Not you, faithful reader. I’m talking to the world, with your radio commercials and your TV commercials and internet pop-ups and political ads and Facebook notifications and ringing phones and business signs and a plane . . . a goddamn plane flying over Route 101 with an advertising banner streaming out behind it like a fecal strand. Countless things shouting through a bullhorn: Look at me! Do this. Buy that. Accept my friend request. Take a survey. Vote for Pedro. See my cat video?
Life Summary: taking classes, raising a family, working, trying to write (ha-ha), worrying about bills, worrying about the car, worrying about the other car, worrying about family members—ahhhhhhh!
Self-destruction . . . imminent.
My brain . . . a balloon stretching dangerously thin from internal pressures. Popping, inevitable.
Hey, World, can I get an aneurysm with a side of heart attack, please?
This can’t be healthy.
Can’t write either. No time means no inspiration. The Great Writerly Fear rearing its despicable head: “Life has drunk the well dry. Quench your thirst elsewhere.”
The creative flame is a candle in a hurricane, leaving a charred wick as a funereal reminder of what might have been.
Got to tune it. All. Out.
That’s the solution, right? But how? With so much stuff to do, how?
Bubble of solace, my car!
Blessed aluminum and plastic and glass propelled by the decay of the ancient dinosaur.
Twenty minutes twice a day, five times a week. Radio, off. Phone, off. Windows, down. Silence. Or as close to silence as I can come.
No traffic on my commute, not on these country highways.
The brain relaxes. Not at first, but after a few days . . . I start to notice things.
No DJ babble to interrupt me, no talking heads blathering into my ear about the saintly virtues of one candidate versus the Evil Opponent, who surely eats kittens alive while conspiring to rule the world—mu-ha-ha.
Observations . . . growing sharp once again.
Where did those llamas overlooking the road come from? They must have been there before I started this job, right? Never noticed them before.
The guy with the firefighter plates on his SUV passes me going the opposite direction around the same time most days. Snow-white mustache glimpsed through the glass. Does he see me as I see him?
The dip of a certain hill into a small valley snuggled by towering pines, the temperature ten degrees cooler for a moment as I whizz by at fifty-five. The smell . . . the smell of damp earth and pine, as ancient as life itself.
A driveway winding away into the forest, leading to somebody’s somewhere.
A field of flowers, bloody red and sunny yellow.
This quiet is better. Much better.
The human mind isn’t designed for the modern world. I know that now.
And now, finally, after months of stress and fear and hard work . . . people whisper into my brain again. I’m a little teary. They’re still there after all, patiently waiting for me to carry them into unknown conflicts great and small. Me, the captain of their futures. Eddie Starcruiser, winking at me from the sordid alleys of Fling World. Gary, wondering what the hell is going to happen to him now that New York is devouring itself. Mindy Spell, a little too eager to advance her magic so she can save Incantation from Sliver Strange once again. There are people I don’t know in here, too, although I have a feeling I may know them someday. I sure hope so. Faces, personalities, and voices beckoning.
Come in, come in. Embrace us.
Sometimes silence can remind you who you are. This is something I just learned at thirty-eight years old. When everything in life seems to be shouting, it’s impossible to hear a whisper, even though that might be the most important voice of all. So the next time you’re struggling to lift your creative block, try silence. It’s worked for me so far.
But don’t take my word for it. Science is on the side of silence: