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!
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?
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.”
“Silence is as deep as eternity, speech a shallow as time.”
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