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.