Be still and silent.


I have my parents to thank for this.  When I was a baby, if I cried for no reason my mother could find, she turned up the stereo and let me cry until I got tired and fell asleep.  When we went camping, while my older brother was still traveling with us, I slept in the cab of the truck, where the music blared from door speakers until the wee hours.  My parents and their friends continued drinking and talking loudly.  Falling asleep was my only option.

I can’t abide silence.  I lived in a small town here in Mexico for a time, where I had a bakery.  I shared a small house with my partner, both of us in one room.  He had to learn to sleep with the TV on.  I compromised and left the volume low.

I’ve always been energetic, antsy, nervous.  I’ve always got several things going at once.  My friends always remark that I can’t sit still for a visit.  I get up to check something on the computer.  I need a glass of water.  Oh, you have to see this…now where did I put it?

I can’t abide immobility.  I had hip surgery a few years ago, and couldn’t get out of bed except to go to the bathroom, and I was out of my mind after a few days.  I have stood up for various reasons three times while writing this.

The question often comes up: What is your writing ritual?  I’ve seen many respond that they need to be in a quiet space, no distractions, maybe even a Do Not Disturb sign on the door (or an understanding with family/housemates.)  I have no such illusions.  First, we are three living in close quarters here, and while writing this I’ve been drawn into conversation four times so far, even though I’ve got my headphones on.  (Five times now.  One moment, please.)

So, my writing ritual:  Open Word document, something to drink (beer, water, juice, coffee), perhaps a snack.  Washing machine running on the patio, dinner in various stages of preparation in the kitchen, music emanating from my computer (mostly Joni Mitchell for the past month or so.)  I hop, skip, jump between the three for the next few hours.

My question:  What are your rituals?  What do you need to do the things you love to do, be it writing, reading, watching a movie, preparing for the day?

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12 Responses to Be still and silent.

  1. Sylvia Hivén says:

    White wine. And then I trick myself into thinking that its too late to write, and that I really should go to bed. Kinda like making it a guilty pleasure. Works every time 😀

  2. CJ Jessop says:

    I can cope with background noise, just not music and especially not music with words. Repetitive sound gets under my skin and distracts me, but I can write if the TV is on or if people are talking, or the white-noise of the air-conditioning.

    Like right now, my other half is lying next to me in bed, watching Japanese anime with subtitles. I can’t tell what they’re saying, so I can tune it out.

    My ideal conditions are first thing in the morning, a cool room and a cup of coffee. I can usually get a couple of hour of solid writing in then.

  3. ashleycapes says:

    I’m a bit like you, George, I need sound a lot of the time and work best with music. Optimal is if I have instrumental or lyrics I know inside out. Often music with lyrics that are new to me can be hard, but new instrumental music is no probs.

    I find the music blocks out incidental sounds and helps me zone out from the world around me.

    Prince and Charles Mingus are two guys who got me through/into one project late last year.

    • Prince and Mingus are great choices. Occasionally I find the lyrics distracting when I hit a rough patch in a story, so I usually switch to Brubeck.

      • ashleycapes says:

        Fantastic – I love Brubeck – have you heard his ‘Jazz Impressions of Japan’? One of my favourites, such an amazing album that one.

        • I’m sure I’ve heard bits of it. Sometimes I put on a Brubeck mix from Youtube and let it run while I’m writing or otherwise occupied on the computer. I’ll definitely look for it. Thanks for the tip.

  4. Let me see, rituals to write … Nope, sorry, still don’t have any. 😛

  5. Free Falconer says:

    There is something horribly wrong with me – I have no writing ritual. I get on my laptop or my PC and I write. Noisy, quiet, with a drink, without one, morning, afternoon, midnight. Sitting on the couch, at a desk – occasionally at a picnic table in a park, or in a fast food restaurant or cafe. Sometimes I get out of bed to write because I am writing in my head and cannot sleep.
    I don’t get writer’s block either. I just write something else or edit. I get STUCk sometimes with a particular story – if it is a book I write a different part, if it is a short story I put it in my To Work On file with a note as to where and how I got stuck. Sooner or later I get back to it and work it out.
    Mind you, none of this counts for anything until – and unless – I get published.
    BRIAN: You are all different!
    CROWD (in unison): We are all different!
    WEEDY MAN: I’m not
    (Life of Brian)

  6. Hello, Free. Thanks for stopping by.

    I know that not everybody has rituals, and if you can write wherever, whenever, whatever the world around you has in store for you, well, you’re ahead of the game.

    As long as you’re writing. 🙂

  7. Karen Burwell says:

    Rituals, no. i just sit down and start typing. (who was it who said, “Just open a vein…”). When I get stuck in a story, I set it aside until it starts telling me where it wants to go next. I work on something different in the meantime. I don’t frame/outline; I let the story lead. A few years back, I thought I could only create in longhand. Then we got a computer. WOW! I can almost type fast enough…definitely faster than longhand.

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