Listen to the Silence (or, is not writing in your journal a bad thing?)

A tale of the wild

My hubby, Jack, tells the story of a fellow he knew, way back in the olden days, just after he graduated from high school. It seems this fellow had grown up and lived within the confines of the large metropolis of San Francisco without ever venturing into the wild. But, “being in the wild” was something he dreamed of, hoped to attain at some time, really wanted to do.

Finally the time came. He was invited to spend a week camping with seasoned campers. This fellow journeyed into the mountains near his beloved City by the Bay and set up camp. Along with his buddies he pitched the tent, gathered the wood, spread the bed roll, ate the camp goodies, told the wild tales and crawled into his sleeping bag for the quiet and peaceful night which stretched ahead of him.

The next morning he scrambled back to the city where he hoped to get some sleep away from the dreadful noises of the forest. Cicadas, crickets, hoot owls, frogs, foxes – who knows? Whatever caused all that racket didn’t matter. He simply had to get away from the clatter or he would never be able to sleep.

I’ll tell more about this San Francisco story in a moment, but first another tale.

Another tale

My daughter, Tonya, still teases me about the time in her early teens when someone asked me if I had a favorite type of music. Without hesitation I snappily answered, “Silence!” If you’ve lived in a household with teens, televisions, toddlers, radios, computers, tweens, microwaves, spouses, dishwashers, visitors, washing machines – the list is endless, then you recognize my desire for QUIET! (please?)

As I write this, in the early morning hours, when everyone else in my household is quietly sleeping I noticed this list of noises:

  • my keyboard tip-tapping
  • the water heater swooshing
  • hubby (and dog) snoring
  • walls (or was that the floor?) tick tacking
  • refrigerator hum-bumbling
  • computer softly humming
  • dishwasher pulsing
  • neighbor’s car murmuring by
  • car door thunking

Back to San Francisco

The story of the fellow from San Francisco always garners a few laughs when Jack tells it because we all know that San Francisco is simply filled with noise day and night. The screech of brakes, the trolly car’s rapid rackety-clump noises, shrieking whistles emanating from incoming ships, the conversations of pedestrians, the whoosh of the BART as it enters or leaves a station. Yes, another endless list of noise makers – which doesn’t even include the indoor racket and static.

Listen to the silence

So, what is this enjoinder to Listen to the Silence? Especially since I seem to have just proven there just ain’t no such thing. (For those of you who prefer proper English — So, what is this enjoinder to Listen to the Silence, since I seem to have proven there is no true silence.)

While you may not be able to hear silence, you can see it. Look at your journal. Look at the dates. Have you missed a day or two? Have you stopped writing for a month or more? Did you leave off writing a few years ago? Unless you’re among the elite (and I’m not one of them) you’ve skipped writing in your journal for one reason or another.

But, now listen, because this is the good part

But, you can hear volumes in that silence. Why didn’t you write? What was happening during the time you were not recording? What changed in your life? Were you so gosh-awful happily busy you had no time to write? Were you suffering so much you couldn’t contemplate bringing pen to paper? Was it just that you were going through a lazy phase? Had you broken your arm? Were you preparing for a burst of heartfelt writing? Did you simply need a respite? Did you frankly forget? Had you mislaid your journal? Did you leave your journal at home as you traveled?

Taking time to listen to your silences in your journal can be as important as taking time to write in your journal. You can choose to beat yourself up over your silences or you can choose to listen to and learn from your silences. I think the latter is preferable.

Now, go write in your journal

Now, go write in your journal. That is, go write in your journal after you contemplate your latest silence. Now, what was I doing when . . .


As a lover of words, pens, paper and the dictionary I'm a natural for journal writing. But, I wasn't always faithful to the task and had to learn the hard way. Some trial and error as well as input from my journal writing friends helped move me along. I have a burning desire to help people who want to use and get the most out of their journals and diaries. I see journal writing as a self improvement tool and a way to avoid costly mistakes, bad relationships and my stinky-self. Finding my kindly self is part of the journey which keeps me writing. I Journalate and so can you.


  1. I am the queen of lazy phases!

  2. Hi Jan!
    It’s good to be queen! At least that is what I’ve heard. :)

    It looks like you have taken time to listen to your journal. Is it speaking loudly or softly?

    • It WAS speaking very quietly, but lately it’s been too loud to ignore!:D


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