Thoughts on Creativity

January 30, 2010

I have been trying to be disciplined about writing poetry last couple weeks. At the beginning it came pretty naturally; I guess I was lugging around these phrases for a while in my mind and just had a lot of material to work off of. But as the days progressed, i used up all my ideas and was found grasping for inspiration. Although one is not the best judge of one’s own works, I’m pretty sure that the poems I wrote earlier in this period of fortnight was higher in quality, in expressiveness, and lyricism, compared to the ones I driveled out later on. Why? What about the poems themselves that made this so evident? What concrete (and dare I say ‘objective’?) standards of measurement could I bring against poems?

For many aspiring poets, there is always that temptation of trying to be original. And in that process, by trying so hard to achieve this quality, we invariable fail to obtain it, slinking back in to cliched, awkward phrases and metaphors. It is when we focus more on what we describe, not how we describe it, that our poems expand to their full expressive potential. The better poems of mine have a quality of originality stemming from its focus, while the worse ones are characterized by the underlying creative frustration behind every forced iambic pentameter from wavering thoughts.

The very best of poems, however, even extend beyond that. (I wish I could say I have written something in my lifetime – a line, or even a phrase – that approach this.) They bring everything together from the past, while remaining fresh and original, and subsequent readings make it seem even more alive. The very best of poems are very best because they could not have been written otherwise; there is a sense of inevitability to them. No other combination of words could possibly come close to expressing what those poems express in their simple brevity.

Is this Platonian? Perhaps. But I’m sure everyone who has read a poem that they really liked, and resonated with, felt the same way. Or if you are the handful of the lucky few who have written something like that, there was a moment after you’ve been groping long and hard for the right words, and suddenly, you think of the perfect phrase, and you know that those are the ones you’ve been looking for the entire time.

This, I propose, is somewhat like how morality works. There are definite qualities of poems that can be measured; and those I suppose, correspond to the moral laws. These are all very good and excellent, for they can weed out rather quickly the really bad poems. But for the gray areas, where the goodness and badness of an action is harder to judge, and the quality of a poem is harder to determine, it is not for the fact that morality has all of a sudden become subjective or that poetic quality cannot objectively be measured. Rather, it is the case that we have a harder time understanding these rules and measurements. These rules themselves are harder to comprehend, to describe, and less quantifiable. But does the poem have that sense of inevitability that has stood from beyond the time of creation? Does the moral issues that we face have definite truths that have always existed that we have somehow blinded ourselves to? Yes, and yes; but it is hard to answer in the affirmative, and even harder to proclaim it lovingly and humbly.

This creative process, I propose further, is also in the way God works. He is, after all, the Author of all of history. The Creat-or must surely be creat-ive. This feeling you get when you find exactly the right words, this feeling you get when you finish reading the last chapter and everything falls in to place and you are rather astonished that you have not seen it all along when in fact in a way you have, this is in a way God works, the way Love works. That is why I love the doctrine of election.

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