Sometimes, as a creative, you get a good concept, and you have to retro-fit it to the brief. This is usually referred to as post-rationalisation, and is generally considered A Bad Thing, or at least not ideal.
It shouldn’t be. Sometimes you come up with a gut solution, and only gradually work out how it functions intellectually. The problem is people are used to explaining things in a linear way: so things should start with a problem, followed by a solution. It makes a much better story when you are talking to a client, rather than say… “We had this great idea, which we are now trying to work out just why it fits your brief.” Trouble is, creativity is not usually a linear process. It’s usually more of a mind map than a continuum, with lines of enquiry and exploration heading in several directions at once.
I’m giving myself the luxury at the moment of trying to piece together the poems I have had published over the years. I am trying to reduce over a hundred published poems (of variable quality), into a fighting fit collection of 40 splendid poems which complement one another and are more than the sum of their parts.
In fact, it is a massive exercise in post-rationalisation. When my first poems were published a frightening 25 years ago I just wrote what I had to write. It is interesting to see the themes that have arisen without me being conscious of them at the time, such as exile and freedom. Now I have to tease out these threads as if I had planned them all along.
And the symbols too. I have only recently realised that more than half the poems I have written feature birds in them. Just weird. I’m not especially interested in birds – but these gulls, peacocks, starlings, sparrows, kestrels, kingfishers, eagles, hawks, herons and so on are clearly trying to tell me something.
Trouble is, I’m not entirely sure what. Not yet anyway.