The Importance of Silence by Steph Beth Nickel

Perhaps you’re a creative who loves to work in silence—or just sit and let it wash over you.

As an extrovert, interacting with others charges my batteries. But that doesn’t mean I’m not beginning to grasp the value of silence.

Many people work with music in the background—or a familiar TV show or a podcast or recordings of thunderstorms.

Regardless of how we work best, there are many benefits of spending time with a minimum of distractions.

These are just some of the benefits of quiet that I’m learning to embrace:

  1. Focus: While some creatives are actually distracted by the silence because they become hyperaware of every little noise, quiet can eliminate the problem of divided focus. I find even instrumental music distracts me.
  2. Peace: Who among us isn’t busy? Creative expression. A day job. Family obligations. Volunteer responsibilities. Squeezing in leisure activities and hobbies. In the midst of our busyness, we can experience peace. Consistent periods of silence may help by eliminating one sensory input to our overloaded system.
  3. Challenge: In the silence, we are alone with our own thoughts, and this isn’t always easy. However, among the things I’m learning in the silence are 1) refusing to allow myself to switch to a different project when I hit a roadblock actually helps me accomplish the task at hand more quickly (I don’t need to be moving full steam ahead every moment) and 2) settling my squirrel brain requires discipline but results in clarity and insight I often miss in the midst of the noise.
  4. Stillness: Have you ever taken a walk during a gentle snow fall? If you’ve had the privilege of doing so early morning, in the evening, or in the country, you’ve likely experienced the blanket of quiet and stillness that falls over creation. Regularly sitting back, closing our eyes, and drinking in the silence can wrap us in a similar blanket of stillness.
  5. Fellowship: As believers, it’s difficult to “hear” the still, small voice of God if we avoid the silence.

So, what do these things have to do with writing and other creative expressions?

If we’re unable to FOCUS, it’s difficult to stick with a project until it is complete, especially when we have to go through several iterations (i.e.: edits).

All the noise can inspire us. However, it’s hard to wrangle this inspiration and create something that will inspire and encourage others if we don’t experience the PEACE that can come with silence.

Raise your hand if you’d rather not be alone with your thoughts. Silence can CHALLENGE us, but we can learn so much and find our path if we turn down the volume on life for a time.

I love to get fired up, inspired, and spurred on. However, if I don’t balance that with times of STILLNESS, I can’t keep moving forward. I get overwhelmed and become unproductive in all areas.

If we desire God’s direction for our life, we must take time to FELLOWSHIP with Him. If we habitually speed read a portion of Scripture and fire off a quick prayer, it just isn’t the same. (Caveat: Sometimes, this is all we have time for, and it is definitely better than rushing through our day without opening God’s Word and talking to Him.) From our times with the Creator come some of our most creative ideas.

Music can be a wonderful transition to silence. I highly recommend listening to Jonny Diaz’s “Breathe” and Brian Doerksen’s “In the Middle (Your Peace)” to get you started.

No matter what environment you prefer when you’re working on creative endeavours, I’d love to hear what benefits you’ve experienced in the silence … and some of your favourite songs.

Steph Beth Nickel is the editor of InScribe’s FellowScript magazine, a freelance editor, a writer, an author, and a labour doula. She is currently working with her coauthor, Paralympian Deb Willows, on the follow-up to Deb’s first memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances.

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7 comments

  1. I’m one of those who need a long space of quiet time to get my writing down effectively. I love the quiet and don’t handle days of jumbled activity well but I realize that others are stimulated by that environment — people like my youngest daughter, for instance. Walking at dusk in a quiet snowfall is the absolute best. That’s when God tells me he loves me.

  2. Tracy Krauss says:

    I like your music suggestions. Although I like music sometimes, I often find silence helps me concentrate best.

    1. Steph Beth Nickel says:

      I have to settle into the silence, but I agree 100 percent.

  3. Pam says:

    I crave silence but I find it hard to create time for it during the day. So I end up laying in bed thinking about my day, making plans, etc and I absolutely love that quiet peaceful time in the dark. It’s so beautiful. The only thing I don’t like about it is that I end up falling asleep way too late!!

    1. Steph Beth Nickel says:

      I have the opposite problem, Pam. When my head hits the pillow (or the arm of my couch), it’s off to Dreamland. No relishing the quiet for me at that time.

  4. I loved the blog post, Steph. Thank you so much for the music suggestions. I love both of them!!

  5. Steph Beth Nickel says:

    Thanks for the encouragement, Belinda. I’d love to hear what music you enjoy listening to.

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