Expressing the dot
The second challenge when writing poetry.
(The second in my two-part blog about writing poetry.)
Once we have dived deeply into the dot, flooded our senses and returned to normal ground, one of two things is likely to happen:
1) A period of reflection and subconscious adjusting takes place. This is something we either decide to do, or find ourselves compelled to do because that trusted inner instinct tells us it just isn’t time to start writing. One aspect of a writer’s self-discipline is being able to resist the temptation to write when you just knowthe essence of the experience and the associated story haven’t come together enough inside us to be ready to come out.
The gestation period varies from work to work. It can be instantaneous. It can be years. It’s duration can be influenced by our ability to combine conscious reflection and creative thinking with a willing submission to the power of our subconscious processing. The gestation period is absolutely not the same as writer’s block and is the worst of all excuses for laziness. As writers, we have to understand ourself well enough to recognise and/or create the ideal moment to begin giving birth to our new endeavour.
2) As mentioned above, at times writing happens immediately. There is no delay. We might not know exactly what we are going to say or how we are going to sequence and structure it, but the feeling that it’s there, just bubbling below the surface, is undeniable and irresistible. It’s time to start expressing the dot! So how do we go about it? How does that experience that has influenced us so powerfully become transformed into a poem?
I would suggest that the writing process might begin with a speedy, ideally unthinking, production of as many words, or verses, as can come out before the well dries up. The aim of this outpouring is to close the gap between our subconscious, emotional and intellectual understandings as quickly as possible. It is often as we write, and as we write more, that we start to uncover or pull from our subconscious what we meant to – what the dot is.
Once the first draft is complete – and, assuming it’s not precisely how you need it to be - revisit your original starting point. Use the draft to ask yourself, ‘What was – is - the dot I felt the need to write about?’ Engage both conscious and subconscious processes to access (as best you can) the feelings, the insight, that wordless instant that first sparked your need to write. Observe yourself throughout this process; be alert for your personal biases trying to draw you in their preferred direction and away from what it was; ensure that more recent events and experiences are not seeping inappropriately into your recollections and revisiting.
When the time is right, rewrite the draft. Be willing to change the sequencing because:
The order in which we say/write/present things determines the way they influence our audience;
Sometimes it is only towards the end of a section of writing - a sentence or a paragraph for example – that we actually say what it’s really all about. Sometimes just shifting the last phrase or sentence to the beginning and editing accordingly makes all the difference.
Realise, too, that as you do this you will probably develop your thinking about the original theme and you might even gain more insight into the dot; you can do both without necessarily adding them into the poem you are working on. Another important part of the writer’s discipline is being able to create and maintain the most appropriate boundaries around each piece of work. Our challenge is to determine what to say, how best to say it and when to stop. And there’s much to learn at that point. After all, the final full stop is a very special dot.