Gore Vidal, the American writer, died late last month. I confess to knowing little about the man and even less of his writing; however, I now have this quote, courtesy of The Sydney Writers Centre Newsletter:
Many writers who choose to be active in the world
lose not virtue but time, and that stillness without
which literature cannot be made.
I think he has a point.
In my own case, whenever I am stuck for what comes next - either in a short story or the writing of longer, more ambitious pieces – I find that going for a walk with the dog provides inspiration. Invariably, while I am walking I think of what it is that must come next.
Walking and stillness are not synonyms, neither am I that arrogant to assume that what I write is literature, but I think I’m on the right track. It’s that state when your mind is empty of immediate concerns, and it’s having the time and the opportunity to mull things over.
Wordsworth, wandering lonely as a cloud, was a writer that came to mind. Here is a man who had opportunity for reflection and used it well. Another writer who sprang to mind, also a poet (why?) was William Carlos Williams. As the cat / climbed over / the top of… The stillness in his work is self-evident. What occurred to me then was this: because our lives today are so busy by comparison have we lost that opportunity for stillness?
And can you mistake stillness for procrastination? Ha!
As it happened, I went walking with the Loved One and friends at Mt Barney on the weekend. It’s the perfect time of the year to be there. No mosquitoes, no snakes, the temperature hovering around 21˚C at midday.
It’s a great place for reflection. There are bird calls and trickling streams. Grasses rustling in the breeze. And, yes, there was a cloud, just the one. We sat on boulders in the middle of the river while the water rushed and hurtled over the rocks around us. It was deafening.
And in spite of that I thought about stillness.