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Friday 25 January 2013

On Creativity
Notes Towards a Poem

Creativity comes
when what you have controlled for long, escapes
and does the thing it always meant to do,
the thing it had been nudging you to do,
but you were somewhere else, your mind on other things.

There was a shape emerging from my thoughts
that changed profoundly when I looked away.

Sometimes the best lines are written while I sleep.
I go to bed with them rattlling around in my mind, not quite working,
and in the morning they are there, waiting for me in final draft form -
but so ephemeral; the act of writing down the first of them erases all 
the rest. And needless to say, the original lines, unless I wrote 
them down, are gone for good. I am amazed at Coleridge's tale of 
The Visitor from Porlock (here), how he (Coleridge) could have 
remembered so much for so long and in such detail.

I'd worked all evening on the two ideas, could not resolve them,
went to sleep still playing with them in my mind. What happened
while I slept I cannot say, only that the brain must have gone into
its processing mode, so that by morning they were mixed in great
confusion. I could not even think them back to how they'd been.
But now they fitted easily together.

A shape, a colour or a sound, they all may change in some
altered status of the mind: asleep, awake, distracted or  intoxicated.

The inspiration moment always catches me off guard.
I cannot ever say what I'd been thinking at the moment that
it struck. It is as though I've hammered out an artefact and cannot  then
remember how the metal was.

Inspiration is seeing beauty change its shape

If an artwork does not feel finished and I cannot take it further, 
either I have not worked hard enough on it
or else I have not waited long enough.

Sometimes it feels as though you're fighting with the angel

Looking back over these notes I am struck by the the realisation that
they mostly seem to involve looking away or an absence of the mind or
some such state or action. 

Written for Anna Montgomery's Meeting the Bar prompt on Creativity at dVerse Poets


Claudia said...

creativity by letting go..giving up control..yeah..i think i agree.. due to a not so easy childhood, i tend to try to have things under control (even though i know it's an illusion) and there are only few areas where i find it easy to let go..poetry is one of them...and yeah...cool when poems kinda write themselves overnight while the mind is switched off...nice..

Mary said...

I enjoyed your discussion of creative process, Dave. I never know what happens creatively while I sleep. If your brain processes, you are fortunate. I like especially "Inspiration is seeing beauty change its shape." -- THAT is profound!

Grace said...

How your words resonate with me Dave ~ Sometimes I think about the words overnight, and in the morning they wait for me ~ Sometimes I write the first line too and the whole thing escapes me ~ Maybe we need to back off from our rational mind, and let poetry come to the fore ~

A Cuban In London said...

I chuckled at the line about you having the best ideas when you sleep. Yup, totaly agree with that. I think entire novels away when I'm out jogging and then when I come back I try to capture the moment, the feeling, the emotion and put that on paper, but... it evades me. Great poem.

Greetings from London.

Rachna Chhabria said...

"I go to bed with them rattlling around in my mind, not quite working,
and in the morning they are there, waiting for me in final draft form "
Your beautiful words echo with me a lot. I loved this poem.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Interesting. I like it. I have always felt that creativity is often an unconscious process - the wheels are sometimes turning unbeknownst to us.

Laurie Kolp said...

Our creativity needs no sleep, I think. = )

Eileen T O'Neill ..... said...


I enjoyed reading how you too are taken by surprise at all hours and places, by the arrival of thoughts, words or phrases. The process of creativity, seems to 'tick over,' even while we are having forty winks:)
Never feel alone, when caught with the apparent need to find a pen and paper at very short notice!!!

A great read Dave:)

Best Wishes,

Brian Miller said...

nice...this is like a treatise on creativity...i love that the moment of inspiration catches you off guard...it does me as well often...seeing beauty change its shape is a great line as well....

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

How true that the inspiration moment catches people when they are off guard..one feels almost out of balance when it finally arrives, sometimes one feels even more vulnerable..( something similar to when one falls in love...I dare say) but how welcome it is.

Unknown said...

Yes, David, all that. This was fun to read because it gave insight into the man and creator you are. I like that. Revelatory and expansive. Thank you for sharing.

Marina Sofia said...

Inspiration happens when you look away - I like that thought. Although sometimes, when I read back what I have written in those moments of 'white heat inspiration', I do shudder... But that's just me: perhaps my unconscious is not sufficiently developed.

Anonymous said...

"If an artwork does not feel finished and I cannot take it further,
either I have not worked hard enough on it
or else I have not waited long enough."

This is so true - we are so often in too much hurry to move onto the next piece of work; an unfortunate result of our "want it now" culture.

kelvin s.m. said...

...an insightful read sir... as i once said: i write when there is none that writes...i sleep when there is none that sleeps... i can only write effectively at night when everyone seemed almost asleep & dreamin'...the stillness the night provides give me a better chance of digging into my inner meditation...my senses become sharper & more aware...and when i started writing the first words it's too long before i settle to bed...i will write & write not thinking of the time swiftly passing by...until i hear the voices of the morning people...and yes...it is my turn to sleep now... I really enjoyed this sir...most especially the beginning part where i tend to agree instantly...fine writing & we can learn a lot from it...thanks...smiles...

Anonymous said...

I think that's all true buy I worry as I age that my ability to grasp an idea and keep it though the turning away is even more diminished. I line especially to walk and much comes up. It is helpful to have a notebook or weirdly an iPhone to write things down. K.

kaykuala said...

Creativity is often a testing of nerves and patience. Often we just get exasperated and give in to mind exhaustion. I like the solution of sleeping on it to get the expected results upon waking up. Nicely Dave!


Dave King said...

Thanks Claudia. Yes, there are different ways of letting go, of course.

It just so happened that I had a few lines in a note book waiting for a poem to find them - which may never have happened, of course. It occurred to me that I could post them as they were - as notes. I did add a few, though - to make the number up!

I think you may have something there. There's too much logic around, that's what it is!

A Cuban in London
I understand that. It's finding the words for the thought you already have. Our normal mode is to find them both together, already matched, as it were.

Thank you for saying so. Very good to know this.

Optimistic Existentialist
Definitely. But for me they only turn after I have put the effort in.

That is so true - in the way that opposites can be true. Thanks Laurie.

Thank you so much for this. It is valuable as well as fascinating to compare experiences with others and to see similarities and dissimilarities.

Sometimes I'm left gasping Well, where did that come from? And I almost know, Ican all but think myself back to my last conscious thought... But not quite. The thought from nowhere has erradicated it. I wonder if it would have held a clue, had I been able to met up with it.

The comparison with falling in love is a good one, I think. Thanks for this.

Thank you so much for this feedback. It is very much valued.

Hi! A warm welcome to you. Yes, you are right. That happens too. But maybe then it wasn't genuine inspiration, or we didn't interpret it or transcribe it correctly.

Reassuring to know that others have found the same. Thank you. Good to have you visiting. You are most welcome.

Thank you for such a fascinating read in its own right. I enjoyed reading your fedack very much.

I do know what you mean. I am seriously considering going back to my old pocket dictaphone yesterday's technology again. The one drawback would be: couldn't use it in the night without disturbing Doreen.

Yup, I have my dad to think for that - though it used to infuriate me as a kid, but what did I know then? (He also used to say that you can't put old heads on young shoulders.)

Unknown said...

An engaging and interesting read on the process of creativity. I enjoyed the excursion into the tale of Coleridge and as usual found your work thought provoking. Thanks so much for joining us!

Anonymous said...

Ha! Yes, but computer light is also bright at night! k.