The still, quiet voice

“I have to listen to music while I write, and usually I play just one song at a time. I repeat it all day, often for weeks on end. Months, even. There’s one song that I replayed up to 30,000 times during the ten years I was writing The Incendiaries. I love that song and its powers; I can’t tell you its name, lest it stop helping me. By obsessively replaying a single song at a time, I can, if I’m lucky, set the pitch. It gives me a place to start. The ritual of it, the repetition, lulls and quiets my anxious, everyday self. The ego goes silent, which lets my writing self emerge, and begin to sing. Even now, months after I last edited The Incendiaries, to play the song I can’t name is to be pulled back toward my novel, into my made-up town of Noxhurst. The still, quiet voice. That’s what I used to listen for, back when I was deeply religious: the still, quiet voice of God. I’ve lost that kind of faith, but I do believe in fiction’s voice, and in spending the rest of my life, or so I hope, listening for it.”

— R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries: A Novel in Poets & Writers, July 26, 2018

From a book Review of The Incendiaries by Ron Charles in The Washington Post on July 23, 2018: ‘The Incendiaries’ is the most buzzed-about debut of the summer, as it should be. “…Kwon, who was raised Roman Catholic and has said that she lost her faith in her teens, seems to understand with extraordinary sympathy just what that loss entails. And as her debut novel catches fire and burns toward its feverish conclusion, she offers a strikingly clear articulation of the fanatic’s mind-set: It’s not an excess of belief that drives some believers to violence; it’s a maddening lack of belief, which requires that radical action be substituted for faith. In a nation still so haunted by the divine promise, on the cusp of ever-more contentious debates about abortion and other intrinsically spiritual issues, ‘The Incendiaries’ arrives at precisely the right moment.”


  1. This fascinated me and to some degree I can relate. When I was studying for my graduate exams, I listened to one album over and over and over again. Hearing those notes would ‘put me in the zone’ to study. Some 30 years later, I can hear the first chords of one of those songs and in an instant I am right back in my study carrel. The brain is a fascinating thing…and I can’t wait to read this book! ☺️ Happy Friday, pal…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “It’s not an excess of belief that drives some believers to violence; it’s a maddening lack of belief, which requires that radical action be substituted for faith.”
    I’m with her.

    And Philip Glass, and Ludovico Einaudi. But sometimes the most unlikely song can put me in that trance 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Definitely found music helped me writing my book. Kwon and her book sounds very interesting. 👏🌈

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Queen? Queen puts you in a mindset to write? Wow. That’s something.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. the mediation of music. powerful magic.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s funny, I usually write in silence. Maybe because my house is cacophonous at most times so when I can have quiet… 😉
    I can’t imagine listening to the same piece 30 000 times.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The sad commentary on organized religion is that it demands from its followers a completed adherence, a groundless faith, which is unreasonable, at least to an intelligent/naturally inquisitive mind. When a follower seeks then to discover the boundaries of God, that vast unknowable Mystery, the patriarchy is so threatened that it tends to cast that congregant out rather than to integrate frustrating questions into an intelligent dialogue and discussion. Thus the seeker is forced back on its own heels. In my case, it taught me to deal with a sort of shaking, rattling terror which, being an interior person choosing a solitary life in the woods, I healed through a deep bond with nature. I discovered how the Divine is imbued in all of life; that all of life is sacred. Then I began glimpsing snatches of the Mystery, itself and learned to humble myself in the face of so much I could not know and eventually became content with the Unknowing, itself. Others are not so fortunate, spending a lifetime rattling around in a self imposed prison without bars. Or parlaying their anxiety into a creative venture, if they are lucky. Still, I do not envy that sort of untethered unrest.

    Thanks for a provocative post, David, which I viewed in ite entirety, thanks to it being visible in my Reader!

    Liked by 1 person

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