The zone of silence: rediscovering non-fiction

I’ve been working on a short book about dieting, weight loss, and the ideal relationship with food.

But it’s been a while since I did any real intellectual work – long enough for me to forget all the lessons I learned years ago working in bioethics, where I had the privilege to dive headlong into all-consuming questions day after day.

That’s why it took 18 attempts before I remembered how to write non-fiction again.

The French Dominican philosopher Sertillanges wrote:

Do you want to do intellectual work? Begin by creating within you a zone of silence, a habit of recollection, a will to renunciation and detachment which puts you entirely at the disposal of the work; acquire that state of soul unburdened by desire and self-will which is the state of grace of the intellectual worker. Without that you will do nothing, at least nothing worthwhile.

That zone of silence is essential. To create it means rejecting every other thought, idea, desire, or preoccupation.

You cannot think “I want to write a book”. You cannot have your audience in mind. You cannot harbour any thoughts of how people may react, or how well your prose matches the conventions.

Create that zone of silence, and into that space a pure, authentic, unadulterated idea will come forth.

Proposition by proposition the text will grow, until there is enough substance to continue.

Without this detachment, this freedom from desire and self-will, the work cannot be fresh or original. It will shrink and curl, and take the shape of cliched and familiar expressions.

I’ve written a lot about fiction recently, but I’m thrilled to rediscover these deeper levels of non-fiction I had neglected for so long. I’ll keep you posted on this new book, but in the meantime I’d be remiss not to mention my recent fantasy novel.

To Create a World is a unique tale of magic and meaning, our longing for adventure and our deepest fears and desires. Click on the image below to find out more.

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I am a great person

I haven’t been to many concerts, but Throwcase’s delightful and measured reflection on the complex sub-text of audience distractions rekindled for a moment the suppressed rage of sitting in a cinema surrounded by people who do indeed seem to think that a distraction is only a distraction if someone other than they are causing it:

Schnuppleberry says she has perfected a way to free the cough drop from it’s crinkly plastic wrapping in the slowest way possible. “At first I did it extremely quickly, but then I realised nobody could tell how unobtrusive I was being. Now I take about five minutes to open each one so that if anyone hears me they know I am taking great care not to make any unnecessary noise. I am a great person.”

http://throwcase.com/2015/02/16/audience-makes-irritating-noises-carefully/

Still, I have determined that some people are simply more tuned-in to aural distractions than most.  I’ve discovered on numerous occasions that intense irritants such as a buzzing fluorescent light, a distant lawnmower, a ringing phone, or even less obtrusive sounds like a distant train or passing traffic seem to demand an equal share on my attention as the blissfully oblivious individual with whom I might happen to be conversing.  “Sorry, could you repeat that last point: a man in a car on the road outside your house just swore at someone, and they’re having an argument now.”