Saturday, January 21, 2012

On Writing . . . and the Gift of Silence

Detail from Woman Reading, Augustin Bernard d'Agesci

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink, and clamoring to become visible. ~ Vladimir Nabokov

* * * * * * * * *

I love to write. No big surprise, right? I have a writing blog (actually, two), and though I am not a frequent blogger, I am very much a frequent writer. I write daily. My existence depends on it. My sanity depends on it, to be sure.

I’m a “processing” person. I like to analyze and think things through, and I write so I can find new ways of looking at the world. The human mind can only process so much in the split seconds it takes us to internalize a certain situation. Before we’ve had a chance to mull it over, it has already been filed away as “Event 99,” along with all the associations that go with it. So, what about Processing, and Understanding, and Insight?

There is something extremely satisfying and fulfilling in the act of writing, though I don’t think it’s the act of writing itself that satisfies. Rather, it’s the act of creating... recreating... from a unique perspective, having broken things down to their small parts. Hence: Processing. Understanding. Insight. When we create art, we give birth to fragments of ourselves. And, more often than not, if we have truly put ourselves into our artful self-expression, we don’t even have to claim it as ours. It will have “Nevine” or “Carl” or “Perpetua” written all over it, because it is bursting with the spirit of who we are.

We write. We paint. Fragments. We express. We create. Fragments. And as those fragments of ourselves are released, they make their way through the ether, seeking new resting, nesting places. Many times, they don’t find what they’re looking for. But sometimes, they do. This is when magic happens for the receiver. Magic is what makes something inside us, as appreciators of creative expression, smile and think, “Yes!” while reading a poem by, say, T. S. Eliot. Yes, he is my favorite poet. He always has been. He always will be. I read his words and they touch a part of me I sometimes wonder if even I have ever touched so intimately. 

I have similar experiences with my own work, especially when it comes to the creating part. Sometimes, my writing leaves me shimmering with its ease and beauty. Other times, I am up all night, with not a flicker of emotion or inspiration with which to put words to paper. And, to be sure, my reader will always experience my free or stunted flow, on one level or the other.

And just what is the point of this whole dissertation? The point is... four days ago I made a decision to take a writing fast. I told myself I would abstain, for a few days, from creative writing of any sort... just so I could see what it feels like. When my fingers itched for my favorite writing pen, I wrung them like they were saturated with water. When my head ached from an overflow of unexpressed thought, I told it, Silence, my head. When my muse came by for tea, I politely took a rain check.

I confess: This was an act of extreme masochism. It was almost physically painful, especially because I knew I had the choice to reverse my decision. But the truth is I felt that staying away from writing for a short while would be a good thing... because... when I am not birthing my own words, I indulge sensually in the words of others.

So I have been reading... and listening to music... and reading... and celebrating the beauty of others’ words... and worlds. But then, today... I needed my own words. I needed them more intensely than I have over the past four days. I needed the cleansing and cathartic power of their presence, and I decided to break my fast. But, oh muse! Oh, fickle one! She shunned me, just as I had shunned her. And words were not to be found! I asked her over for tea and crumpets, but she gave me her left shoulder.

I decided not to attend to her vengeful play, and instead, to read some more... just as I have been doing these past few days. As Joyce Carol Oates once wrote, “If writing is not available, reading is.” Indeed! I chose a collection of poems by Franz Wright. He’s quite the poet, truly. Winner of a Pulitzer Prize and all! Yet amazingly, because he is a poet, most people have never heard of him. Sad, eh? I picked up a copy of his God’s Silence at a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago, and I spent my morning in the company of his ethereal words:

The long silences need to be loved, perhaps
more than the words
which arrive
to describe them
in time.

Brilliant, yeah? And, can I just say? All the comfort... and confirmation... I was seeking.

As for me, as I await the arrival of words with which to describe my silence, and as I listen to the magnificence of Beethoven’s easy flow of creativity, here is my humble, muse-free contribution for today:

when my words
my voice
my spirit
are resting
their eyes

let the words
the voices
the spirits
of others

In every limitless void, there is limitless bounty!


  1. Even during your writing fast, in the absence of your words, you have provided a wonderful, soothing interlude to my day! Thank you, Nevine.

  2. Ma belle Nevine, tes écrits sont toujours aussi captivants même quand ta muse te nargue!
    Et puis, tu ne peux pas toujours puiser dans ton esprit sans jamais rien le nourrir. Lui aussi, il a besoin de nourriture pour pouvoir produire;o)
    Je suis allée lire tes deux derniers billets dans TNL en écoutant Beethoven. Un régal!

