I have been thinking a lot about quiet lately. In particular, I have been intrigued by the relationship between quiet and not-quiet. Meaning: in order to speak, or to think, or to create—to be, in essence, not-quiet—do you need to be within a quiet landscape? Do you need to be inside of that stillness and silence to allow the inside of you to be creative and wild and loud?
I lived in Brooklyn for eight years. And I loved it. The smells of tomato sauce and garlic and roasting coffee beans permeating my block. The banter between the two women who lived a few doors down from me—they kept a running commentary on who passed them on the street from their folding chairs. The deep red of the old brick buildings and the smooth carved details of the brownstones. The roar of the subway, the bright lights of the restaurants at night, the constant stream of people on the street. (Think Wow! City! by Robert Neubecker.)
I was working as a teaching artist at the time, so I spent most of my days with elementary school children, in their classrooms, creating poems and plays and murals with them. I was also a playwright, so when I wasn’t working, I was writing a new play, or in rehearsals for a play I had already written.
For a while, I was productive in both places. I was able to nurture and gently guide my students and generate ideas and pages for my plays.
But then it all sort of stopped. I was tired. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t speak. And what I felt most of all was this awesome sense of cacophony. Every cell in my body was humming so loudly I couldn’t find myself anymore.
And now, all these years later, I am wondering if the reason I lost myself was because I had lost my landscape of quiet. That still and silent place from within which I could be creative and wild and loud.
I still adore Brooklyn. (In fact, I haven’t been back in two years and I am seriously jonesing for a visit!) But I am curious. How do the people who live there find the quiet they need? And in particular, how do the writers find that quiet?
What is the landscape of quiet for you?