The Original Silence

I read an interview with the actor Anthony Hopkins this weekend in which he described teaching a class to UCLA acting students. Hopkins advised the actors and actresses to do as little as possible. He believed an actor needed to let the emotion happen as opposed to forcing it to happen by tearing up all the furniture. Try to be still, he said, and trust that the feelings are there. How quickly advice within the arts dovetails together. I more and more feel that writing is the art of what is not said. The most delicious silence in the world is one filled with your audience’s own feelings. But how, one might ask, does a writer know when enough is enough? It’s fine not to overwrite, but who wants a dry, emotionally inscrutable story filled with chopped phrases and bare stage directions? Where is the line and how do you know when you’ve crossed it?

It is precisely because there is no line that writing is so valuable to the writer. Were I or any other writer able to define the exact perimeter of Enough, there would be no point to writing at all. That you must discover on your own where that line is drawn is the deeper reason you were led to write. Through writing you can learn the endlessly practical discipline of trust. You learn to trust because you are forever the judge and jury of all decisions in your life, and writing draws this fact into stark relief. You must trust yourself finally, or nothing will ever get written.

Strange with something so fundamental to our own well being that trust has sometimes received such a harsh review. Do not mistake trust for naiveté. One assumes an outcome before it arrives, the other assumes safety regardless of outcomes. Within that stillness Hopkins describes lays an abiding trust that all you need is present in this very moment if you listen carefully for it. And when a writer pulls back her pen she and says, “Enough,” she has granted her reader a chance to listen also, having found a silence original to her, but available to all.

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