About 20 years or so ago, my wife and I found a print of a painting we liked in an art store in a mall. We brought it home and it hung in our living room for about fifteen years. When I converted the spare back room to my office about five years ago, the painting followed, and now hangs right above my desk, where I do all of my “writing.” It’s a winter landscape of a Midwestern farm, and I’ve always loved it, it’s always spoken to me. The original was created by someone I’d never heard of, an artist named Tom Heflin who painted it back in 1976.
I looked him up on the internet a while back, and found that he’s had quite a career, and his website has photos of a wide array of beautiful paintings. Not having had any formal training in art or any discernible talent, I know what I like, and I think I have a fairly good eye, at least, decent instincts. The beautiful work displayed on his web site stands as an affirmation of my taste.
As for my writing: for the past couple of weeks or so, I’ve been blocked like I’ve never been blocked before. I’ve been unable to put hardly a word down, and even the parts of my novel in progress that I’ve outlined and know where I want to go with have been impenetrable. Nothing has been coming to me, no ideas, no words, sentences, phrases – you get the idea. Writer’s block, they call it. In my case, writer’s constipation would be more appropriate, because no shit was coming out.
Then last night, before going to bed, I looked at the painting over my desk, and I thought, what if I wrote a story that took place there? What exactly is it that’s always appealed to me about it? I thought about it as I fell asleep, and when I woke up this morning, I took another good, long look at the painting and I started putting people in it, and the next thing I knew, I was writing! So far, tonight, I’ve got about 3500 words and I’m about halfway through my short story idea. I still don’t know if it’s going to be any good or not, but I’m writing again!
So whatever comes of it, I have to thank Mr. Heflin in particular and art in general for the ability to inspire. I’m sure my little short story will probably never be published, if I even finish it. If I do finish it, I might or might not even decide to show it to anybody. But it strikes me that that doesn’t matter, inspiration is inspiration, and that 37 years ago, when he created the painting, Mr. Heflin had no way of knowing that one day his creation would lift a total stranger out of his doldrums and inspire him to create something of his own.
This is, I think, the essence of any art, what compels us to create anything – it’s the perpetuity of inspiration, that by being inspired, we may someday inspire others.