On Novelty

I published a poem last night, titled “Mannequin Planet,” which I then deleted early this morning. I’m sorry about that. I am not normally so fickle, but I didn’t like it. I just couldn’t bring myself to like it. And I decided it wasn’t of the quality I want to publish here. The truth is I’ve been feeling rather disappointed in my poetry lately (with a few exceptions). When I sit down to write, I feel, though mentally sharp and in good spirits, that I lack creative energy. That oomph that makes the creative experience so gratifying and that gives our work a real sense of life. What I crave, of course, whenever I sit down to write (but especially right now), is the experience of creating poetry that generates its own momentum. You know the kind. That which, upon writing the first two lines, begets itself almost effortlessly on the page. Words and images pour into one another seamlessly. A portrait or a plot unfolds, as if of its own accord, and you, the poet, feel as if you are channeling an almost otherworldly energy. Whenever I am in this state, I imagine I am thinking with my whole brain. And, to be sure, I am operating under the wild conviction that, in that moment of heightened (if not frenetic) energy, what I have done is right. Exactly as it needs to be. 

It occurs to me that if I am going to create the proper conditions for this experience again anytime in the near future, what I need to do is expose myself to something new. I need a new muse, so to speak. A new artist to study. New music to listen to. New ideas to read. Something new. Because nothing—and I mean absolutely nothing—ignites my creative energy like novelty does. If creativity is fire, then novelty is the match. So, I suppose I’ll set out to find the next new thing. Try to find the muse where he lives. But, in the meantime, here are some thoughts on the importance of novelty:

Novelty enhances aesthetic appreciation.

My poetry is nearly always inspired, or “touched,” by an aesthetic experience. But there is a world of difference between that which simply mentions an artist, a painting, or a few song titles and that which is born from an encounter with a work of art. A moment of encounter is a moment of awe, of ecstasy, a flood of positive emotion akin to a “high” of sorts. And it happens when I’m experiencing a work of art (or some other confluence of aesthetic factors) for either the first time or for the first time in a long time. For me, aesthetic experiences are amplified by novelty. And it seems that rush of good feeling is often accompanied by enhanced creative energy. The kind of poetry that writes itself. 

But I think it also bears mentioning that other kinds of novelty affect my creativity, too. A change of environment can be a big factor (though not always) in inducing creative activity. As can an event. The key, I think, is that, whatever the new thing is, it’s got to excite. If it isn’t aesthetically pleasing, it’s got to be adventurous, much anticipated, or make me happy in some other way. Then, it seems, the creative output takes care of itself. 

Novelty helps us feel more alive.

There is nothing that dwindles my creativity and zaps my life source, generally, like routine. And while certain rejuvenating, soothing, and aesthetically pleasant routines are always welcome in my life, there is something to be said for the benefits of disruption. Of altering our perception by making changes to pre-scripted activities and rote conduct. Indeed, I find that doing things differently on occasion has beneficial effects not only on my creativity, but also on my overall sense of wellbeing. 

This is, perhaps, an obvious point. Why I think it’s important: I am at my best creatively when I feel genuinely and vibrantly happy to be alive. When the world is full of bright colors, beautiful music, and I feel connected to both nature and the people around me. Novelty reminds me that I am capable of those feelings whenever I limit myself too much or otherwise get caught up in the mundanity of daily life.

Creativity is driven by a lust for novelty.

A desire which, I think, is twofold: I both want to create something new and continually feel new at creating. Indeed, there are few creative experiences more gratifying than making something unexpected. Those moments in which we genuinely surprise ourselves by creating something so wildly new even we couldn’t have anticipated it. They’re magical. As are moments in which we willingly forget “the rules” and afford ourselves the opportunity to play freely, without expectation or the burdens of self-consciousness, much as a novice would. 

30 thoughts on “On Novelty

  1. Great notes here. I think the thing about those poems is that they are gifts, and same can be said for that headspace and moment we experience. So it’s easy to chase those poems and that moment, but the thing is that the failed attempts and the non writing days are also a part of that gift poem. So keep failing.

    Of course I know you know this already. It so easy to get caught in that thinking that what we’re doing now isn’t right.

    Recently I started writing my notes and ideas and poems in a different word processor and that alone has caused quite the disruption in my writing and routine and I’ve felt just not quite right since, but I know the change was necessary so I’m pushing through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right. Sometimes our failed attempts really are writing exercises as we move toward putting our ideas together properly. Although, learning to embrace them is sometimes easier said than done! 🙂

      I like that you call those poems “gifts.” That’s the perfect way to describe them. And you’ve given me an idea. I may try writing in a notebook for awhile. That’s an idea I keep coming back to. Thank you commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely much easier said than done. I will say though once it’s been seen it’s much easier to see next time. And to relax around to self created tension.

