Finding Stillness

A friend sent me an inspiring article yesterday, ‘The Art of Being Still’ by Silas House.  ‘The problem is, too many writers today are afraid to be still.  I’m not talking about the kind of stillness that involves locking yourself in a room with a laptop, while you wait for the words to come. We writers must learn how to become still in our heads, to achieve the sort of stillness that allows our senses to become heightened,’ he writes.

 It’s a wonderful thing when you read something that wakes you up like a cold slab of ice to the back of your neck.  This week, having flurried the kids away to school, I dashed back to my desk, rotated my neck, clicked my knuckles and began the final scene to my children’s novel.   I managed two sentences before the bleeping of emails distracted me.  Five sentences and the doorbell rang: my weekly fruit delivery.  Eight sentences and the revving of the postman’s motorbike delivering my mail.

 Three hours later, I had achieved ten sentences of my book, five email responses including agreeing to host a couple’s cooking class and, completely side-tracked, listening to a radio scam involving a prank phone call to Kate Middleton in hospital.   

Silas goes on to say, ‘I am nearly always in motion, but those who know me best realize that I am being still even in my most active moments.’  He is talking about using the world for our writing by observing the details around us.  We are constantly on the move, flitting from one appointment to the next: the vet, the accountant, the school principal, the kinesiologist.  Each appointment bringing its own new and varied headache of worries.  Yet to find the stillness Silas is talking about, we have to block all these distracting, mundane thoughts and focus on our writing.  The school principal could bring inspiration for a character, the kinesiologist an idea for a scene.  It’s about keeping our heads clear and our notebooks close.

This stillness should also be present when we do find the time to write.  In this fast, technical era, we are easily distracted.  I know of friends who cast their laptops aside, pick up their pencils and notebooks and take themselves to some tranquil corner of the house.  The soft movement of lead on paper, away from the tap tapping of the keyboard, enables them to think more clearly.  

There is a place I sometimes retreat to.  Just me and my laptop.  No Internet access.  No fruit deliveries.  A café, hidden within the grounds of a local plant nursery.  I hide under the shade of a young Maple tree surrounded by Snow Maidens and Magnolias, tapping away and lost to my novel, coffee after coffee.

Tip for the day – find that place that enables you to find your stillness.  Soak in the sounds and scents around you.  And write.

How do you find your stillness?

(To read Silas’ full article click here)






Filed under Inspiring Articles, WritingTips

5 responses to “Finding Stillness

  1. Sheila

    Mindfulness is my way of finding stillness. A course I did online, which gives exercises to slow you down. This makes you concentrate on the moment. Has helped my writing no end.

  2. Can you give us an example of one of these exercises?

    • Sheila

      The three minute breathing exercise is good, Simply breath in and notice what sensations or resistances you feel when concentrating on this. Feel the air coming in to you. Notice what you feel, or think. Aim to accept them all, its okay for me to think or feel this. Then let the thoughts and feelings go… Notice the body becoming tense or rushed, or replenished. Accept and let go. Breathe like this for three minutes and be mindful and still…

  3. Jackie

    Love your writing Gemma! Very clever girl!!!!! Came across this and how true and hard it is to find stillness in the world we live in! I find it in Bikram yoga but need to find it my everyday but so hard!!

  4. Your comment about going to your favourite cafe struck home. Finding stillness often brings with it the writer’s feeling of loneliness. I always used to solve this by going out to a favourite cafe and sitting in a secluded corner with a cuppa – that way one is always surrounded by Life but still has one’s secluded anonymity. You need tolerant cafe staff though!

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