I completed “The Leaves” a few months ago. Today, I changed a few significant words within the two short verses to make them more consistent with the autumnal scene the poem describes, and whilst doing so was reminded anew of the benefits of distancing oneself from a work (completed or not) for an extended period.
Returning to a work after days, weeks and in this case months (but also years, as I found in another instance1), helps one see it more objectively, unrestricted by the sentimentality that sets in; for in the thick of the writing process, besotted with a line, a word or an idea, it can be difficult to let go and consider possibilities more ideal.
Depending on one’s level of self-awareness, the work will often suffer to some degree as a result, and it takes a tremendous amount of humility (and courage) to admit to oneself that a particular cherished idea is simply not the best. Distance allows one to reflect upon it all, to comprehend and appreciate what one has set out to do2.
- From my Twitter account (no longer active): “An idea may come to one in an instant but giving it form takes days, weeks, months, even years. I remember composing ‘Autumn’, one of my earliest poems, in 2012. It was completed in a matter of hours; and whilst the result is adequate, I now consider it nothing more than a draft.” (Tweeted 1 April 2019)
- Incidentally, in my ceaseless quest for simplicity, I have also reduced the title to “Leaves”.