Wednesday, December 29, 2010

the sounds of silence

Hypergraphia is the overwhelming urge to write, and it is a trait/malady which I have, yet lately, it's been dropping off. I used to be constantly writing things down. My purse was full of scrawled-upon napkins and scraps of paper. I had numerous notebooks.

I've always argued that non-writing time can be as productive as writing time, and this was the case for me. Some of my best ideas came on walks or runs, while swimming or driving. But why did this spring dry up? A quick analysis of the before and after solved the mystery. My car radio used to be broken. I used to just run or walk the dog without accoutrements. I swam by myself. I never had a radio or television in the kitchen. So I would drive, run, walk, swim, and cook in silence, my mind dwelling in the world I'd created in that morning's work.

But then my car radio was repaired. My daughter gave me a tape deck to use when I ran and made me tapes with energetic music. My husband started swimming with me. He put a radio in the kitchen, so I listen to NPR while I cook. I started catching up on phone calls when I walk the dog.

So, last week, I returned to the quiet. I ran without music. I walked the dog without my cell phone, kept the radio off while I was driving and cooking. Hypergraphia returned. The ideas poured out, the scraps of paper multiplied, problems in my plot solved themselves, as I completed meditative (some call them mundane) tasks. Silence can make us anxious, I think, or lonely. We are a culture that avoids it. But for the hypergraphic, silence is like the sky. It's open and endless and waiting.


  1. There's a name for this??? A name, a name, my sanity for a name. Your post reminds me of your earlier one about pulling threads through our work. Silence allows me to stew in the world I'm creating, too. It forces me to notice the framework, or lack thereof, and strengthen it--if possible--or throw the thing into a heap that Richard III. and Surrey would trample over. If the structure works, the threads will come. And, you know, sometimes the anxiety is overwhelming--perhaps even more overwhelming than Surrey's manure on a hot day... Sometimes, what results from the anxiety is beautiful. We have to accept that we can't choose between the two. In fact, I've learned that there is no choice or control in the process at all. And, for me, that was and often remains one heck of a horse pill to swallow. :0)

  2. It's funny you mention this, Kelly—my entire residency piece is about silence (specifically, the quietest place on earth, which happens to be in Minneapolis). Our culture treats moments of silence as cracks to be filled, plugged up with smart phones, or iPods, or whatever. For me, though, they're not gaps, but glue; they hold everything else together. When my tiny moments slip away, I feel like a boiling pot with the lid clamped on. You're wise to reclaim the silence in your life. So may we all.

  3. Yes. I find this very true myself. I have to make myself be present or I'll miss those thoughts and it's just as bad if I don't write them down. I get sad and stuffy and don't know I'm full of unwritten notes.

  4. I've resolved to unplug myself more during 2011. Too much noise and my head is full. I love this post.