This week’s assignment was to write down everything you overhear over the course of an hour. I don’t go exciting places and have things to drop eaves on though, so I spent the hour thinking about different sorts of conversations and sound, as well as the interplay between thought and silence. I ended up with something that is not really that much of an experimental piece of writing – instead, it reads much more like a short non-fiction essay.
Perhaps because non-fiction and essay writing is a familiar form to me, I found this to be a lot easier to work within as a means of conveying my own thoughts to myself. At other times in the semester, I’ve written in a stream-of-consciousness style of writing, and while I think that it helps to express a sense of excitement or of continuity, it doesn’t necessarily help to depict the concrete ideas that I try to capture. While I think that experimental forms can reflect multifaceted issues, I often feel that trying to force writing to adhere to one form over another (rather than organically moving into different forms) often makes the pieces of writing too opaque.
That being said, here is my not quite experimental piece of writing for the assignment. The original was significantly longer, because as I was writing it developed into something that was highly personal. This piece contains the beginning of the thought process, and I hope that you can enjoy reading it.
Talking with Andrew Bird
I’m in the lounge on my floor in the high-rise dorms on campus. I’ve not moved much in the past couple of hours – a few times to change the laundry in the machines across the hallway, and twice to refill my glass of water. I crack ice cubes out of the blue plastic tray and drop them into the cup. They roll like dice when I turn the faucet on, and things become quiet again when the glass is filled.
I wish that I had something exciting to overhear. To eavesdrop on a coffee shop conversation, and to take down everything that is said between people. That’s a genuine form of dialogue. Eavesdropping is now something I’ve been assigned to do twice for different English classes, so that I can better understand realistic human interactions in writing.
It’s close to my twentieth birthday, and I would have hoped I knew what realistic human interactions were at this point. Instead, I’m left in conversation with my washing machine, which ticks as the large plastic buttons on my long blue cardigan hit against the metallic inside. Click-click-whirrrr. My best friend uses this onomatopoeia to describe the sounds of his DSLR camera. I used to develop film, but the one by one click and twist was a slow process, and not something I had the patience for. It didn’t make the same type of music.
All evening, I have been listening to the same album on repeat. It’s Andrew Bird’s “Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs”, which contains only one song that I have known before today. “Skin is, My”, was put together on a mix cd that a friend made for me a couple of years ago. He called the mix ‘assorted audio comforts’, and wrote it in blue permanent marker across the face. Retrospectively, I realize that it was an incredibly romantic gesture.
While I’m sitting here, listening to all the different kinds of sounds that are being made by non-conversationalists, with the sounds of a vaguely familiar artist drifting in through the speakers at the sides of my computer, I start to think more and more about silence. I don’t spend much time being quiet anymore.