Anytime I get stuck on a plot line or character introduction I like to turn back to my brushes and a blank canvas. There is a great deal to be said about diverting creative energy in order to get the flow going in the right direction again.
Fortunately I started out life as an artist. It’s something I still enjoy, and has afforded me a fine living. Having that to turn to in times of writing stagnation is a comfort. It jumpstarts the creative juices and helps me work through whatever has stymied me.
About a month ago, while writing a short story about a reluctant murderer, I found myself in a quandary about just how to commit the crime. I wanted it to be different, but relatable in about 12,000 words. Getting the story started wasn't a problem. Then, about three chapters in, I found myself pacing the studio without a clue on how to bring about the demise of a very evil antagonist. The deed had to be worthy of the crimes committed, yet done in a manner acceptable to the reluctant protagonist. Hence, my dilemma.
It wasn’t long before I was sketching out a painting. I decided on a copy of a 15th Century Flemish painting; Portrait Of A Young Woman, by Rogier van der Weyden. It has always been one of my favorites, and I had just acquired a frame worthy of such a work. Normally I would paint something original, but painting a copy of an Old Master allows me to think through the writing issue rather than concentrate on what I’m painting. It sounds odd, but it actually works for me. And if I’m going to paint a copy, it might as well be one I like.
Together, we worked through my issues with the story. I made notes for the next chapters as the Young Woman kept a watchful eye on what I was doing on the canvas. As a result, I can safely say my creative juices are flowing once more over the treacherous rapids of murder. The painting is finished and hanging in my living room—the final result you see pictured above—and I’m back at my keyboard getting ready to deliver evil his just reward.
In another post I’ll let you know how the story turned out.