Tag Archives: writing exercise

Friday Reflections: Silence

I happened to be reading up on effective language and rhetoric (plus, right after making a presentation on identity and voice) and that’s what led me to this Friday’s topic! 🙂


It would be an understatement to say that a lot of people have had a lot to say about silence. (Well, perhaps an ironic understatement!)

But before I get into what others have had to say, or what I may have to say — first comes first: what you have to say!

Take some time to brainstorm, mind-map, or free-write (whatever floats your boat) about “silence“. Give yourself at least fifteen minutes; if you’ve got time on your hands, go ahead, take half an hour or maybe even forty-five minutes if you’re so fuelled!

Next: do give this exercise a shot — it’s a way of looking at “silence” in a rather direct fashion, and how it may affect your creativity.

An exercise in & out of silence

It’d be great for this exercise if you could split your session into two halves and spend each segment of time in these two contrasting atmospheres: one where you do not have silence, and another where you do have silence. It’s up to you which atmosphere gets to go first! You could even try the exercise twice; you could choose noisy first and silent later the first time, and vice-versa the second time, or of course.

Note that the atmosphere which doesn’t offer silence doesn’t necessarily have to be “noisy”. You could be listening to music, or maybe there’s the sound of the rain pattering away outside your window. Just don’t restrict yourself. If you want to place yourself in utter chaos, like in a crowded supermarket, instead – go right ahead!

Prompts from music

Silence plays a great role in music – whether it’s a song, full with lyrics, or just one instrument crooning away by its lonesome. Take a piece of music (or maybe two or three, perhaps a whole playlist, if you’ve the time!) and listen to it a few times, paying attention to segments that you think may qualify as a kind of “silence”. How do these segments make you feel? What effect do they have on you?


Sometimes, in my favorite pieces of music, it’s when I’m suspended in these segments of “silence” that I feel it truly touches me – so much, I get goosebumps when I hear it!

Silence matters

Whether people are advocating silence over speech, or speech over silence, we can’t deny that silence does matter:

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.”
Leonardo da Vinci

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Silence, for centuries, has been seen as both a brilliant tool of rhetoric, and a sin, which perpetuates subordination. Amongst other things. We have poetry that stands firm that only breaking silence and communicating can save us from isolation and death. We have had scholars and orators insist upon the power of silence.

It has great meaning for us, whatever the context. What is silence for you? What does it translate to for you? Do you believe in comfortable silences? Do you believe in communicating through silence, or just words, or a good balance of both? Where is this meeting point, where the balance is found, for you?

How do you express silences in your writing? In your characters? Your poems? More importantly, why do you express silences in your writing? What role do these silences have?

your word/silence

However it is you fit your Word into Silence, do explore and write about it! Happy weekend and happy writing, folks! 😀

I’ll sign off here with a couple more famous quotes:

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”
Abraham Lincoln

“Silence is as deep as eternity, speech a shallow as time.”
Thomas Carlyle

And finally, this poetry excerpt, because I just couldn’t close without recalling these lovely words:

“Ships that pass in the night and speak each other in passing;
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice; then darkness again and a silence.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Friday Reflections: The Figure a Poem Makes

Happy Friday, everyone! For today’s reflections, here’s the topic and question:

What is “the figure a poem makes” for you?

Of course, I’m not just talking about Mr. Frost’s essay titled the same. And when I say “poem”, I mean all kinds of art!

It ought to be…

We all have our ideas about writing, or creating art of whatever kind. We all have our preferences, have our beliefs about what makes for the best poem, the best novel, the best painting… Different audiences will obviously have different interests:

Image  Image  Image

Mr. Frost believed that a poem “must ride on its own melting“, that it ought not be “worried into being” – when one is in the act of creating, one should flow with the creativity.

Some may firmly believe that one needs to work every aspect of a work over, quite meticulously, and from beginning to end, for it to achieve the greatest effect.

Naturally, not everyone feels the same way about the act of creating. But there is usually this common idea: A poem should carry the writer away, and only then will it carry the reader away. This is one of Mr. Frost’s key points, Mr. King expresses something quite similar:

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.
-Stephen King

This is most important. Unless one has been touched, how can expect to touch another? Whether touched emotionally or intellectually, or both, it is the experience of it that teaches us best what works in any art.

Most writers like to write the genre they read the most, since it resonates with them the best.

What it means to you

So what is the figure a poem makes for you? What do you like to read or watch? Should it be short or long, rhymed, unrhymed, its language simple or erudite?

If you go back and read what you’ve created, how similar is it to what you read?

Think about those all-time favorite novels you love to read — has your work touched your readers the way these favorites have touched you?

For those that prefer to read and to write two completely different genres: how or why do you think that is?

What “figure” do you believe a poem should make? (Again, replace “poem” with any kind of art.) How do you think this figure should be achieved?

Give an essay on what the process of creativity is for you!

You could write it in prose like Mr. Frost did; it could be about all art, or just one kind, or just one particular piece of work of yours or someone else’s. You could write a letter to someone asking you about your process of creating. Or maybe a diary-entry about your day at work, being a writer! How did you get your work done?

It could be a poem about writing poems! Here’s an excerpt from my attempt at this a few months ago:

you’re holding the pen so
you hold all the possibilities;
your imagination is
its direction, limitless
as long as your thoughts are limitless.

let go of unbelief
embrace the pen
give every poem a chance
to realize itself
and you’ll create them
in the process.

Are you following your own guidelines in creating something (about creativity)? 😉

Personally, my process is a lot like what Mr. Frost talks about.

For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew.

I love getting into the flow and letting the currents take me where they will; and I love being surprised at the end, even if I’m the one doing the creating! It’s a wonderful feeling. Indeed, for me, too, this is the most precious quality of a poem:

Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it.

Have fun exploring your own creative process! I wish everyone happy writing & a happy weekend! 🙂