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The Quiet of Words
by KJ Hannah Greenberg



Beyond my window, birds chaunt. They sing at dawn. They sing at dusk. They likewise sing when no more than the stars and the moon illuminate the sky. Especially during the warmest months, the aural output of those mostly nocturnal chorales brightens my darkness.


Sometimes, I, too, warble at night. I trill in sentences and chirrup in whole paragraphs. My piping covers pages. Intermittently, my quavering even stretches to entire books.


Nonetheless, usually, I experience the act of crafting literature as a time of hush. Not only do I insist that my thunderous family members speak in low voices when they’re near my office walls, and not only do I ask the local kids to soften their tones when they’re playing tag outside my window but I also put forth an effort to still myself. Decades of experimenting with the writing process have revealed, to me, that nearly all my productivity occurs during intervals when I’ve successfully settled whatever is inwardly swirling or twirling.


Bird calls and the musica universalis are the lone pulsations that I welcome when fashioning assemblages of concepts. If either my beloveds or my neighbors don’t pay attention to my gentle requests for restraint, I play, at extremely low decibels (these recordings must form a blanket of sound, not a further disruption), select oboe sonatas. Essentially, I use classical melodies as white noise.  


I’ve discovered that when I seek to matchmake motes, I must face as few mental reverberations as possible. That is, any internal equanimity, whose dispersal I have accordingly attempted to actualize, is not an independent construct, but is the space left behind by my banishing my cacophonous energies. Meaning, my cerebral calm results purely from my quelling as many of my sundry tempests as is doable. Directly, my halcyonic state derives from my taming my psychological brouhahas, not from any innate merit.


In brief, the grit undergirding my publishing feats is the perseverance concommitant to my endeavoring to subdue my intrapersonal discords. Beyond the skirmishes that I generate for stories, I deal with copious, ongoing dissonances. Choosing to put the last touches on a poem might mean simultaneously choosing to give my family tuna salad for dinner. Proofing a novel’s galleys for a commissioner’s deadline might simultaneously result in my friends’ calls not getting returned for days. Adjusting an illustration that accompanies a tale might trigger my rescheduling a doctor’s appointment. Each tussle of the heart with which I have to contend presents pros and cons, each of which, in turn, might determine disparate solutions to “apparently” comparable struggles.


All the same, every cognitive battle in which I engage raises my level of agitation. For that reason, wittingly, or not, a portion of my resources necessarily gets directed toward soothing sentiments that might otherwise deter me from finishing an undertaking, and toward embracing external factors that might seem less important than penning additional remarks.


No matter the alternatives that I employ, I continue to have to actively campaign to quell my emotional upstarts so that they don’t completely conquer my concentration. In many instances, I triumph, whether by compartmentalizing visceral commotions or by temporalizing my responses to them. On occasion, despite my efforts, I break down. My private monsters succeed in frustrating me. More explicitly, I lose the fluidity I rely upon to carry me to a project’s completion.


Then and there, I save and close files, engross myself in folding laundry or in contacting dear ones. In a roundabout way, thereafter, I again take it upon myself to embrace my muse. More often than not, after being abandoned, that force wants nothing to do with me. Inhaling and exhaling, I force myself to be serene. I accept that I’ve run into a momentary obstruction.


So, I watch videos about goat husbandry on YouTube, check up on the periodicals that haven’t yet updated my submission status, and electronically crop photos. I contemplate preparing salads and sauces, but since I know that once I leave my physical refuge, it will be that much more difficult for me to return to my pages, I do little chopping or simmering. Now and then, I leave my safe haven, anyway.


Eventually, be it minutes or hours, I return to my exertions. Restarting takes more effort than does carrying on. I wish I didn’t have to pick up where I left off, and, instead, could always be moving supplely through descriptive phrases. Nonetheless, life’s vicissitudes are not mine to determine.


Principally, I am fruitful solely when both my external world and my inner one know harmony. Intermittent and impulsive tumult, viz., fluctuating amplitudes or bursting clatter, whether sourced by others or sourced by me, make me feel crazy. If I am not in my right mind when I compose, my texts splinter. To be creative, I need relative silence both externally and internally.


To wit, in the middle of the day, when the sun has climbed to its zenith, not only do few avians, who favor crepuscular hours and nighttime for their songfests, twitter, but, additionally, I’m not sufficiently besotted by typical working hours’ bustle to develop documents. Other folks’ commotions agitate me as does daylight’s impact on the stridencies I try to suppress. There’s no place for hullabaloo outside or inside of my palpable or of my intangible sanctuaries. I’m most efficient during the quiet of the night.


It’s me who clinches eventide’s muted minutes to push forward with my manuscripts. In my personal universe, the quiet of words, per se, is not merely brought into being by any maudlin lull that scintillae fabricate. That ataraxis, as well, is found in my consciousness whenever I’m able to draw ideas together in peace.




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