The Comfortable Silence



I’m back!!

After 169 weeks working on a major project (a new ERP implementation for our company), culminating with me being away from home 19 of the last 20 weeks, 14-15 hour days – including weekends – the grueling schedule has finally come to an end.  Thankfully things are slowly returning to a new-normal for me, and that includes my alter-ego. 

The writer part of me has been muted for the past six months, and it was absolute torture. Imagine being tied up and shoved into a sense-deprivation chamber for that long, except the opposite. The part of my brain responsible for fueling my creative juices and attempted to project those ideas outward through my writing – still as active as ever – had to be ignored. There was simply no time for it. Eight years ago, before I re-discovered my love of telling a tale, that wouldn’t have been a problem for me. But once you’ve swam in the pool of imaginative expression, there’s no going back. I sacrificed lots of things over the course of this project, missing my son’s soccer games and tennis matches, his birthday, getting his driver’s license, my wife’s birthday, not attending the DFW Writers Conference, WRiTE CLUB, and many many more, but having to turn my back on the characters and stories that pleaded for me to come out and play – that was probably the hardest.

I’ve had a lot of people comment about the toll it must have taken, being alone in a hotel room all that time.  Frankly, apart from missing my family terribly, the last year or so (when the travel was the heaviest) I rediscovered my affinity for comfortable silence.  Introverts don’t mind being alone…in fact they prefer it…so it should be no surprise that the stillness of an empty hotel room wasn’t a problem for me. What does surprise me is how many people find silence so uncomfortable, and go out of their way to drive it away. The worst is when they resort to banal conversation to eliminate our serenity. Maybe they’re afraid of what they discover if left alone with their own thoughts? Who knows, but for me, this turned out to be a surprising benefit of this project. I can’t remember a time in my life when things were that quiet. I’ve never lived alone (college roommates, shared living spaces, etc.) and once I got married…well…family life is the exact opposite of a quiet living.

You know another kind of silence I’ve adapted to? The non-existent rejection letter. One of the writerly duties I managed to continue during my self-imposed exile was sending out query letters for my already finished manuscripts. It seems that between the last time I queried (back when I landed my first agent) and now, more and more agents have adopted a don’t ask don’t tell philosophy. Meaning – they don’t bother to send rejection letters any more, they simply let the silence speak for itself.  While I don’t agree with the practice (to me, that’s just pure laziness), I have come to grips with what it says about my writing.

I don’t have what it takes to crack the crystal barrier.

That doesn’t mean I’m throwing in the towel. No sir! I might not have the skill to craft a query letter that will sway an agent my way. Or maybe my books aren’t mainstream enough to take a gamble on. Whatever the reason, I’m relying on feedback from countless CP’s and beta readers…and my own gut…all of which tell me that there IS an audience for what I’ve crafted. So…so long traditional path…and hello self-publishing.

Am I disappointed? Sure. You bang on a door long enough you begin to see your-self as part of the door…instead of just someone requesting entry. Many of the people I’ve become good friends with via the blogosphere have gone on to have their books published and realize their dreams, so it’s easy to feel left behind. But that’s something else silence provides…perspective. The circumstances of my life don’t fit the role of your typical writer, so my expectations need to change. And I’m okay with that.

More to the point…I’m comfortable with it.

8 comments

  1. Welcome back! And good luck with however you choose to take your writing - everyone's path is different. There is no "right" way or "wrong" way. Like you said, you have to adapt to your circumstances.

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  2. Hey DL! Glad you survived. I don't mind silence. I don't need chatter to fill the void.
    Shame agents can't be professional enough to reply. Have you considered querying presses directly? Many of us have had success that way.

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  3. Welcome back. Those were some long days you pulled.

    Do your research before jumping into self-pubbing. (I posted on ISBNs yesterday.) And do consider small presses. DLP is always on the lookout for the next best seller.

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  4. Great to hear from you. Sounds like a trying time, but also one that has let you get a bit of perspective and come to some conclusions. There's a lot to be said for self-publishing in terms of retaining all control over your creations. And like the others have said, small presses are worth a shot too.

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  5. I'm kinda well traveled now, and am very comfortable with the silences. I have background noise - a book on CD, the radio - but mostly I like being alone. But, like you I'm creative, and there are always voices in my head, so there is never really silence, even when all is quiet.

    I'm feeling like agents/publishers are only looking for the next "big" thing. Would they truly recognize another JK Rawling if they were sent the query letter? Lots of what used to be "mid-list" authors are now self published. Not enough income to get rich, but enough to fuel the creative juices. We live in an instant-gratification world. Not pleasing to us old timers, but we plug along.

    Glad you are getting back to a normal family routine. I know how important that is to you DL. Keep at it; it will pay off.

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  6. Wow, that is a long project! So happy you can get back to writing. Good luck with the path you've chosen. Many have had great success with it.

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  7. Hi DL - well done ... and now you're ready to go again. It's the changing nature of the trade isn't it - just adapt and write more. Silence is golden so often - and if nothing is forthcoming so be it ... then as you've been doing ... keep on writing - cheers and good luck with your new route forward ... Hilary

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