For the past couple of days I’ve been thinking about writing in the context of these words from John O’Donohue in his beautiful book, Anam Cara.
Behind Celtic poetry and prayer is the sense that the words have emerged from a deep, reverential silence….
Fundamentally, there is the great silence that meets language; all words come out of silence. Words that have a depth, resonance, healing, and challenge to them are words loaded with ascetic silence. Language that does not recognize its kinship with reality is banal, denotative, and purely discursive. The language of poetry issues from and returns to silence.
Writers are often asked how they make space and time for their writing. Those outer, observable rituals and routines are important for getting the work done, but they correspond to an inner state of mind necessary to do creative work. Making time to write is important, but so is achieving the silence that yields work that is true and resonant. Even when our work is collaborative, it is much like what O’Donohue describes as a genuine conversation, when people explore the unknown together, patient with “the silence from which words emerge.”
Deep inner listening allows us to bring something new to light. We have to dip below the surface of everyday discourse to reach the place where our best work comes from. Authentic characters, evocative images, and insightful observations don’t come off the top of our heads. They rise up from deep within.
Good work comes from a place deeper than anything we can decide to accomplish. Our work, discipline, and effort help give us access to that place, but what we seek lies beyond our means of extracting it. It is a gift, for which we wait in silence.
What helps you to listen?