Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meaning of a Username (Musings on 'Silent' Pages)

I have officially changed my screen name to the same name I have on Young Writers Society. Silentpages. And in honor of that, I decided to post the semi-rambling little thing that I wrote the other day about the things I figured out about what that username really means.


At a glance, my username doesn’t make much sense. At least when in reference to me, as a person. Whether it’s in real life or online, I tend to ramble. I go on and on, following certain ideas, usually not caring very much whether what I’m saying makes sense to anyone who has the misfortune of being around at the time. Usually I quiet down once the glazed, stunned looks cross their faces.

That’s when I’m talking. About… Forty-three percent of the time?

The rest of the time, I am more quiet. But after a few days of trying out ‘silentpages’ as my username, I started to doubt myself.

“I’m not really silent,” I said to myself with a groan. “What was I thinking?” I yearned for the comfort of my old username – the one I’d been using since I was eleven. But that username didn’t really fit me anymore either, now that I’d given up my near-obsession with horses. So I was left with a dilemma. Go back to the old username? Maintain a misnomer? Make a second attempt at finding a new username?

I remained silentpages.

And now, months later, after rolling ideas around in my head for a while, it’s finally clicked. The idea that first started floating around in my head back when I began looking for a new username, but more clear now. More concrete. I’ve finally started to understand exactly what feeling I was trying to get across. The two words had such a ring to them at first that it drowned out their true meaning. Now, the ringing has subsided and I’m finally ready to try to write out that meaning and explain it to others.

Silent pages.

Picture watching a writer or a reader from the outside. Aside from flickering eyes and maybe some fidgeting, or maybe a twitch of a smile or a crease of the brow, they are intent on what they’re doing. Rustling pages, or the tapping of a foot, or maybe the scrawl of a pen on a page are the only sounds in their space.

They’re silent. And so are the clean, crisp pages of their book or notebook.

But beneath the silence. Beyond the printed word. Words, phrases, ideas, pictures, plots… They’re all being channeled through the mind of the reader or writer.

Beneath those silent pages, there are wars and weddings. Great joys and great tragedies. Battles and parties. Shipwrecks and festivals. Storms and grand parades. Races. Revenge. Hate. Love.

There is screaming, singing, shouting, fighting, loving, crying, sobbing, shrieking, groaning…

And there is laughing.

Stories are loud, noisy things. Whether you’re reading them or writing them, there’s always a sense of chaos there. Even the most well-crafted and planned out novels might at least seem chaotic in places because of all the excitement and intrigue that can sweep up a reader and glue their eyeballs to the page until the last triumphant war cries have died away. Which means that the spontaneous, wild rough drafts that spring from our own ink-stained fingers make just as much – if not more – sound!

Even tense or sorrowful scenes, like executions or characters’ death beds, can make noise. Or, they feel like they should make noise. Weighty silences that make our hearts pound. Or the heavenly chorus of angels that you can imagine in the back of your mind as two characters have a loving, peaceful, quiet moment together.

Maybe it’s not sound so much as it is emotion that these stories bring out in us. Whatever the case, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever wondered what I look like from the outside when I’m lost in a story, planning tornadoes and massacres and celebrations.

“They have no idea,” I think with a little inward smile, “what a whirlwind of thoughts is racing through my mind.”

They probably think that I’m contemplating something boring.

And I think that’s the idea I was trying to capture when I decided on the username ‘silentpages.’ From the outside, writers and readers are generally quiet. Silent. At least when they’re in the process of writing or reading. But under the surface, of us and the book’s pages, there’s so much going on. So much activity, and emotion, and noise! Enough to make our hearts pound and our pulses race.

And aside from that occasional twitch of the lips or crease of the brow, an observer might never be able to tell.

Silent pages. They capture worlds of noise. They can blow you away without making a sound.

So. Maybe my username fits me after all. And not just me, but every writer. Every reader, for that matter. Every person who’s ever been called ‘quiet’ when so much is happening under the surface that no one sees…

Sincerely yours, happier now that she doesn't have quite such a lame screen name...
-Silent Pages