Sunday, January 8, 2012

Inspiration - The paintings that almost burned, set my imagination on fire.

Inspiration comes from all kinds of places and lately I've been inspired by a lot - friends, music, all forms of artistic and creative expression.  I've even gotten a good amount of encouragement towards finding inspiration in myself.

Appreciating the artistic expression of others is something I've always done.  I find myself drawn to this person's painting, that person's music, the words of another.  I discovered my love for photography through my appreciation of music.  I found that capturing musicians in performance was engaging, thrilling and satisfying for me.  So it's a little funny that until recently it hadn't occurred to me to find writing inspiration through other art forms.

This past December I went to a creative workshop with the musician Vinx.  During the workshop many life-changing things happened for me.  One thing, in particular was not, as yet, life-changing, but it did provoke me to try something new.  Vinx showed us photographs and had us imagine what was happening in them - what kind of story they told.  I decided to make this a regular exercise for myself - but, as I often do with developing new habits, I procrastinated getting started.

Then a few days ago, a friend of mine, Karen, who is a painter started talking on facebook about burning her old paintings.  She felt done with them and saw them more as space-stealers than works of art worth cherishing.

Now I've always loved Karen's work - have often wished I had the money to purchase some of her work and had promised myself that one of the first things I would do when I achieved even the slightest amount of financial stability was to buy any of my favorites her work that were available for sale.  I panicked a little at her statement about setting her work on fire.  What if one of the paintings I had always imagined on my wall went up in flames?  Fortunately, myself and others expressed our dismay at her burning her work and she decided to let them live.  She posted one of the pieces she had been thinking of burning and suddenly an idea to shape for me.

Why not write stories inspired by her paintings as my new writing exercise?  I looked at this beautiful piece - a hand - and started to write. An hour flew by during which I was completely lost in the words and images in a way I haven't been in ages.  And a two-page story emerged.  Nothing complex, or earth-shattering.  Just a simple story.  But it was different than anything I'd ever written before and it made me happy.  It was a little part of myself on paper that never would have existed otherwise.  And I wrote it without allowing myself to get caught up in the self-doubt and criticism that normally plagues my work.

Without letting myself think about it too hard, I immediately sent it to Karen and told her I wanted to keep going.  She posted another picture and another.  I happened to be running around those two days and couldn't sit down to write.  But this morning I was determined to make time to try again.

I looked at one of the two paintings - a foot - and a story immediately sprang to mind.  I started writing, but something else came out.  I kept trying to bring it back to the story in my head, but this other piece, short, compact, and determined, pushed its way onto the paper.

This is a whole new thing for me.  To write what without self-censoring, without thinking about what it should be, to let the writing live in the way it wants to.  I'm hooked.

The next step for me - an odd and scary step is to share my writing.  I want to say to share it without fear - but I'm petrified.  Still, I learned something else in that Vinx workshop.  Fear isn't something you ever really get rid of - but it is possible to be deathly afraid of something and do it anyway - in fact to be scared and still act is more powerful and satisfying than acting without fear.

So despite my fears that my writing is crap, despite my fear that someone will say - or worse, think, but not say - that the pieces I've written are horrible and I should give up on writing as a form of creative expression. I am putting them out there.

I haven't posted anything on this blog in more than a year - but I now revive this blog for the sake of sharing my collaboration with Karen.  The paintings that almost burned, and the writing they inspire.

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