While listening to Peter Bjorn & John’s Writer’s Block album today, I began to ponder my own bouts of the ailment. If you are like me and haven’t listened to an entire album of something since the dawn of Pandora, you might not know that the first track of this album is a :16 tribute to the silent void that fills the brain when writer’s block hits.
That, quietest of woes that plagues the author.
It got me thinking. On words. On addictions. How some people have addictive personalities, and I never thought of myself in that way. I don’t cling to the typical drugs or alcohol, but everyone has their vice, I believe. For me, that vice is words (and, maybe, coffee). Or, to put it a different way, noise.
Do you know what silence does to a busy mind? It’s torturous. So unbearable that without some form of white noise, it can feel as if you’re losing your mind altogether.
And yet, Alan Watts, my most favorite of philosophers, prescribes that very thing. Prescribed. Past tense. I’m sorry, but for me, he’s still very much alive. I listen to him often; at times, I even listen to him every day.
We crave noise. We crave thoughts. We need to think in order to make sense of anything. In order to feel like we are doing something, being something. We think so fluidly and so loudly that we fail to hear what’s happening around us. We only hear ourselves, and then, when others are talking, or when nature is talking, we cannot comprehend what is being said to us.
If we look at writer’s block, or silence, if you will, as less of a bad, scary, tortuous thing, maybe we could start to see what it truly is. Peaceful. It’s a sense of ease, a chance to be free of noise. A means of listening rather than talking. Not listening to respond, but listening to hear, truly hear what is being said to us. If we can do that, perhaps we’ll begin to understand.
“To look at life without words is not to lose the ability to form words- to think, remember, and plan. To be silent is not to lose your tongue. On the contrary, it is only through silence that one can discover something new to talk about. One who talked incessantly, without stopping to look and listen, would repeat himself ad nauseam.
It is the same with thinking, which is really silent talking. It is not, by itself, open to the discovery of anything new, for its only novelties are simply arrangements of old words and ideas.”