Photo by Bauer Griffin

I’ll make a prediction:  Maria Sharapova is about to win her first French Open title.  Even though she’s been trying and falling short for 10 years.  Even though the red clay is, by far, her worst surface.  Even though she says she moves “like a cow on ice” on the soft, slippery court.

Maria is known for 3 things on the tennis court:  Her focus, her determination, and her scream.  The girl is LOUD.  Funny thing is though, she’s only loud, only a screamer, in her matches.  She’s quiet on the practice court, and quiet in general.  She doesn’t socialize and chat it up in the locker room.  She’s not yet been sucked into the Twittersphere, saying something like this recently, I’m so boring.  I eat, sleep, and workout.  What would I tweet, that I’m eating?  Who would care?

With little on my calendar yesterday, I had every intention of putting in some good manuscript time, but the day turned loud — or, rather, I let it turn loud — and by the time almost-dark rolled around I was dead tired and had done absolutely nothing.  Unless you call multiple trips to Walgreens, talking on the phone, and pouring over the fine print in our town’s tree ordinance something.  It was a disgrace.

I crawled into bed last night thinking about Maria and her 3 things, and also about her quietude.  I recalled a Jonathan Franzen quote from his latest essay collection:  When I’m working, I don’t want anybody else in the room, including myself.

Wow.  Imagine how quiet that would be.


You know I’m dipping into the deep well if I’m linking Sharapova and Franzen (imagine how handsome, talented and tall their children would be!)  but here’s the deal:  I’m going to try and steer clear of these parts for the summer and see if I have it in me.  Can I go quiet?  Or even just quieter?  Can I focus enough to forget I’m in the room?


24 thoughts on “Quietude

  1. Princess Sisi

    Loved this post. And that you’re a tennis nut!

    A business partner-slash-friend of mine relayed similar insights a few years back. There was an article somewhere, an interview with Bill Gates and his father. The takeaway was, if you want to be successful at anything, unwavering focus is key. Don’t get sidetracked. Put it first. Etc.

    I do think that focus, desire and will are more important than we give them credit for. A distillation of energies in service to the thing you want above all else.

    I found my third husband that way.

    1. Teri Post author

      I am a tennis nut. (and that’s probably an understatement) You know it’s bad when you even know the names of the umpires, as in, “We’ve got Allison Lang in the chair tonight!”

      I’ve never been a multitasking sort. And you’re right, Suzy — there is something to the distillation of energy. Imagine if Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had been able to surf the internet and veg out everyday, where would we be?

  2. Downith

    We can but try, Teri. I double dare you!

    And I’ve been watching a bit of the French Open with my son, who is becoming a tennis nut. Naturally, I thought of you!

    1. Teri Post author

      You know I was thinking about your last post — you, being a good influence!

      Someone asked me the other day which sports I like, both to watch and to participate. I only named individual sports. I hate the idea of having to collaborate. I love to see someone out there alone, between the lines or inside the ropes, with nothing to depend on but themselves.

  3. Josephine

    i’m sitting on my back deck staring into the farm fields behind my house. i have my laptop in front of me and the door to my bedroom open to listen to diane reams. it’s a divine day, the birds are out in full force, making a hundred different chirping sounds. i can hear a lawn mower in the distance and an airplane overhead.

    my son keeps coming out to tell me what his sister is doing. not in a tattle-tale way, but more of a every-15-minute-update-way. “she’s playing barbies, mom.” “she’s watching good luck charlie, mom.” “she’s drawing with markers on the couch, mom.” (that one may have had some tattling involved.)

    the quiet of the day would seem the perfect setting for my own private quietude, but i feel more like i’m stuck in my own private idaho.

    less than an hour ago, i screened a call from one of my parents and now sit with the nervous energy and anxiety that always follows. Had I answered it what would I have said? Finally told the truth after 20 years? Lied? Said, “…everything’s fine. i over reacted last weekend. everything’s okay.”

    i should be enjoying this day. this beauty that’s all around me. we are healthy. my kids are by my side. my husband is gainfully employed. i get to pick my work schedule. i’m drinking coffee on my back deck, literally in the very middle of the morning, in the middle of my suburban neighborhood, in the middle of america. (middle, middle, middle–ugh).

    i have no real problems.

    but that looming anxiety of things left unsaid. i haven’t spoken to my mom in over a month. she was awful to my sister in a moment when my sister needed to be sheltered and loved more than she needed anything else.

    shit…i’m hi-jacking your blog. i’ll stop and go write on my own.

    (remember when seles was the real screamer and capriati was too young to date matt perry?)

    1. Teri Post author

      You can hijack this blog anytime, Josephine.

      I have no real problems either. Except that I let things become my problem, and then what does that get me? Fucking nada. Time to try a new course of action.

