When my husband and I decided to move from Central Pennsylvania to a small village on the south shore of Lake Ontario it was because we agreed that in retirement, we wanted a quiet life. We knew it was a trade-off. In Pennsylvania we had easy access to cultural events and were within minutes to shopping and restaurants of every sort. But we also had to contend with gridlock traffic on the highways, light and noise pollution, a drive of between 15 and 40 minutes to visit with our friends and the hustle and bustle that goes with living near a state capital.
Up here, along the lake, we have a traffic jam when there’s a car at each stop sign at “four corners”, the four-way intersection as you enter our village. We travel a distance for symphony, ballet and opera performances, the nearest mall is a 45-minute drive, and supermarkets between 15 and 30 minutes from our home. But we have an abundance of restaurants, farm markets, small grocery and liquor stores, a post office and hairdresser, the beach and even a golf course within walking distance.
There’s music everywhere in the summer, concerts on a bluff overlooking the water, and groups performing at restaurants and parks. Friends live nearby, and the longest drive to visit them is at most five minutes. What some might call noise soothes my soul: waves pounding upon the shore, the morning cacophony of birdsong, the chittering of squirrels, the soft chirping of crickets on a late summer’s eve, and the mournful call of the loons.
The quiet here is also a balm for me as a writer. A short time ago I took part in a discussion with a Cozy writers’ Facebook group where the administrator asked how many of us write with music playing in the background. I discovered that I am in the minority, most of those who responded are stimulated and feel more creative with background music of every sort. Some were surprised when I said that I get distracted, it’s hard for me to concentrate when there’s too much “chatter”.
It was an interesting discussion, and as I thought more about it, I realized how creative juices are stirred in so many ways. Writing for me is meditative, I can write for hours without paying attention to the time, and sometimes without taking a break. My husband teases that he knows not to try and discuss anything important with me when I’m writing. If he tells me he’s leaving to play golf or run errands, I’ll nod and later not remember a word he’s said and wonder where he is.
As I thought more about it, I realized that as I’ve aged I choose not to multitask as much as I used to. I can cook and listen to rock and roll, show tunes or jazz at the same time, and do word puzzles or Sudoku while watching TV, but for some reason, writing, reading, or listening to certain types of of music are activities I want to savor individually. There’s immense pleasure and something to be said about immersing oneself in quiet pursuits.
4 thoughts on “A Quiet Life by Karen Shughart”
A lovely blog. I, too, prefer quiet when I write but don’t always get it. When I studied acting in college, one of the things I studied was Boleslavsky’s three circles of concentration. I am quite good at tuning things out, even an infant crying in a theater and concentrating on the movie. Who knew that was going to come in handy all my life, including my career as a writer? So hubby listening to CNN while I’m trying to write is just fine. What I can’t tune out are the sounds of gunshots and the squealing of tires. So no shoot-em-up-Charlie can go on if hubby is close by to me. But I do prefer peace and quiet.
It’s such a beautiful area and a perfect place for inspiration.
I’ve found I can write anywhere. But if there is music playing with lyrics or the television is going, I can’t think. It’s having other words in the air that distract my writing. If I’m at home. Now, I can write in a coffee shop with other people talking but it’s white noise and music p[laying, but it all meshes together and becomes white noise to me. Early on when I wrote most of my Native American works, I listened to drum and flute music. I still do sometimes with my mystery books when I’m stuck.
It sounds like you’ve created a near perfect life for yourself as a writer. Thanks for sharing.
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