"Before embarking on his life as an artist, Vincent Van Gogh wrote of his yearning to be creative, which caused him to feel like "the man...whose heart is...imprisoned in something. Because he hasn't got what he needs to be creative...Such a man often doesn't know himself what he might do, but he feels instinctively: yet I am good for something, yet I am aware of some reason for existing!...something is alive in me: what can it be!"
Quoted in Brewster Ghiselin, ed. The Creative Process, 1952.
Van Gogh's words resonate with me. So often I sit at the keyboard with only an awareness of something there, something imprisoned that needs to be set free. For me, for Van Gogh, and for Betty Edwards (who quoted the above in her book, Drawing on the Artist Within), freeing that imprisoned something begins with finding an image to express it.
I've been feeling like my creativity is locked away from me and the only things I have been able to write these past few weeks began with images. My poem, Missing, started with a vision of an old mosaic, the tiles breaking away. That vision was so much a part of the words that I couldn't separate them when I wrote it. This article began with with the image of butterflies imprisoned in glass. Sometimes the words will flow when I start to draw. Sometimes an idea will come from a photograph or a strong mental picture.
I wondered if other writers use images to get ideas flowing, to unlock their subconscious, to find their way into what they need to say. Google turned up some surprises and some familiar names.
On a songwriter's forum I discovered a musician that used a strong mental image to to unlock the notes of a musical composition:
Sometimes, to defeat writer's block all you need is a vision to focus upon. For example: I once wrote a song about a war. The entire song, although there were no lyrics, had a very precise vision in mind while I was writing it. The vision that I had, allowed me to already determine the way I would like it arranged. If you, as a songwriter, use a specific vision in mind, your framework may very well become more evident.
Songwriting Tips - Combatting Writer's Block
You can follow Pulitzer Prize winner, Robert Olen Butler, through the the process of creating an original story from an image on a postcard at this site. His book, From Where You Dream, is one of my favorite writing books.
Another favorite writer, Alice Gray, gets inspiration from imagery too and she has an image-related writing challenge up.
What creative ways have you found to unlock that imprisoned something in you?