The Startup
Published in

The Startup

The power of shutting up

Not long ago, the sound system in my car broke. And it freaked me the hell out.

On broken sound system car day #1, I traveled down the road in stony silence. For a solid hour. Just me, alone, with nothing and no one but myself for company.

It was a totally unfamiliar experience. I realised that I could scarcely remember the last time I had performed a relatively prolonged mundane act (like driving) in the absence of any entertainment.

As I drove, frustration morphed into mild boredom. But then, about 10 minutes into the journey, something unexpected happened.

I started thinking thoughts. Like, in my head.

This should not have been a groundbreaking moment for me. But it was. Because I realised that in my life of constant auditory bombardment, I hadn’t allowed myself much — if any — opportunity for silence in a long time.

Much like the Dodo bird, the Nokia 3310 and my ability to stay awake past 11.00pm, silence had been well and truly extinct in my life for years.

In an odd twist on the ‘You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’ adage, I hadn’t realised how much I had missed silence until it abruptly returned to my life.

And from that moment on, I couldn’t get enough.

The freedom my thoughts had to roam was strangely liberating. Long-ignored ideas from the dark, dusty corners of my brain were shaken out and considered.

My creativity went through the roof.

I began churning out songs and poems at an alarming rate; skills I had long assumed to be dead, or at least palliative due to their previously prolonged absence.

And looking back on this silent turning point, the creativity spike kind of made sense.

Having previously been too busy processing incoming stimuli, my poor bombarded brain had been permitted no time to generate ideas from within. Silence had been M.I.A., with creativity the collateral casualty.

And I was prepared to bet my second slice of cheesecake that others were suffering from the same entertainment-induced creative paralysis that I myself had been experiencing up until this point.

In the current technological age where we only set down a smart phone long enough to pick up an iPad or switch from Netflix to Stan, entertainment-free time has become rarer than a town with no McDonald’s.

And as if it wasn’t already challenging enough to start with, try creating while Justin Bieber is blasting in the background.

(Spoiler alert: it ain’t gonna happen.)

Don’t fall victim to the fallacy that you’re not a ‘creative’ person and therefore the above arguments don’t apply to you. Creativity comes in many forms.

Sure — you may not be an artist, writer, poet, or musician. But opportunities for everyday creativity are ubiquitous.

When you find a way to pack your 4 family members and all of their holiday luggage into your Toyota Yaris — it’s creativity that gets you there.

When you’re stone broke and your mum’s birthday is next week — creativity is helpful to have around.

When you need to cook dinner but all that’s left in the fridge is a tin of corned beef, half a tub of strawberry ice-cream and a wilted cauliflower — hello creativity.

It’s not just a ‘nice to have’. It’s a necessity that makes our lives richer, better, and less scary when things aren’t going exactly according to plan.

And perhaps best of all, creativity doesn’t cost anything.

It’s easy to foster.

All you need is silence.

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