Freeing the mind for poetic surprises

The dampening of the poetic side of the consciousness

Freeing the mind for poetic surprises
Photo by Alain Pham / Unsplash

In an exploration of how he structures and writes his novels, the author Amor Towles explained that before he sits down to write, he has outlined every chapter, every scene, and every character.

This rational, methodical planning frees up the creative side of his brain to take over in the actual writing process and “create poetic surprises” within the narrative scaffolding that’s been established. If he is staring at a blank page—without having figured out the scene progression, the narrative arc, or the character development—his mind is too busy solving all the administrative problems of building a story and figuring out who does what, when.

This mental clutter leads to a “dampening of the poetic side of the consciousness,” he said in an interview.

What an eloquent reflection of the costs of living a fast-paced life—where the poetic side of our consciousness has been dampened by the clutter of our back-to-back schedules, by all the administrative tasks, by our inexorable busyness.

Often the cognitive load I carry to juggle everything I attempt to do leaves little room for me to discover life’s poetic surprises. Yes, it’s easier for an omniscient author who controls every twist and turn of a novel to plan it all out and be free to write in the moment, but maybe there is a lesson for us too: to design our days to leave room for the poetic surprises, to set in motion the bigger plans and intentional plots, letting the current carry us forward so that we are not dulled by life’s logistics, but available to glimpse its hidden magic.