Images as Inspiration

I’m knee-deep in a new book based on my Wild Women Writing Workshop, and just as I’ve done with other projects, I’m using visual images to inspire me.

In this case, I stripped the bulletin board above my writing space of its mini-collages of characters in my novel (the novel has been put in drawer until I finish this project), and filled the space with images of women—some mini-reproductions of famous art, a couple of greeting card images, random clips from magazines, a few postcards, even a picture of me taken way back when I was a Wild Woman apprentice. I included some mementos, a few pins, a Chinese fan, and a wooden bracelet.

I also posted copies of some chapbook covers from previous Wild Women workshops. (We always create a chapbook of some of our writing and hold a public reading at the end of each ten-week workshop).

wild voices coverWildWomen12 cover









Certain words speak to me of the tone of the book—authentic, mysterious, erotic, ancient, intuitive, symbolic—and using different fonts, I gave them unique treatment like shadows or reflections, printed them in different colors and added them to what I imagine will be an ever-changing, ever-growing collage.

Does all this playing around with images keep me from doing the actual writing? Actually, it adds a different perspective to the writing. It’s part play, part process, and it gives me another way to look at what I want to say in the book. Plus, working with a different medium is a terrific anxiety reliever. Sometimes during the arranging and posting and digging through various collections of “stuff,” a solution to a problem in the writing will come to me or an exciting idea will appear that I swear I never would have thought of, arm-wrestling words to the page.

I’ve used mini-collages often in exploring characters and settings in my novels. I find that working with images “shows” me aspects I didn’t know before. Sometimes, when I’m writing a personal narrative, I’ll use photographs of people or places as references or inspiration. My Wild Woman bulletin board collage keeps the project alive even when I’m not working at my desk. Those women are always there, making their presence known, filling the space with an lively, creative energy.

What about you? Do you use visual art as part of your writing process?

9 thoughts on “Images as Inspiration

  1. I think in pictures, so using visuals to prompt your writing makes complete sense to me. I find that when I can look at a photo my words become more colorful. When I am blogging about past experiences I find that the photos remind me of things I forgot, such as the way flavors melded in an amazing dish, the color of the sky or the people who intrigued me.

    I also use music to help me write. I’ll listen to a song over and over again when I’m trying to get the feel of a scene just right. One time (and this is dating me!) I used Christopher Cross’s “Fly like the wind” over and over to add that fast cadence and sense of movement into my work.

    I think when we involve all of our senses in the process of writing, not only does our writing improve, but I feel like my life becomes richer in the process.

    Good post. Thanks Judy

    • Thanks for your comments Susanne, I especially appreciate what you said about life becoming richer when we write from the senses. I find that telling myself to pay attention pay attention to what I’m experiencing sensorily (is that a word?), keeps me more present in the moment, too. As for listening to Christopher Cross… I thank YouTube again and again for all those songs from the 50s that I can listen to for sound inspiration for my novel (set in 1957-58). Whatever it takes, right?

  2. i like the for me i like writing process in itself in the night because the night in itself an image that represents calm,silence,cleaness, pureness.and its like the night gives me such respect and says to me “ok narimane ;please start your writing ,its ok now every body is tired ,no one could bother you by making noise”
    in addition of that i like to head to the cafeteria or wherever to order coffee or any thing to drink +take place and stay watching people arround me .how they act,speak and react . this makes me think and interpreat the situation in my writing.
    i remember one night i was seat in a chair drinking gin and in front of me there were 2 guyes who were discussing and having fun .till they left .and the table that gathered them before;now is emplty and on it was an empty juice bottle,so i start staring at it .then i said to her inside myself . “your were full, colourfull and protected with a cap,but now you are empty.lonely.and no one would care of you anymore even give you a look” and by that i started writing about it .

    • Thank you so much for your beautiful comments Narimane. I love the image of the juice bottle and how you interpreted it as lonely and then wrote the story using that image. I like that the night whispers to you and pulls you from your bed to write. The way you write about it feels magical.

  3. Now had I read your entire article instead of doing what I always do and first trying to figure out one part of it…. The bracelet. I sat there and fiddled with the magnifier to see if that was a manacle or a wedding ring (heh heh). Bracelet. Of course.

    The cover of WWWV stoked up my heart with its deep green and fiery oranges with brush stroke art. Love it.

    Usually I don’t use much for image except for one picture to pull me into the mood. My latest is a shot of our wetlands park which I thought to utilize as a backdrop in my novel. Until I found out that a hundred years ago it was not a forest like I need it to be. So it is still on my desktop as it does pull me in since stepping off my real city sidewalk into this park is like a sudden place switch. Horns and traffic to blackbirds and ducks and stillness.

    Sounds work for me. The background of water in the pipes in our building is to my imagination not water flowing but the rush of time, moving in one direction as does life. The muttering of ducks and geese and the trill of the red winged blackbird at the pond.

    The visual works but not in the way you meant it — I stared once at a puzzle picture of the Oregon Trail and then it started to live. I heard cattle, people talking, a mother warning her kid not to go too far into the forest, the crank of wheels — and then a 1999 airliner flew over the apartment and blew it away.

    Sensory stuff works. Thanks Judy.

    • Hi Linda, Thanks for your comments. From all you’ve revealed to me over the years we’ve been corresponding, I think you must be ultra-sensitive, that is, sensory details are so alive to you. I think most people, when they’re writing from the senses, use sight most of all and may completely leave out sound or smell.
      And yes, it’s a bracelet. A wooden one, leopards circling face to face. I can’t remember where it came from, so I’ll make a story up. It may involve a safari.
      Oh, and P.S. The art on the cover of the WWWV chapbook is from a piece by Jane LaFazio, who was in the workshop. She’s a fabulous artist/teacher. Here’s a link to her site:

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