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Thursday, February 26, 2015

How Art Informs Writers

"Artists teach writers how to see."
James Baldwin

Many writers use other artistic mediums in concert with their own artistic process. For example, I remember reading something that Lauren Groff said about how fiction writers should read more poetry than anything else. She says this, I think, because poetry activates something in our brains that allows us to expand our minds. We can then bring that heightened state of awareness or openness into our writing.

Of course, art and music pervades the landscape of our lives. But how can we use art intentionally in order to exalt our creativity?

This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending an event in St. Pete called True Creative Stories put on by The New Music Conflagration. At the event, Kylila Bullard, spoken word poet and founder of Poetic Change, spoke about her creative process. She explained the way she used music as her portal into poetry, and she played us several songs that had inspired her work. She also sang/spoke the poems that were born from these musical meditations.

Kylila Bullard
The audience was the given the opportunity to give this process a try and see what roads the music took us down. We listened to Nina Simone's song, "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" and Jill Scott's "Golden." I had never really tried an exercise like this before and I had a lot of fun with it. It was interesting the way certain emotions or images were stirred up by the music. It's magical to see where your imagination will take you once you hop on board!

I recently read a beautiful book by poet Claudia Rankine - her latest, Citizen. Interspersed throughout her writing, she has included a variety of images, from video stills to sculptures, which I found very intriguing. In doing some research, I came across this interview with her in which she discusses the connection between her writing and art.

"I would think about the essay, as an example, and the images that open out the essay in certain ways, or images that create a surprise moment in the essay came to mind.  It’s almost like working with building blocks. You begin to think, oh, I was really interested in that image by Nick Cave and actually it would work right here. Or, in a call and response way, I would write something and it was as if Nick Cave’s piece spoke back."

In both Kylila and Claudia's case, they use art - visual and auditory - as a pathway into their writing. I have been thinking more about how to incorporate other artistic mediums into my own writing process in a more intentional way. Poetry is a love of mine, but I mainly use it as a soothing way to slip into sleep. I get a lot of inspiration out of experiencing art of all kinds, especially photography and dance. But I'd like to play around with the practice of experiencing art with the pure intention of creating something as a result.

Have you had any experience with this in your creative process? If so, how would you consider the results?