Find your voice in silence, with creativity mentor Silke Heiss

By CityLife Arts Writer

Have you ever tried to finish a poem to a deadline – possibly to enter the AVBOB Poetry Competition – and found that your mind is empty? Have you sat at your desk, wondering how to tap into inspiration?

Creativity mentor and online writing teacher, Silke Heiss, may have the answer! She reminds poets that writing is a physical activity that requires bodily movement and spatial awareness.

Silke, who is also a poet, novelist and short story writer, explains, “The very word ‘writing’ still carries the memory of the effort it required during a time before paper was known, when our ancestors scratched or engraved the marks of their thinking into stone, metal and wood.”

She helps writers develop a relationship with silence. “I’m optimistic that if we allow enough stillness, we can hear what we have not heard before; and find ourselves writing what we have not thought before,” says Silke.

Give Your Writing the Edge are the in-person poetry workshops she hosts, which include short talks, listening exercises, and free-writing sessions. Her outdoor poetry sessions – Hiku Hikes – enable writers to explore the activity of taking verbal snapshots, instead of visual photographs. Poets are encouraged to walk and notice the world beyond their desks or four walls.

On these hikes, aspiring writers join her on nature walks with their pens and notebooks. The important thing is to remain silent, so that you can register your surroundings as well as your inner state of being.

Heiss reminds us that creativity has everything to do with being attuned to the world with one’s entire being, “Look out for the writer whose work is a physical occupation no less than a mental one. Thought and feeling do not live in the head alone. Manifesting worthy thoughts on paper or on screen is an action taken by the entire breathing body.”

If you are sitting with an empty mind, the following three exercises may unlock your elusive inner voice:

1. Play in silence

Remove any temptation to speak. Preferably withdraw in solitude to nature or a place where there is no ‘buzz’. Quieten your thoughts. Become as empty and as open as you possibly can. Want nothing. Will nothing. Wish nothing. Let all worries and hopes dissolve.

After a while, you will hear or see sounds and images – either inside or outside of you, or both. You may pick up a pen – Silke strongly recommends writing by hand – and watch where this leads you. Maybe there are doodles instead of words. Allow what happens. Do this frequently.

2. Play outside your head

Go somewhere you love to be – wherever that may be. Take your notebook and pen, or whatever device with which you write. Settle down somewhere you can be invisible, or ignored, and undisturbed.

Feel your joy about being where you are, making it your complete focus. Leave no space for worries, anxieties, grudges or griefs. Travel with your heart into your surroundings. Jot down what you see and hear, smell and feel, and taste. Write in your mother tongue, your home language!

3. Read your words aloud to yourself

Find an undisturbed space to reflect on what you have produced. Read your words aloud to yourself. Do they surprise you? Do they embarrass or puzzle you? Good! Read your words aloud again, listening this time for their inherent musicality. Continue to work with these surprises and puzzles. Deliberately turn them into pleasant or interesting music; or toss them and try again! When you are ready, share them with people you trust.

If these exercises opened the door to a poem on the themes of love, hope, birth or death, we hope you’ll enter the AVBOB Poetry Competition. Register at to enter before the competition closes on 30 November 2022.

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