Friday, February 4th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Art for Inspiration

Van Gogh's Wheat Field with CypressesI’ve never studied art. You won’t find me going to museums to look at the artwork for fun.

Disclaimer: I have visited several museums in the US and Europe, including the Vatican, and have seen a great deal of traditional and modern art.

It’s just not my cup of tea.

That being said, I know what I like. There are certain pieces that “speak” to me in a way I can’t explain.

One of those pieces is Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses, pictured here. I have a framed print of it on my desk.

When I bought it, I wasn’t shopping for art. (I was shopping for books, what else?) I passed it by several times. I returned to it several times, picked it up, put it back down again. Decided to buy it, then not. I really dithered.

But something in it talked to me. I can see the wheat blowing in the field, the motion of the clouds, and to me, it doesn’t look like it was painted in 1889. It could have been painted in any year.

It’s more than a wheat field and a few cypresses: Van Gogh has painted a fantasy land…and whenever I’m stumped for the right description of something in a world I’m building, I look to it.

The beauty of it is I never describe the golden field or blue and white sky. The picture takes me further, makes me think deeper about my fantasy world. It suggests in a way, under the surface, that it never can with its overt snapshot of the field. There’s more there than meets the eye, and I see a little glimpse of it each time I look at the picture.

Here’s Your Prompt: Go looking for art. Hit a local museum or the library for art books. Do a Google search for Van Gogh or Michelangelo, a modern artist, a performance artist. Anyone. For more variety, go to Google Images and search for “modern art” or “traditional art” or drill deeper for sculpture, carvings, weaving, etc.

Look for something that “speaks” to you: something that keeps you coming back for more. Find a piece of art that draws your eyes away from others over and over again.

Once you find your piece, write a scene. The scene could be dialogue, description, action — anything — that is inspired from the artwork.

Next: put your scene away for a while (a week, two, longer if you can) and let it rest. Then, revisit the artwork. Does it inspire something different? Does it inspire something additional? Add that to what you’ve written previously.

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Play Lists for Writing and Idea Gathering

Sheet MusicA lot of writers create specific play lists to put them in the mood when they write.

I don’t. I may choose a particular album or artist to write by fairly regularly, but I haven’t yet taken the time to choose a defined set of music for a project. It’s partially because I’m lazy – I don’t want to weed through thousands of songs to choose a small subset. Choosing would be hard!

Mostly, it’s because I don’t want to be limited.

What I like to do is decide how I’m feeling, or what it is I want to feel, and then I search my music database for songs which might match the mood. I say “might” because no database search is without its anomalies. You never know what you might find.

And this is a good thing.

For instance, yesterday I didn’t know what I wanted to listen to while I wrote. When I looked out the window, all I could see was the snow (and more coming down). No sun. No birds. A barren landscape.

A search for “barren” in my database found zilch, so I went with the more generic, “white” for the snow.

My database found 45 songs with white in either the title, the band name, or the the musicians’, producers’ or composers’ names. Songs were offered up by both Judas Priest (White Heat, Red Hot) and David Arkenstone (Nantucket).

There were several bands on the list I hadn’t listened to in YEARS (Crack the Sky, Yes, Def Leppard…)

It sounds like an atrocious mix, but I assure you it wasn’t. I was concentrating on the writing, not the music, after all. It didn’t matter when the music changed from red-hot-metal to new age. For the most part, it didn’t break the flow of writing.

Afterward, I looked at the list more closely. Those songs that used to mean something to me that I haven’t played in years…they gave me some ideas to play with: some writing ideas.

I knew I’d stumbled on to something good.

Do you use play lists? How do you choose and narrow down the songs for a work in progress?