My Favorite Description of the Creative Process

The following passage is from the novel “Augustus” by John Williams.

“Some years ago my friend Horace described to me the way he made a poem. We had had some wine and were talking seriously, and I believe that his description then was a more accurate one than that contained more recently in the so-called Letter to the Pisos – a poem upon the art of poetry of which, I must confess, I am not particularly fond. He said, ‘I decide to make a poem when I am compelled by some strong feeling to do so – but I wait until the feeling hardens into a resolve; then I conceive an end, as simple as I can make it, toward which that feeling might progress, though often I cannot see how it will do so. And then I compose my poem, using whatever means are at my command. I borrow from others if I have to – no matter. I invent if I have to – no matter. I use the language that I know, and work within its limits. But the point is this: the end that I discover at last is not the end that I conceived at first. For every solution entails new choices, and every choice made poses new problems to which solutions must be found, and so on and on. Deep in his heart, the poet is always surprised at where his poem has gone.’”

It describes both the simplicity and complexity of art from a very grounded and human point of view.

(I recommend the book to anyone who likes to read historical fiction or any fiction told in an interesting way. It is a very good read.)

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