        I’ve found myself interested recently in the urgency that has driven my poems to be written.

        I love writing in notebooks too! I think that’s a great idea. I recently found myself taking new paths while walking the dog. So I completely understand what you mean about routine. It’s such a weird thing we do.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yep, I do it, too! Take a different way to work or home from the gym. It makes a difference.

        Rollo May wrote a great description of those periods of inactivity. He says they’re periods of “receptivity” (in a Taoistic sense), rather than simply being passive. Calls it “creative waiting.” I try to remind myself of this whenever I’m going through a lull and feel restless or anxious about it. I tell myself I’m simply waiting. As we all must sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my, this is acutely relatable. I’ve also been experiencing a “meh” phase with my own creativity of late. The need to see something new and exciting is strong right now! I feel as though I’ve been creating really boring, tired, predictable shit. I need a hit of inspiration! Thankfully the delicious hardcover book of artwork by Moebius I’d ordered arrived today, so I’m beginning to feel some inspiration creeping back. Everybody around the area I live creates landscapes in oils ( yawn), so I’m craving something a bit weird. ( The only alternative to that seems to largely consist of lovely- but equally predictable- feelgood folksy hippy stuff. Not horrible, but not exciting, either).

    I do hope that the inspiration fairy and the novelty muses lead you to something crackling with potential ASAP!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! “Really boring, tired, predictable shit” sums it up perfectly. It’s too easy to get caught up in our own patterns and keep approaching our work the same old way.

      I wish you the best of luck, also. I’ve been tossing around the idea of delving into steampunk a bit. Maybe worth exploring. Anyway, I hope Moebius does the trick. Happy creating!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true: I have a perfectionistic streak and am apt to be hard on myself sometimes. But “Mannequin Planet” was still not a good poem, J. Not even a little bit. 😟 Although I thank you for the nice words. The search for the muse continues.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Have you looked in your bedroom closet…? The muses usually hide there during the winter. 🙂

        Ps. I know more about poetry than you do. So don’t contradict me, please.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A literary critic friend of mine was kind enough to send me a copy he kept of ‘“Mannequin Planet”, the poem you deleted the day after it was published on your fantastic blog. I have read it carefully and it seems to me a wonderful poem. The last thought send me back to the top to read again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see. Ok, AW. I will take the compliment. Thank you for the kind words about my poem. And I did not mean to insult you with my comment the other day. (I hope I didn’t, and I apologize if I did.) But there are two things about “Mannequin Planet” that made me want to delete it from TUL: 1.) I felt it lacked energy and cohesiveness. 2.) It’s not “right” by my internal barometer. I will say to you what I said to the artist friend who I’ve been working with just yesterday: there is something brewing in my imagination, and I think it has been for some time. I also think it needs a little more time to fully form. If nothing else, “Mannequin Planet” was premature. It didn’t say what I wanted it to say.

      And to be clear, I believe I am a talented writer. The way I feel about that poem has nothing to do with my belief in myself. I also think I am capable of a great deal more than was offered in that poem. At any rate, I’ve begun a journey into the world of steampunk, which has already got me excited to start creating again…hopefully soon. I am on the cusp of doing something new, J, and I won’t be satisfied with my work until I’ve done it. Now, I hope this clears up any and all issues surrounding “Mannequin Planet.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How can you think I was offended by your comment, L? On the contrary, your words have always been kind and considerate to me. I like the sincerity with which you talk about your poetry and yourself. I have never doubted your enormous literary capacity, your prodigious intelligence and your interest in various disciplines related to human knowledge, so I predict a bright future that, sooner rather than later, will be widely recognized. The journey you have begun into the world of steampunk seems to me to be very interesting. I am sure that you will discover new paths that, without a doubt, will lead you to discover a new voice in your poetic works. I know you will succeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, J. It’s interesting. I’ve never been much for sci-fi/fantasy in either literature or film, but I’ve recently found myself drawn to the aesthetics of steampunk in visual art, especially. So I figured I’d dive in, so to speak, and try something new. Began the novel, ‘Infernal Devices’, by K. W. Jeter yesterday and I am enjoying it immensely so far. Very clever, witty, and fun. (He’s an extremely good storyteller.) Also eager to look through an illustrated history of the movement. I am quite excited about all of this, actually, and I believe it will result in something new for me.

      And I hope you’re right when you predict my work will be recognized sooner rather than later! There isn’t much more I could hope for, after all. Cheers! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can relate to this and I’m wondering whether it is simply down to the time of year? The energy ‘out there’ feels so blah it can make you feel it within as well and that’s detrimental to creating. I also crave some novelty! This too shall pass, will be my inner refrain until the energy shifts :>)

    Liked by 1 person

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