Other People’s Muses

“Art is either plagiarism or revolution.” – Paul Gauguin

Art is a dangerous thing.  It is a key that can open many doorways.  However, you don’t know what will be on the other side until you have already crossed the threshold.  For an artist, art unlocks perceptions and inspiration you might not have otherwise found.

I have always been a fan of using art as inspiration for my own art, especially writing.  Writing is about perspectives, about being able to shift between your perspective and the perspective of sometimes imaginary people who are nothing like you.  Allowing another artist’s work to move you can be a good shortcut.

Art is always an expression of self.  By letting others express themselves, you can get out of your own way.  I’ve found inspiration and writing material in the art of many other mediums.

I’ve never been one to wait around for ideas.  There aren’t little inspiration fairies floating around my head offering to sprinkle me with creativity dust, at least not that I have seen.

If I need an idea, I go looking for it.  I’ve mentioned finding inspiration in lines of poetry in a past blog.  But I have also found inspiration from works of art in other mediums.  My novel, Kill Creek Road, began as an idea taken from the song lyrics for “Water’s Edge” by the alternative band Seven Mary Three.  The concept grew away from that initial idea, leaving it behind, but the lyrics got me through the initial planning.

Art is everywhere, in all things, and all art can inspire you.  Television can inspire you, even advertising.  Movies and music can inspire.  But what gets forgotten sometimes, is the power of a museum.

Museums are treasure troves of inspiration, akin to randomly searching Google for information.  Go in to an art museum and look at the work.  Think of each piece as a narrative.  What does that narrative say about the human condition?  What is the story that piece tells?

Natural history museums can be great, as well.  Displays are a narrative of a past history.  The phrase “what is old, is new” is true.  Not much has changed in human motivation.  The objects of our desires shift, but our driving instincts remain the same.

The important thing is to go off the writing grid in looking for inspiration.  Your favorite books and writers will always inspire you, but there is always a chance of seeming to be too derivative.  You may find something new in the masters of other mediums.

Devour their art and let it take you new places.  Go with it, or revolt against it, your choice, but always be open to their voices.  Writing is about letting the voices speak for themselves, those within you, and those around you.


Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at www.jackcampbelljr.com.

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