Doing Instead of Viewing: Making Art to Inspire Writing

When writer’s take a break from writing, and why it’s okay to do so, was the content of my last blog. Not being in the mood to write was neither ominous nor permanent–it was simply a leave of absence from the keypad. In my case, it was also guilt free. At least for a while. Then, gradually, an inner voice began to nag, “Vacation is over. Go to work.”

Before I turned to writing, I was an art major and went on to paint realistic oils, mostly of people. I’d stopped when I began writing, with only an occasional try at watercolors or a sketch for a book cover. Then, at some point last year, I downloaded a few free apps to my iPad. Although a couple looked interesting, I didn’t take the time to explore them.

One morning, just before Christmas, I noticed I’d downloaded a sketching/note taking type of app, and I opened the sketching section. I began drawing figures, mostly with my index finger, although occasionally with a stylus. They were simple outlines, quickly done. On some, I’d swipe a swath of color or two, then move on. What surprised me was that I was drawing abstract figures, leaving off body parts, suggesting a shape rather than portraying my subjects in either accurate or minute detail. It was fun; it was free flowing; it was quick. It led me to a whimsical style I’d never contemplated when I was striving for accurate representations.

I knew sketching was entertaining, but what I hadn’t counted on was that it would become a strong motivator for my writing. After twenty or thirty minutes of creating sketches in which I’d let my finger–not my brain–dictate the lines, I had the urge to write, and felt excited over doing so. Within a day or two, a pattern was set: I’d sketch, then I’d write. The payoff? My long-neglected writing project is once again on track.

Will art motivate one to write? It’s been established that viewing a painting, sculpture, or other art form not only fires recognition, memory, and understanding, but also evokes an emotional response. The term ekphrasis (ekphrastic) describes the process of a spoken or written reaction to viewing a work of art: it’s a method frequently used for inspiration by writers and speakers.

But what about the doing as opposed to the viewing? When we create a visual art work, we are tapping into the same sources that are in play when we look at art. Perhaps the physical act of moving the hand to draw or color stimulates the brain to crave another creative outlet. That outlet can be your writing. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of seeing something you created, something tangible. Maybe it is just a reminder that your art, in any form, is important and deserving of your time.

If you use art to to inspire or motivate your writing, I’d love to hear from you.
What’s your art form?
Do you use a tablet, sketch pad, pencil, brush or sculpting tool?
How has it inspired or changed your writing?