    BIZZZOUZZZZZ et BELLE fin de semaine, mon amie****

  3. Sorry! Il faut enlever un "rien" dans mon commentaire au dessus! Je voulais dire "sans jamais le nourrir."
    Hi hi hi! C'est parce qu'au départ j'avais commencé à écrire: "sans jamais rien lui donner à manger."

    Re BIZZZOUZZZZ et à bientôt****

    ps: passe mon bonjour à ton chéri;o)

  4. ..................*

  5. ConTemplate - Thank YOU!!! I so appreciate your words, and the comfort of their honesty.

    Cremilde - Ah, mon esprit! Oui!!! Je te remercie, ma belle Cremilde, pour toutes tes belles pensées... et pour tes petits coucous et saluts! Je vais passer ton bonjour a mon chéri, oui! Et je te souhaite un joli dimanche, plein de fleurs et d'étoiles!!! Bises bises... et merci! :-)

  6. I have to say that your words have touched me in a very deep way...and the simple offering that you provided is brilliant. Stephan R. Donaldson uses a saying to explane a stance of his story line "for a story jow is in the ear that hears" probably applys to the written word.

  7. Marvelous music...
    Best regards,


  8. This is a refreshing post, Nevine. I appreciate your thoughtful approach to the writer's craft.

    I think most writers benefit from periods of abstinence. As well as giving birth to fragments of ourselves, we are sometimes called upon to gather up and interpret the fragments of others.

  9. Wander - Thank you for the very kind words. I am happy you could relate. As for the Donaldson quote, yes it seems it is about the written word.

    Pierre - Well, the music isn't mine, but I'll take credit for choosing it. Thank you.

  10. Martin - I agree completely. Writing is all about receiving and delivering fragments of who we are, and it can be quite an exhausting process. There is definitely a benefit in taking a break. I can attest to that!

  11. It is an ironic thing that, now, through tweeting, texting, emailing, blogging, etc. we are now more awash in words than ever and, yet, bereft of words that have the power of a book or a conversation or a poem. Indeed, it is from the electronic forms of words that I find myself, periodically, fasting. What is interesting to me is how difficult I sometimes then find it to really dig into a book in its entirety. I'm a work in progress here when it comes to intent, but the circumstances you describe are ones I recognize in me.

  12. Dear, dear Nevine--I am speechless! After reading your thoughts--colored with words so pretty, I was going to comment...and accidentally I clicked on Beethoven's second movement of his violin Concerto. This concerto I played for my Masters recital for a final grade. They gave me a 4.0 and I was disappointed, expecting 100--grin!

    Having said all that (ahem!), I love so much about this post--it DID seem to flow so freely, since your heart did the writing. What I wrote it much better--is when I want to write, but just cannot--for any reason--I read another's words. And that source is inexhaustible.

    Funny, whenever I do that (so seldom--grin!) invariably I learn. and so--let it be known that I'm a real sucker for some few blog posts, yours being certainly in that "few!"
    Love, and PEACE to you, Nevine!

  13. HEY! I forgot! Nothing unusual about that. I did learn something long ago--in music, often more important than the notes, are the silences (rests). Just sayin'-- grin!!!!

  14. Judy, let me just tell you, I'm not a tweeter or a texter, and I doubt I ever will be. As for email, it seems it has become a necessary thing. And blogging? Well, I just do it for kicks! Still, sometimes I wonder how we can keep skills such as writing alive, when we are so inundated with machines and social networking practically doing our talking and writing for us. I mean, people don't even really talk to one another anymore... in real life! Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur when I walk into a used bookstore and look for real books. And my heart was broken when, a few months ago, Borders went out of business. It almost makes you want to fast forever...

  15. Steve - Oh, Steve! I am the speechless one! It was no accident you clicked on Beethoven; it was your spirit telling you to do so. And you got a 4.0 for your rendition... woohoo!!! I have to admit, Steve, it had never occurred to me before that I might actually end up learning from a break in my writing cycle... and enjoying it so tremendously! There are so many writers who express themselves so beautifully, and I can't hope to plunge as deeply into their psyches as I would like if I am focused, always, on my own. Thank you for your warm words of encouragement, Steve. You have left me smiling wide and bright! :-)

  16. Always eloquence of a rare kind springs from your mind, water from a spring, crystalline, pure, radiant...

  17. Lovely music. If silence is so eloquent, let me not say more. I enjoy phases of silence and now I see that you are shimmering in the writing fast and providing us a feast of silence.

