We are two weeks away from the opening hours of November and the official start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. So, let’s talk about inspiration. Poets know that one of the best ways to kickstart your imagination is writing to a pictorial prompt.
Often the work that is inspired by a visual prompt has nothing to do with the image. But it has everything to do with the nature of storytelling. The ability to explain the world through stories and allegory emerges strongly in some people. Many are naturally able to form and express a story, and others find the subliminal prompting of an image will be the spark that lights their creativity.
My friends here at Life in the Realm of Fantasy know that I love looking at and talking about art. I’m not educated as an art historian, but I love the paintings of great artists because they tell a story. I like to share the images I come across and hopefully give others like me access to see the art that humanity is capable of, good and bad.
Perception is in the eye of the beholder. Perception also inspires extrapolation, leading the viewer to come away with new ideas.
When I see the story that was captured in a single scene by an artist, my mind always surmises more than the scene shows. I see the painting as depicting the middle of the story. Unintentionally, I put a personal spin on my interpretation, and ideas are born. I don’t mean to, but everyone does.
We are all inspired by the intellectual things we surround and entertain ourselves with, the art, the music, the television and movies, and the books we read.
Contemplating art, either paintings or photographs, or listening to music helps us relax. When we are at peace and contemplative, our minds wander. Pondering an image offers us a view of a static moment in time, but our minds are free to invent a past, a present, and a future for the scene.
But paintings also inspire ideas that have nothing to do with what the artist portrayed. The possibilities we imagine are endless, which is why visual images make great prompts for writers.
Let’s consider Guernica, a 1937 painting by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. This painting is considered to be one of the most powerful antiwar statements of all time. This single painting, done in shades of black and white, tells the story of the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country town in northern Spain that was destroyed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy at the request of the Spanish Nationalists.
Picasso’s choice to use black and white to tell that story is brilliant. Newsreels of the day were black and white, which influenced his decision. This piece is powerful because of the emotion the artist painted into the image.
In turn, the composition and symbolism in this painting had a genesis in the great art of the past. In planning the layout of Guernica, Picasso himself was inspired by Consequences of War by Peter Paul Rubens.
Watch this excellent YouTube video to see a short explanation of what inspired the artist, his view of both the horrific attack and the fundamentals of classic art. It explains Guernica well: Picasso’s Guernica by Great Art Explained.
So, we see that history, both the past and the present, inspires art, which inspires stories.
Inspiration can be found in the image of an unoccupied park bench in winter. The gray weather, the barren scenery, the loneliness of the empty bench could be the seeds from which a novel grows. Who is that bench waiting for? Who has just left it? Is the story light or dark?
The same can be said for an empty bench in summer. Either way, the viewer’s mind will answer the question of a light or dark story.
Meditating on a tone, a pattern, or an image is a time-honored means of expanding one’s mind. Meditating or daydreaming turns off parts of your brain. Our brain has an analytic part that makes reasoned decisions and an empathetic part that allows us to relate to others.
Researchers have found when a person daydreams, their mind naturally cycles through the different modes of thinking, analytic and empathetic. During this time, the rational and sympathetic parts of your brain tend to turn each other off, which is why this habit is so crucial to creativity.
Creative people are often guilty of mind-wandering, but researchers have shown that daydreaming makes you more creative.
You could be sitting on your porch watching the birds, as I often do. Or maybe you’re perusing the display in a local art gallery, or listening to Orff’s cantata, Carmina Burana—whatever you choose to meditate on doesn’t matter. The act of mind-wandering generates ideas. Soon, you may have the idea for a novel, a painting, or a piece of music.
Here are two good places where you can find both visual and non-visual writing prompts:
Alternatively, go out to www.wikimediacommons.org and see what the picture of the day inspires in you. Will those thoughts become your novel?
Perhaps so. But take the time to write those thoughts down. Writing them down in a journal offers you a mental image to contemplate, leading to the story, which grows into the novel.
Every step you take leads to another, and your notes become a storyboard, which becomes your novel. How you execute those ideas will be uniquely yours, your voice, your art.
#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:
#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story? (the storyboard)
Credits and Attributions:
Neglected Park Bench, Park taeho, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons, accessed 10, October 2021.
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Facades of Handelskade, Willemstad, Curaçao – February 2020.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Facades_of_Handelskade,_Willemstad,_Cura%C3%A7ao_-_February_2020.jpg&oldid=598836309 (accessed October 16, 2021).