Silence, Part Two

We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Some readers are not-so-secretly in love with Mr. Darcy.

And some of us secretly suspect that we are Mr. Darcy.

WordPress has helpfully reminded me that it’s been a month since I last published a blog post. A lot can change in a month. Here is that firewood now, in the sun and wind of March:

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Little green things are sprouting, but the damp still clings.

It’s slowly working its way back into the earth. There is something magical, alchemical, about this rich process. It takes time, happening incrementally. My writing process is like that, too. Even before that last post, a silence was settling in.

Sometimes I fall silent here because I don’t know what to say. I’d rather not talk unless I expect to say something that will amaze the whole room. There is value in saying only what is important, but there’s also value in maintaining the lines of communication, and I struggle with this. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say–it’s that there is too much to say, too many thoughts swirling, too many half-formed ideas. This election season (when did a season become longer than a year?) I find myself regularly appalled by people I otherwise admire who sound off at the slightest provocation, without thinking, without assessing, without digging for the deeper truth. I don’t want to do this. Better to keep quiet.

I have a guest post up on the blog of the lovely and wildly talented Marisa Goudy. It’s a very short story about family history and erasure–about the people who are silenced.

Silence seems to be my theme lately. I think I need it in order to do deep work. I’m diving back into a novel I drafted several years ago, when my youngest was a year or two old. I wrote it in increments, in my daily writing hour from 8-9 each evening. I’m proud of it, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that any novel that gets written in one-hour increments must be in want of revision. The Pride and Prejudice metaphor feels a bit odd, since I’m working on a YA fantasy about a warrior-girl, but here’s the thing–she’s a Darcy, too. Words, like her broadsword, are double-edged, and her lived experience is proof that they can cut, can wound, can sever life from limb.

Certainly we write ourselves into our characters, but I also believe that they write us back. The deeper I dive into my character’s psyche, the quieter I become. My awareness of the powers–and the dangers–of language becomes ever-keener. Like her, I find that I need to grab my broadsword in the evenings, climb to the top of a windswept hill, and say in the fierce joy of motion the things that cannot be said in words.

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Evening broadsword practice.

It’s tempting to dump all the contents of my brain here and let you pick through them, maybe find something you like, carry it off with you. But I think it’s this very silence that I need to address, for all us Darcys. I would love to hear your thoughts on this tension between the need for silence and the demands of speech. I’ll be quiet now and listen.