    Nevine, your posts leave me speechless (now that is not silence, is it?) and wanting more. With or without the muse, you seem to be doing well. Shame on the muse. I wonder what she must be thinking of this one.

    Big hugs and much love as the week begins.

    Joy always,

  18. such a beautiful post, nevine, and ironically one which bears such close resemblance to my own life/thoughts of late - but that has always been true of our friendship, it seems - traveling back and forth in the recesses of each other's mind - in my case, aside from being called to sit and read a real book - one with the corners burnished from fingertips - one with with the fragrance of days gone by still upon the pages or even one with the parfum of newness upon its paper, my spirit has been longing to paint again - to pick up the brush and create feelings with form and color - and so the past few days have found me replinishing my art supplies - pouring over catalogues and websites for just the right paint or brush or compound and canvasses - and so it goes - we move in and around feelings and thoughts and words but when our spirit's words are resting their eyes...the spirits of other voices rise...

    and here's to all those others! ;)

  19. Owen - I'm speechless at the beauty of your thoughts. Though I have not been so creatively eloquent, lately, maybe my expression was the eloquence of silence. That is always more beautiful, isn't it? :-) Thank you, Owen.

    Susan - "Shame on the muse." I do like that! That is what I have been telling her, too! But she is just that unforgiving. Oh, well! I will wait for her patiently. She is so fickle... but she always comes back. In the meantime, I am so enjoying this spell of quiet inside myself. Thank you for your very warm words, Susan. Big hugs back to you, and Happy Monday!

  20. Jenean - "... my spirit has been longing to paint again." Oh, Jenean. I can so identify with this feeling you talk about. You know, I can't paint or draw to save my life, but lately, I have been coloring, just like a child. I have been taking oil pastels to a sketch pad and just coloring and coloring, and you can't imagine the release it provides. I daresay I hardly care what the end result looks like. For me, it's not the finished product that matters, but the process I used to get there. That is where the joy lies. So, keep painting, Jenean! And know that I am thinking of you... :-)

  21. Coucou ma belle!
    Je te souhaite des nuits remplies de rêves merveilleux, et des jours agrémentés des plus folles fantaisies;o)

    Bizzzouzzz bizzzzouzzzz bizzzouzzzz****

  22. love your writing style! eloquent, evocative, brilliant!

    love your mind!
    you really get me going.
    and thanks for sharing that divine music!

    big hugs!


  23. Roger - Merci. C'est gentil!

    Mildred - He he he... et moi, je te souhaite des nuits remplies d'étoiles!!! Bisous bisous, ma belle amie!

    Betty - Thank you so much, my dear. You are ever sweet and filled with kindness. Big hugs right back to you!

  24. Coucou mon amie;o)
    J'aime quand on se promène sur la toile ensemble;o)
    Merci tout plein pour tes visites et les adorables traces que tu laisses sur ton passage;o)

    BISOUS et BELLE fin de semaine, ma belle*Passe mon BONJOUR à ton chéri***

  25. Mildred - He he he... ;-) Merci, ma belle!!!

  26. Great post and i can recognize it a lot. As i haven't paint or draw for awhile, i become very, very restless. Then i have to sit down and start to draw while listening to music or the birds in the garden. On my website i wrote: it's a necessity for me, just like breathing. And yes, to stay sane. I am so happy to draw because my painting muse doesn't show up for a long time, so there's always some restlessness lingering in the background. To read and to listen music is luckily very comforting. And like the silences i also must learn to love the silences on paper or canvas, the white spaces waiting for the muse to show up.

    Thank you for this inspiring post, the poem of Franz Wright and yourself and the beautiful music of Beethoven which i haven't heard for a long time.

  27. Monica - You can't imagine just how soothing your words are to me. While I do realize that all of us who choose to express ourselves creatively sometimes come to a halt with that expression, it's such a lonesome place to be when one is wondering how in the world it all happened. Thank you so much for your words, which have left me feeling like I am one drop of something very big and beautiful. Sweet hugs to you!

  28. I wish I could write with such dedication. I'm just too A.D.D. to do so. I stuggle at it and have projects in various states of completion strewn all over my house and computer. I think that is why I've pretty much concentrated on my photography for the past couple of years. The process is so quick...
    I've been told that medication will solve this problem for me, but I'm not sure I want to go that route...

  29. Pat - Your photography speaks for itself. We all need different forms of creative expression to satisfy our souls. I've also read your writing. Oh, yes!


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