A Gentle Voice in a World Full of Noise

From the start, I want to share that I am a fan of silence. With so many things vying for our attention these days, if I am to have a public voice, I want it to feel like a respite: something restful, rejuvenating, and refreshing. If I were a self-help author (I have edited hundreds of books by them in the past twenty years), I might play on the repetition of four Rs to create a system to sell you. It would guarantee you more happiness in life, of course. But I am not setting out to do that.

Instead I want to embrace the paradox of speaking out in favor of silence. It’s the kind of silence that you can find yourself in, locate your own thoughts and feelings, and let them linger enough to fully experience them. This is found largely in transitions: when you have set down a book you were reading to go have dinner; in the heady buzz after a full day of work; among the potent feelings of returning home from travel. It’s the in between this and that, the deep breath after a task and before the question “what’s next?” That’s when there’s only you.

Novel writers offer words that spin silently through your mind. We can only instigate the unfolding of your imagination—we cannot determine the result. There is a gap between the words on the page and your reading experience. It’s not like movies or television, where you sit back and witness someone else’s vision. When you read a novel, the ultimate product is up to you, alone, inside your mind. This is how I see the magic of novels unfolding, as authors whisper stories gently and you take up the call to adventure yourself.

In the same way, as you scroll social media and encounter one of my posts, I hope to be a gentle voice calling you deeper within. The effort is not about me or my books—it’s about you as a thinker and reader and someone who lives inside so much noise. I have many interests to share that influence my writing, and my living, such as the experience of “beneficial nostalgia,” nineteenth century American social movements, the mindful life of Transcendental reflection, publishing and printing technology, the arts that touch us, and my desired relationship to readers. But amidst this sharing, my goal is to be a quiet spring of ideas that can unfold within your silence.

I once had a profound dream, in which I was invited to at last move from the shadows of other people into the spotlight. I stood on a stage, brightly lit for all to see, with a universe of beings eagerly awaiting my message. Feeling moved to reach out to them, I opened my mouth to speak. Only silence left my lips. I thought, Surely I have something to say. But no sound came from my throat. Instead, what poured from me was the kind of silence that punctuates speech and action, in ways that make them meaningful. My message was beyond physical forms, reaching into the reverberation of the impact of events on us. The impressions. The contemplations. The echos of change unfolding within.

When I started experimenting with writing novels, I feared doing it because I don’t think I have much to say that others are not pointing out. But then I began to realize that by reading and writing others’ stories, we can each see into ourselves through the solitary silence—of both the creation of novels (when I’m writing, sometimes I don’t see anyone for days) and the absorbing of them (as you create a quiet space for diving deep into the pages). It is a quiet way of meeting each other. 

So with this blog, through social media, and inside my books, I want to encourage your own silence. You are not only the doer and achiever in your life. You are also the reflections and the rippling, as ideas enter you like a stone tossed into a lake. For I suspect I am not alone. There are fellow lovers of silence in the world, who can recognize the potency of a gentle voice. Are you one of them?

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