I don't mean actual silence, I mean mental silence. A quiet space in which your imagination can
breathe. I mean the focus that comes when your gaze is turned
thoroughly inward and the real world is but a shadow.
As a novelist you have to chase that
silence and, when you find it, guard it fiercely. It's no good trying
to write your magnum opus (or even your crappy first draft) while
your muse is competing with Twitter, Facebook, your to-do list and that argument you had with your sister/boyfriend/postman.
Some writers, like Virginia
Woolf, require a room of their own, others just a pair of headphones.
Some people like loud music or the television on, some people need complete quiet. There are writers who like being surrounded by humanity and find the gentle
hubbub of a coffee shop perfect for concentration.
Experiment until you find your optimum
working conditions, your personal route to that blissful quiet.
Notice when you're finding it easy to maintain focus and when you're
not, and adjust your habits to suit.
If you can't focus for long periods of
time, then try breaking up your writing session with short breaks
every twenty minutes. Or, perhaps you need longer blocks of time and
you're only giving yourself twenty minute snippets. Schedule a few
hours in your diary, take the phone off the hook and see what happens…
Without wishing to sound precious about
it, you also have to protect your silence from mental clutter. It's difficult to write when you're worried about life stuff and sometimes, of course, that is unavoidable. However, if there are distractions
or stresses in your life that you can do something about, then feel
free to kick them to the kerb in the name of your writing.
Finally, I've also heard that some novelists like to begin each writing session with some yoga or
meditation. Personally, I've never had much success with quietening
my mind in this way (my process involves playing loud music and
forcing myself to type until I hit 'the zone'), but I'm sure it's
worth a try.