by Michael

Photo by Mr. Kris on Flickr

Photo by Mr. Kris on Flickr

I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat invisible; now I might add silent to that – albeit in a more positive way.

At a conference about silences today, I tried very hard to maintain my own silence, but was ultimately unsuccessful, engaging in two or three interesting conversations and even asking a question in a session. I know, right?

Essentially, however, I am a relatively silent person: I don’t thrive on small talk, I keep my own counsel (unless I feel very comfortable with you, usually after several years’ acquaintance), and I would rather store up my thoughts and ideas and present them in as polished a form as possible (if ever) rather than blurt them out at the earliest opportunity. Hence preferring to write than to talk.

I do thrive on listening, however. Interviewing a researcher for work recently, he remarked that it was very therapeutic being interviewed by me. Tending towards silence probably helps with the whole listening schtick. I also like listening to full days of conference talks – ideas are seeded and grow, develop off-shoots or die, become inspiration for my writing, whether for work or for the myriad unspoken projects I have ‘in progress’.

For example, among the silences discussed today were secrets. I have been working on a story (it was originally an idea for a play; it’s currently taking shape as a novellettina; who knows whether it will ever see the light of day) about a secret. In developing this many years ago, I decided that a secret is only a secret if, in addition to the two people who share the secret information, there is a third person who is excluded from the information. Seems obvious, but hey. But today, a speaker suggested that a secret is only really a secret when it is divulged – that is to say, the act of not sharing some information is merely not communicating it; to become a secret, the information must be shared, but only to a certain group of people. It is the sharing of privileged information that makes the secret, not the withholding of it from everyone.

I like that kind of thing, and it’s why I find it so invigorating to every so often spend an entire day at a conference only tangentially related to what I do – it seems to be a more fruitful way of sparking inspiration than looking for it in your everyday experience.