The Terrible Silence

It’s easy to forget that writing is a conversation, not a monologue. This is a simple enough mistake to make. After all, you’re the only one there. Haven’t you spent your days away from the desk swarmed by all these Other People and their incessant need to speak, their relentless will to influence the stream of thought that is a conversation? Haven’t you earned this literary spotlight, this chance to complete these thoughts as you and you alone would complete them? Of course you have. And so there you are, alone at last at your desk, the room silent, the page blank and waiting for your words. How could this be anything but a monologue? The honest writer will admit that just because he is the only one writing does not mean he is the only one speaking. The difference is that only one of the participants in this conversation has a voice. That’s you. The other participant . . .?

You may call her your imagination if you wish. Or your muse. Or Source Energy. Or God. Or nothing at all. It doesn’t matter what you call her as long as you acknowledge that you have cleared this time and space in your life as much to hear her speak as you. She is the one who surprises you when you write. She is the one speaking when you say you are “listening to your characters.” And she is the one who whispers that new story idea while you stand idle in the shower.

So tempting when I type The End to want to take full credit for what I have written, and yet so important to remain humble at that moment. To take full credit is to mentally close the door on this muse. She is not vengeful. If I thump my chest and say, “Look what I have made!” she will not be hurt, her desire to join me in conversation will not have dimmed.

But she is obedient. If I take full credit she will understand that I wish to go it alone. And so she will become silent so that I can hear only myself. This is a terrible silence. This is the silence of madness. It is not long before in desperation I am listening for her again. How strange that when I hear her at last I feel like myself once again.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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