I work best in silence

A strange discovery, hardly worthy of a blog post, you might think.

But despite the joys of free music on the internet, and despite our obsession with free, instant, brilliant music available 24/7; despite knowing that some of my best musical discoveries – Take That, Bruckner’s seventh symphony, Frank Field – have been made while I was writing, I have also re-discovered that I work best in silence.

Yes, you might think, that was fairly obvious for the close-focus line-by-line editing. But it stands true also for the creative leaps that come out of no-where, the shape shifting uplifting ideas that simply pop up one day and refuse to lie down.

So I then have to re-write the whole book, again? Introducing a whole new theme bang in the middle, with a looming deadline? No problem. I best get on and do that, then. At least I know how to start again, whereas two weeks ago – hey, even last week – I would probably have panicked. I could panic, but what would that achieve? We have to accept the ideas when they arrive, and welcome them.

I listen for ideas, and I suspect that music and noise simply drown them out or drive them away. It might make my office space a bit too quiet, sometimes, but still, is such an enormous relief to get back to some kind of system that will allow me to work consistently, and produce work that begins to approximate to what I think is good. We are such harsh critics of our own writing, but I do know when my work is not at my best, and when my enthusiasm has fled. Lately – until I rediscovered the creative power of silence – my work felt lacklustre and my enthusiasm like a wilted summer lettuce.

Now I begin, at last, to discern a solution to that, in going back to good old fashioned silence.

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