I rarely think of myself as more productive than the next writer, and certainly I'm never convinced that I deserve a seat at the table. Most days, I'm certain my productivity cannot possibly keep pace with my unrealistic expectations. But I try to maintain a minimal level of confidence that what I'm doing has some merit; some days that's enough, and those are the days when I hole up, work in blessed absolute silence, ignore the clatter and lure of phones and social media, turn down invitations to meet for coffee or lunch. Me. Alone. A pen or keyboard. That is all, and that is more than enough.
The other days, well -- those are the days when I go out. To the bank, supermarket, shoe store. For breakfast, coffee, lunch. To the post office, gas station, Target. To the music store to get my son a new cello string. To the municipal building to pay the water or tax bill. To anywhere, away from the silence. Because the silence is what I must fill up – with words, with writing.
I love silence. I love when silence feels like solitude. I love being alone. But when the writing isn't going well, and if the editing clients and writing students don't need me, then the silence isn't solitude, but condemnation, criticism, disapproval; vast and unfilled, yawning and beckoning and mocking all at once. So I leave it.
Some days, I don't choose to leave it, but life needs attending: Meetings. Appointments. Travel. The thing is, no matter why I leave the silence for the distraction and activity and noise and sometimes the necessity of errands or shopping or meetings, there's still a space in my head that represents that quiet, the silence, that writing place. And I'm always trying to fill it. Silas House described it beautifully in his New York Times essay last week, about a writer's relationship to the art of being still, no matter where, no matter what.
Today I'm in the quiet silence all morning. This afternoon, and tonight, I'll move out into the noise – banking business, a son's dermatologist appointment, a client's holiday party.
I'll be there, but still.