Monday, August 23, 2010

Silence and the Writer

Tucked away at the moment up a mountain with my writing and without good internet access, I'm not having many thoughts beyond the images and ideas of my WIP. It's interesting that, in these days when an author's job increasingly involves promotion, I feel a certain guilt about this, rather than the immense satisfaction I'd probably have felt once upon a time at being fortunate enough to have a solid period of concentration. Actually, no, I think, once a upon a time - even, or maybe especially, when I had small children - I thought it my duty to my art (if that doesn't sound too pretentious) to bend over backwards to carve the time and peace to give it proper attention.

And isn't that what true art needs? Not that I'm claiming to be producing the greatest art here or anything, but here in the mountains, where there is only the sound of the wind and the stream and the buzzards calling overhead, I am sinking into my work in a way I haven't managed for a good while, seeing the scenes with new richness and clarity and making new connections, the latter often coming to me in the evenings when I'm walking by the sea (and when in Manchester I'd be catching up on internet stuff). Silence and peace. Isn't that what we need for deep thought? And isn't that why libraries were always places of silence?

But don't we now despise libraries as places of silence, and fill them instead with activities? Aren't we now, via the internet, developing a culture of buzz and quick response which militate against deep contemplation? And what will this do to our literature?

A poet I know lives permanently in mountains where he can't get broadband. He is one of the most thoughtful and talented poets I know. But will his work get lost because he can't - or chooses not to - gain visibility for his work via the web? Will all such writers be silenced? And what kind of literature will we have then?
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