Monday, March 26, 2012

This Business of Poetry, Part 7: Flow, Wherein the words flow onto the page

There are times when words flow onto the page. There is no doubt about it; inspiration frequently comes as a storm, even a flash flood. I mean by that, of course, that such storms do not last, but pass through you.

Those rare occasions when you are primed and ready, when you have pen and paper or keyboard to hand and the words start flowing like a waterfall onto your page, such occasions are absolutely amazing! Often, what flows out onto the paper started as a tiny idea and ended up as a torrent of unexpected text.

I cannot explain how this happens—or why—but it does happen. This started happening to me when I was about 12 years old. I would be awakened in the middle of the night with words on my mind; I was unable to go back to sleep until I wrote down what was on my mind.

To this day, much of my writing comes from these late night nudges.

Do such nudges “come from somewhere”? That is a question I cannot answer. Unconscious, subconscious, dream-work, lucid dreaming—these are all terms that may have validity in such discussions about creative work, and you can explore these on your own. Wherever the words “come from,” what ever hits the page is real and valid.

Is there a “muse” or “guide” that is “helping” you with your work? Here again, I cannot answer such a question for you.

I do tend to feel as though there is a muse involved with my own creative process. Is that silly? Perhaps. However, I believe that there is a revelatory aspect to the creative process. There are times when I read through the material that has “flowed” onto the page and I think to myself, “wow!” The “wow” can mean “I didn’t expect that train of thought to go there,” or it can mean “I can’t believe I wrote that,” or it can even mean “gee, I need to look at that more closely and think about it in order to figure it out.” The work that flows is a gift that leads to more thought and more work. It can often be a “note to self” about your life.

Is there anything you can do to make creative flow happen? NO. Absolutely not. If nothing is happening, don’t beat your head against a wall; the time is not right and the ideas are not ripe. Better to go for a walk, or listen to music, or read.

Creative flow is a marvelous experience, but I don’t think that absolutely everything that comes from such experience is necessarily complete or good. The work can often take turns that you do not intend, and it is up to you as to whether you want to retain digressions or cut them from work you intend to complete. Digressions can be useful to retain for further development.

Creative flow does not replace editing, revising or reworking material. Yes, there are rare times when the flow hits the page and you feel like it is done. Though you can’t expect this to happen often, you can treasure it when it does.

I am a strong advocate of saving work process in the form of handwritten notebooks. I sometimes work directly into the computer, but not often.

Whether you have a “muse” or work by means of  “automatic writing” or not, the experience of flow with regard to your writing can be thrilling, the resulting work is a passionate example of what is most authentically you. Savor such times!! They do not come frequently.

Could more be said? Of course, but this is enough to get you thinking about it all, in relation to your own practice.


Next time: What To Do In The Desert While You Await Inspiration

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