      1. Josephine

        you know what occurred to me Sunday night (while slobbering over don draper, of course)? that we can just start over. just like that. we can recreate ourselves. we can say, “that’s who i was before today but i don’t want to be that person anymore. today i’m going to be this person and this person doesn’t want to feel that way.”

        can a thought/feeling/emotion burrow itself so deep into our soul that it finally digs its way out the other side?

        i was part of our varsity’s #1 doubles team in high school my jr. and sr. year. once, before an away match, i was driving to meet up with the rest of my team and threw my cigarette out the car window. seconds later i felt something burning on my leg and looked down to find that the cigarette butt had not made its way out the window, but instead, blew back into my lap and burned a hole the size of a red delicious apple right smack in the front of my kelly green tennis skirt. i was two seconds away from the parking lot where the girls tennis team van was waiting on me. i drove up, got out and said, “i burned my skirt with my curling iron and didn’t know what to do!” the coach’s wife who was the team’s den mom found a spare pair of shorts in her trunk for me. i sat in the front passenger seat of the van with my coach while he gave me a twenty minute lecture on the dangers of tobacco use.

  4. lisahgolden

    I’m confident you can do it. I wonder if I could fool myself every day with the notion that this is it. The last day. Nothing comes after. How would I spend it? Reading Facebook statuses that cause me to roll my eyes? Estalking that jerk who —? Clipping coupons, watching TV, cleaning, worrying about things I can’t fix? Without getting into the Bucket List, if I woke up dead tomorrow and had to sit through a review of my last day on Earth, what would I want to see?

    Writing. Loving my loved ones. Petting the damn cats. Reading. A slice of really good cake with a fabulous cup of coffee. More writing.

    Get on it with, you! And me, too.

    1. Teri Post author

      I’m not so confident, but I’m willing to give it a run. Here’s to trying.

      I pretty much gave up Facebook a few weeks ago and don’t miss it one bit. It was interesting how much “status” I was reading about people I don’t even know. That said, I posted one thing a few days ago because I got excited about the upcoming conference, but I took it down the next day because I thought, Who cares? And why am I compelled to put this out in the realm? I almost got up in the middle of the night to delete it, that’s how much I regretted it.

  5. Lyra

    Yes, yes, yes! We can live vicariously or seize it. The first step is unbridled focus I’m beginning to see as well. If you’re writing you aren’t responding to comments. If you’re reading, you aren’t breaking it up with checking Facebook. We have to want it bad, and remember what it was like when we were young and bored and read only to realize the love of the story. Boredom has its place, a quiet to guide you onward.
    Onward, dear Teri.

    1. Teri Post author

      I can find more bullshit to do in tiny little bits. I used to be good at hours of sustained focus. These days I can’t even read my favorite book, Sophie’s Choice, at night without breaking it up with words with friends, watching reality tv, and reading nonsense online. I swear it’s making me stupid.

    1. Teri Post author

      I’m going out on a pretty sturdy limb here to say that we are a distracted bunch of humans. Driving home this afternoon, I saw no less than 6 people looking at their iPhones while flying down the freeway.

      1. Averil Dean

        That scares the hell out of me.

        Quiet is a beautiful thing, and these days we get so little of it. Last summer when we were driving back from Washington, we never bothered to turn on the radio. For two days each way we sat quietly in the car, all four of us wrapped in our own thoughts, moving peacefully through the landscape with even the nine-year-old unwilling to break the silence. It was lovely, and no one complained.

        Enjoy the quiet, my friend.

      2. Teri Post author

        What a lovely image of your family. Who knew we would all be missing the peace and quiet? Remember being a kid and wishing for more excitement? ha.

  6. Erika Marks

    Distraction is everywhere, isn’t it? It makes me think of one of my very favorite Carly Simon lyrics “you showed me how, how to leave myself behind, how to turn down the noise in my mind…”

    As I was reading your post, all I could think about was your upcoming adventures at the dorm! A quiet dorm? Is there such a thing? I think earplugs are wise, my friend. Very wise.

    1. Teri Post author

      That dorm experience is going to be very interesting. I’m more nervous about the sleeping arrangements and being surrounded by strangers than I am about the working part of this conference. Maybe it’s good, this little distraction…

  7. LauraMaylene

    Going quiet. It sounds so beautiful, so simple. I know you can do it and I encourage you to, even if it means I’ll missing seeing your around the blogs on a regular basis. You have to do what you have to do.

    1. Teri Post author

      Thanks, Laura. Blogging isn’t adding manuscript pages, and this book is not writing itself. Darn it!

  8. november

    Hi Teri,
    You don’t know me, but I’ve been enjoying your responses over at Betsy’s, etc. I’m even breaking my own rule of Internet Quietude today to respond here. (I have strict, silly blog/Internet rules for myself. I read maybe 3-4 blogs, and respond to less. And very quickly. No Facebook, either.) I had to write this today because I feel you’re really on the right track.

    For me, the Internet is a seductive time hog that really wrecks my writing and creativity. So, I limit it. I don’t limit my reading of books though, or my outdoor time. I indulge myself with those things and it pays off in the end. I know everyone will miss you a lot but the thought of you writing will assuage that, I’m sure.

    Good luck with the weaning process!

    1. Teri Post author

      Welcome november! Of course I feel like I know you from Betsy’s … Your limiting of the internet is so smart. Thanks for the wishes for luck. You know I’ll need it. The internet is like an evil spell, but I’m determined to break it. Cheers to you!

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