“[The process of writing] is much richer and far more difficult to articulate because there are, in fact, unspoken pieces of it—the groping and grasping that we all go through…” -Sondra Perl, quoted in Hannah Rule’s Situating Writing Processes
One of my favorite things that writing does in my life is bring me in touch with silence. Bring me to confusion, to the muddle beyond my meanings. I end up on a cliff beyond which oceans rise and birds call and currents move, except these are steepnesses that are not only cliffs, oceans that are not only water, cries that are not only voices and not only birds. Trying to write often brings me into silence as I stumble past what I thought I understood.
I suspect this is true for lots of arts, and for many of the ways we try to collect thought and experience into meaning (music, choreographed dance, television; conversation, study, relationship, to name a few). I’m writing about this because I don’t think I’m writing only about writing.
Take this, now. At several points in the last paragraph, I stopped. I deleted sentences. I tapped my teeth with my fingernail. I stared at the screen, not seeing. I don’t want to try and list all the things I was doing in that stopping, that tapping, that staring. I also don’t want to make those moments somehow mysterious in a way that leaves me to wait for inspiration. Writing, for me, is a kind of work. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s exciting. But when I’m doing that work, I’m not just typing furiously. I’m also on the swings. At the window. On the floor listening to silences that I don’t understand. I think I forget that when I collapse work into productivity. All that difficult richness—the windows and silences and confusions, the doubts, the stutters, the pauses that stretch on to who knows where—is part of why the work is worth doing. It’s part of why, sometimes, the work manages something wonderful. So I mean, very funny funny, meme, but what do you think someone’s doing when they’re silent on the swings?