwise, I am too busy doing things.

In order to be more productive, many people become ritualistic in their reading, writing and art-making habits. There is something to be said about the proximity of concentrated thought to the spiritual. Robert Thurman, the father of the actress who happens to be a Buddhist monk, once explained that what is involved in studying well is the same as what is asked of the novice monk, like: the discipline of concentration and the role of solitude as well as the beginnings of self-awareness.

Joan Didion has written on related topics:

The most important is that I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I've done that day. I can't do it late in the afternoon because I'm too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the pages. So I spend this hour taking things out and putting other things in. Then I start the next day by redoing all of what I did the day before, following these evening notes. When I'm really working I don't like to go out or have anybody to dinner, because then I lose the hour. If I don't have the hour, and start the next day with just some bad pages and nowhere to go, I'm in low spirits. Another thing I need to do, when I'm near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it. That's one reason I go home to Sacramento to finish things. Somehow the book doesn't leave you when you're asleep right next to it. In Sacramento nobody cares if I appear or not. I can just get up and start typing.

There is a fantastic post with video links of how different artists view the creative process. But ultimately, I find the silence (albeit after a healthy jolt of social activity) to be the most conducive to ideas. Sometimes, though, silence is elusive, which is why many, like Chomei (viz: Unwearying Beauty), savour it when they finally find it in their later years.

As a nod to those later years, the photo below of a babushka snowwoman that my friend made a few weeks ago. Her button eyes twinkled, but she didn't say anything. Must have been thinking of great ideas.

Elements: gilded bee roses by way of pugly pixel; doilie frame excerpt from minitoko

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