|How long should you put a poem|
in the drawer for?
Certainly, there's usually a necessary distance involved in the re-writing process: poets are all familiar with the notion of 'putting a poem in a drawer' and coming back to it later, once the white-heat of its creation has worn off.
Ap Dijksterhuis, a psychologist who studies unconscious thought. Dijksterhuis and his colleagues were initially interested in the importance of unconscious processes in decision-making; the interesting fact that we often make 'better' decisions when we've been distracted during the decision making process rather than consciously deliberating on the issues. Dijksterhuis was first fascinated by the topic of incubation: "Why is it that we suddenly have a good idea or that we suddenly know what to do regarding an important decision? We hypothesized that, in addition to conscious thought, there is also unconscious thought. That is, even when conscious attention is directed elsewhere, we can unconsciously mull over a problem, idea or decision. By now, we have accumulated quite some evidence suggesting that there is indeed unconscious thought, and that it can be extremely useful. "
In an article published in 2011, Ritter, van Baaren and Dijksterhuis looked at the role of unconscious processing in creativity. More specifically, they were interested in idea selection as well as idea generation. They hypothesised that creative ideas could be generated just as successfully using conscious or unconscious thought, but that the advantage of unconscious thought lay in its role in successful idea selection. Participants in their study were asked to generate creative ideas (in this case, the ideas were to do with how to make queuing for a cash till in a shop less boring). They were then asked to select their most interesting and creative idea from the suggestions they'd come up with. Some participants were asked to do this after a period of conscious deliberation, whereas others were distracted for two minutes (during which time unconscious processing was assumed to have taken place). The individuals who were distracted during the deliberation period proved much better at selecting their most creative idea.
|My dog, trying to redraft |
a poem for me.
Of course, it's hard work putting a poem away. Patience wouldn't be considered a virtue if it weren't difficult. Here are some stirring words from Galway Kinnell on the virtues of waiting.
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don't go too early.
You're tired. But everyone's tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.