I wouldn’t be able to write without quietude. In addition to being a lovely word, quietude indicates a state of calmness or stillness. On the surface, this relates to my writing environment. Even though I like to listen to music when I write, sometimes I need to turn off the music to really concentrate. (Or if I’m writing in public I might leave the earbuds in but turn off the sound, but that’s mainly because I’m antisocial like that.)
But the kind of quietude I’m talking about points to a deep, inner silence. When I was working on my New Years Unresolutions a few months ago, I realized that simplicity was important to me and how I write. I prefer to write at home. I can ignore the dirty dishes and piles of laundry no problem. I get caught by the projects that I never quite get around to finishing: the digital photos piling up on the camera, the baby books I always meant to finish, the massive stack of files from my grad school days that could stand to be purged.
I decided to declutter. I asked myself if these projects were worth doing. Some of them were. I finished the baby books over break. I made a schedule for when I’d download pictures from various devices (twice a year). And I decided the grad school files could wait another few decades or so. I got rid of some of the mental and physical barriers that wanted to keep me from writing.
When I’m stuck in my writing (or life, come to think of it), I tend to look for distractions, to make as much noise as possible. Lately I’m remembering to breathe deeply and sit still instead of rushing off to check Facebook or send that snarky email or worry about work. These habits are harder to break but they are softening and bending. It’s worth it.
Writing is awash with inner voices. If I cultivate quietude, if I set aside the distractions of environment and circumstance, I hear all of those voices more clearly. Some of the voices are harsh, the voices of self-doubt and judgment. When I am quiet, I am better able to recognize and dismiss them. Then, as I sink further into quietude, I’m able to hear the precious voices of character, setting, plot and story.