Enjoy the Silence?


So I’m sitting back after taking up my usual spot in Limbo and I’m watching the likes of Dante and all the others pass me by. I’ve sent out a bunch of submissions to agents and publishers and I’m waiting for the rejections to come back so I can send out more to others and keep that particular cycle going.

I’m not someone who is naturally a positive thinker. I don’t believe that me sitting here telling myself that my submission WILL be picked up will change anything about it, or the response of anyone who reads it. I write as well as I can and send each submission out in as good a condition as I can. The dice will fall as they may; I have no control of things after I hit the SEND button or put the envelope in the post box. I know that the majority, if not all, of the responses I get will be rejections and I’m ready for that, I’m ready to try again. That’s the game and I’ll continue to play it.

I don’t really have a problem, as such, with rejections. I don’t like being rejected, nobody does, for anything, but I know it’s part of the process. At least when an agent or publisher sends me a rejection I can draw a line under that particular path and start again. At least I know that that particular avenue is now closed to me, ok, so I move on. The worst thing I have always found with the submissions process is those who don’t bother to send anything, those who just let your submission dribble away into nothing. I’ve spoken about this before and I’m sure I’ll speak about it again.

Today it’s the middle bit I want to think about. The silence between a submission and a rejection. Silence is a problem. You don’t know how long the silence will last and you don’t know what the silence will say. You see, that’s the problem, silence is the most eloquent state of communication because silence says everything.

It’s the same with all and any other facets of life, silence says everything. It always makes me think of when I was younger, much younger, and I would call a girl I liked. Those moments before the phone was answered, or when she was being called to the phone if she didn’t pick up herself, or worse, if she wasn’t in and I would leave a message telling her I called. Those moments, that silence before I got to speak to her, those moments said everything. Did she roll her eyes when she knew it was me, trying to think of an excuse not to talk to me? Did she try to think who the hell I was and what was I doing calling her? Did she try to think up something to get me off the phone as quickly as possible as she was waiting for someone else to call? Or did she actually smile; glad I called and glad to speak to me. That silent gap may only have lasted seconds or it may have lasted hours, or days waiting for a call back, but however long it took that silence was filled with every possible conversation and combination of conversations. It’s a silly, angst-ridden-teen version of what I’m on about but it serves to show how much silence can say, and it’s something we have all experienced.

Silence is the Schrodinger’s Cat of communication. Until we break it and open the box it says everything in every possible way. It’s the same when submitting a manuscript. At any one time the agent or publisher could be reading the submission loving every word, glancing through it, certain they’ve found something to line their hamster’s cage with, have already junked it thinking it’s worthless or have it sitting in a pile of other submissions that someone, sometime will have a look at. You just don’t know. So every option happens, each time, and every time.

Modern technology hasn’t really helped this problem of silence. Yes I can now send out messages via email, Facebook, Twitter and any number of applications and I can be sure that the target of my message will receive it almost instantaneously. But that just means the problem of silence arises immediately. It’s that same old problem again. What do they think when they see my name come up? Do they bother to look at the message at once or leave it for later, or another day or never? If I can send something out so quickly what’s to stop them responding quickly? Modern modes of communication just mean the Silence Clock starts ticking that bit quicker.

So to extend the eloquence of silence, isn’t the ultimate book one that says absolutely nothing, each page saying more and more nothing, blank sheets one after another onto which the reader imposes his or her own meaning and interpretation, a book that changes every time you open it and never says the same thing twice?

(I have seen a book on sale called ‘Everything Men Know About Women’ that consists of exactly that, empty pages, so perhaps in joke form my point has already been proven?)

So maybe this is something for an art-prankster publisher, a Situationist or a Dadaist, a murder mystery where important details are left blank and the reader imposes their logic to the puzzle? Like Cluedo but missing all the pieces? A mystery story written by someone like BS Johnson for example?

Without going that far and without tying myself in all sorts of knots, the literary world of –ists and –isms is one I’ll happily leave to others, I do like the idea of at least approaching silence, like an asymptotic curve, always getting closer and closer to absolute silence but without actually reaching it, pare as much as you can back until almost nothing remains.

A Noir novel where everything is stripped back as far as it can go, right back as far as the nervous system, no interest in witty one-liners, hats, guns, car chases and shoot-outs, just someone making a choice and that choice turning out to be wrong. Someone looking for justice or redemption where there’s no one to mete out justice and no one to grant forgiveness. Like that passing Dante except the top of the mountain is empty and all there is at the bottom of the pit is what you bring there yourself. (Offers for TV and movie rights on the back of a postcard to . . . . .)

So in the meantime I sit back and let the silence say everything to me until someone breaks it and shows me that dead cat and I do it all over again.


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