Q&A: Anne LeClaire on Silence and Creativity

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Novelist Anne LeClaire has recently penned her first memoir exploring the connections between silence and creativity, Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence.

Anne is the author of eight novels, including Entering Normal, The Lavender Hour, and Leaving Eden. And she leads a number of popular writing retreats and workshops.

Here Anne answers five questions about how practicing the under-appreciated art of silence can help you tune into your creativity.

You’ve spent 16 years observing silent Mondays. Can you speak to the connection between this practice and your creative process?
Early on I discovered that there is a direct correlation between  quiet and creativity. In the space of silence, ideas can surface and connections can be made. All distractions distort and ultimately destroy creativity, noise most of all. And, of course, on the most basis level, silence is enormously restful to both body and mind and that frees up energy to create.

How difficult is it difficult to keep this practice up?
Not as difficult as you might imagine. At first, as with any new discipline, there were challenges but now it seems a normal part of my life. I welcome it.

Are silent days also writing days for you? Is that one of the goals?

I do usually write on whatever project I am working on during silent Mondays but that isn’t one of the goals. The sole goal is to not speak and watch what happens in the silence.

This is your first nonfiction work following numerous novels. How was the process of writing nonfiction different for you than writing fiction?
Well, nonfiction still requires the craft of fiction, i.e., structure, narrative flow, a central theme, care of language, all of which must arise out of the material and not be externally imposed. I guess the biggest difference is that in my novels, I could write to explore a truth without being limited by facts. In memoir, I needed to keep it honest and not massage facts to fit the truth and sometimes the novelist in me really wanted to invent.

What is the No. 1 thing you would recommend to writers who are trying to get more in touch with their creativity?
Obviously I would recommend getting quiet and exploring stillness. I would say if you want to become more in touch with creativity then you must be creative. You must consciously fashion a life in which creativity is central. Visit art museums. Expand horizons. Dream. Imagine. Play. Pretend you are again a child discovering your world. Take risks. And risk again. Dare to fail. Practice your craft. And read, read, read.

-Maria Schneider

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