Location, Location, Location

Where do you come up with your best ideas?

I have two places:

  1. The bathroom. At least until my son started to walk. From the moment he started to walk, he followed me everywhere. I couldn’t use the toilet in peace for the next three years. Thankfully at nine-years-old now, he has no desire to watch me — do my business. It is once again one of my thoughtful refuges.
  2. In the middle of the night. I finally learned (mostly) to keep either a notepad or my phone near me at night. I used to think that when I get a lovely, profound thought, or interesting story idea while I’m drifting off to sleep, it would stick around until morning. Nope. Not even 2% of the time do I remember. It is gone. Forever.

There is one commonality between those two places where I get my best ideas. Silence.

We are surrounded by noise, whether it’s the television, our computers, the radio, or other people. We love noise, and the more technology we have, the more likely we are to use it. I see people walking with their head buried in their phones, and earphones drowning out anything else. Including natural sounds such as birds.

Why do we hate silence? What’s wrong with immersing ourselves into our own thoughts? What are we afraid of?

A psychologist could answer that question better than me, but I do think there’s an addictive component to sound and distraction. It’s not so much that we hate silence but that we crave noise. Silence can be scary. So much so, that when we have too much silence, our brains start to make us hear sounds that aren’t there.

Like everything else in life, moderation is key. Too much noise, and we can never hear our thoughts, the silly or the profound. We lose ideas, or they never get a chance to surface. Too much silence, and we could drive ourselves insane.

Writers especially need moments of silence. Like me, it’s during the silences that we find our best ideas.

“Writing is like meditation or going into an ESP trance, or prayer. Like dreaming. You are tapping into your unconscious. To be fully conscious and alert, with life banging and popping and cuckooing all around, you are not going to find your way to your subconscious, which is a place of complete submission.” — Carolyn Chute

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