Art Inspires Writing


Art Inspires Writing

It's amazing to me how different forms of art can talk to each other and inspire creativity. I'm no visual artist, but I find myself continually surprised, challenged, and inspired by visual art and painting. There's something powerful, arresting, and thought-provoking about great art; and thinking about art in an unfamiliar medium can cause us to think about our writing in a new way.

Recently I started watching a few instructive Youtube videos in which an art critic moves through some of the world's greatest museums, commenting on and explaining the hidden meanings of classic works of art. I'd seen images of many of these paintings before, but the critic's passion and engagement with her subject made me see the paintings in a new way. Suddenly I was excited and curious about Greek myths, about the Renaissance, about men and women of seventeenth century. There was great beauty in these works, but what made a painting last as a masterpiece was whether there was conflict as well. Some of the great artworks of the past had one way to be interpreted, and another, deeper way. They presented a chasm between illusion and reality, or between social niceties and submerged emotion.

So what does all this mean for our writing? It means that inspiration can lurk around any corner -- and can come in myriad forms. Instead of writing another high school story, look at a classic painting and imagine the backstory behind it. Look at the faces. Read deeply into their anguish or melancholy or mischievous joy. These powerful emotions are what visual art has in common with writing; we must capture emotion vividly and deeply in our respective forms.

So what form of art has inspired you lately? Do you dance? Do you draw? Do you play an instrument? Each of these things takes both craft and inspiration, practice and intuition. Art exists on the level of labor and on the level of love. What new passion can you bring to your writing that you've seen or felt in music or dance or drama?