I’m sitting in a hotel room hundreds of miles from home while some necessary travel adjustments are being made. It’s quiet. The “do not disturb” sign is hanging on the door. I am encased in quiet. And it is delicious.
I’ve long known that I work best in quiet places — a fact profoundly confirmed by Susan Cain’s monumental (for me at least) book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Here, in the quiet, I can think clearly. My mind is not interrupted with extraneous voices, sounds, and movements.
Some people find this kind of silence distracting. I have one friend, Ben, who simply needs noise to think.
I need quiet. It is a need as great as air. When I am too long surrounded by conversations and telephones and especially television (the modern world’s most ubiquitous distraction) I can’t think. My brain feels more like a ping pong ball bouncing around inside my skull. Just about the time it settles, some noise hits it again.
Having once worked in an open office, I have come to realize that such a lack of quiet is not only distracting, it is subtracting. In other words, it creates a deficit of mind, a confusion of thoughts, and ultimately, an enormous frustration, especially for writers like me.
In quiet, by contrast, I can listen, sort out my thoughts, capture those that come randomly, organize them, and consider them. In quiet, I can turn on a stream of thoughts that will flow uninterrupted.
That is my morning. Today, I can absorb what I learned yesterday at the home of President Harry Truman and at his presidential library — a place I would give 10 gold stars. I can process the thoughts provoked by the museum’s sentinel character, by the players who surrounded him, and by the history that consumed him.
I can think because it is quiet.
And I can write.