|Johannes Vermeer, The Lacemaker. Source.|
"But the article isn’t talking about silence so much as it’s referring to peace. A peace that can actually be had in the midst of barking and birds and whatever other sounds fill your day, but can’t be had on Facebook, or on the phone, or in front of the television. It’s conversation, and the conversation hybrids that slip in through the media that break the silence. Maybe because our minds want to treat them like a real discussion, and who can create art in the middle of a conversation?"
The article Masha refers to is a short post by FASO founder Clint Watson, wherein he says to beware the geeks:
If there is indeed a correlation between silence and creativity, then beware of what we, the geeks, have created. We've built Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and many other services that are designed to tap into the same part of your brain that addicts people to slot machines... The best way to sell art is to produce art that is so good they can't ignore you. To do that, you need to spend time quietly......the opposite of what the best tech minds of our generation are trying to get you to do.Artists possess a motherly little instinct for withdrawal and nesting in order to create. Among other things, we look for security, often for small or at least protected spaces, comfort, and—most relevant to today's post—peace and quiet.
As Masha notes, it's not always about silence proper. Some people admit to having difficulty working in actual silence, preferring some sort of cacophonic life or white noise around them. I'm not one of those, but they're out there. Regardless of noise levels, however, I've identified several primary rivals to silence in my own life.
Thanks to social media and notification systems, distracting conversation may be the largest problem. Email sucks attention away from work any time an unread message pops up in the inbox. Twitter requires its faithful users to maintain a near-constant semiconscious state of attempting to be witty. Facebook can be entered and escaped more easily; that is, if one can only avoid arguments.
Competing narrative also causes difficulties. All art works with narrative, but fiction is composed entirely of it and is vulnerable to every attack. And narrative is everywhere. Angry political or religious debates involve the stories we tell ourselves. Everything that comes out of a television appeals to us through story, commercials included. Everything on the internet, likewise. Even music invokes story, especially when there are lyrics.
Without reference to content, the styles used by other writers and even artists of other media can have a subtle intrusive impact on an artist's own style. This is how influence develops, but it can also cause problems. With time and practice, we usually outgrow the tendency to absorb sentence structure and vocabulary usage on contact, but listening to Mozart reputedly helps people perform better on tests; it would shock me if listening to a lot of very simple commercial music or reading mostly weak writing didn't have a negative effect on creativity.
Then there's the simple matter of conflicting rhythms or melodies or simple noise. For instance, trying to write good prose around popular music is a lot like trying to hum a different song than the one currently blasting from the speakers. It takes ten times the concentration to find the melody, and it's next to impossible to keep it, and it doesn't matter how skilled you are—it just makes the work harder than it needs to be.
Those who swear by writing to music usually find it helpful in setting mood, because powerful, immediate concerns of thought or feeling can jerk a text around—if not halt progress entirely. A writer can and should learn to work around moods, but sometimes intervention is necessary. Half the work of being an artist is escaping the world enough to look at it from a distance, to observe and create from a coherent perspective.
For the above reasons, I don't have or desire a television, I rarely listen to music during working hours, and I try—not always successfully—to keep my internet excursions light and short. I don't have a Smartphone, refuse myself the temporary glee of starting various niche blogs, restrict the frequency of events on my calendar, and should probably consider buying Freedom. And I'm learning ways to quiet myself: a walk through the garden, a little piano time, a carefully-created meal or a re-read of a trustworthy book.
Silence, perhaps more than ever before, is a skill which must be learned. The internet and traffic noise and angry politics are unlikely to go away, but their influence can be controlled, and the worst of them avoided. Art depends upon it. And so, I find at times, does sanity.