On Writing and the Other Arts

As a visual artist I have had the good fortune to collaborate with the Booker prize winning novelist A. S. Byatt and, at the moment, am working with her on a set of limited edition prints based on her upcoming novel, Ragnarok. I have always resisted examining too deeply my influences and motives, fearing that by bringing what is in the unconscious into the conscious, it will cause my art, like a tightrope walker suddenly becoming aware of what he is doing and the danger he is in, to metaphorically crash to the ground. There is also the danger of diverting my idea from what is essentially visual to the literary. Because of these concerns, in these collaborations I have avoided asking myself the kind of question I am about to ask you: have you found being married to a photographer that Bob’s visual language and subject matter have found their way into your writing, and do you think your writing has fed into his photographs in terms of content or style?                                                                                   

—Jack Milroy, London 

I want to give a quick nod to the unconscious here and the work it does in the creative process. Read more

I am much more familiar with music that has been created from literature or plays than with music that has been the inspiration for writing. Yet poetry is filled with rhythm, and music may also—even in subtle and unconscious ways—find its way into the cadences and rhythms of prose. Do you feel music has filtered into your style in this manner and, beyond that, have you ever used music directly as a construct for ordering or advancing the framework of a narrative?

—David Cost, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dave, I’ve just been rereading the beautiful Nazim Hikmet poem, “Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in C Minor” (in translation), you sent me when we were discussing this question. Of course it does exactly the thing you ask about near the end of your question, with Hikmet using a particular musical work as both inspiration and structuring device for his poem, which, Bach-like, is both brilliant and lovely. Read more…

As a weaver, when I sketch, then experiment with watercolors and work one or more small maquette versions of a tapestry, the concept changes and develops from a more or less general idea into something quite distinct. And it keeps right on changing until the finished tapestry, larger, more detailed and complex, is cut off the loom. I wonder if your experience as a writer is similar. Do you know from the outset where your stories and characters are going? Do they ever take on lives of their own and surprise you? And if they do, are they willful or tractable?

—Mary Coolidge Cost, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Actually, I do sometimes know where my stories are going from the outset. Fairly often I have had the last line of a story when I begin. Read more…

What have been some of the most pleasurable aspects of working on this publishing project? In particular, have you enjoyed working with the design elements of your website and with the book covers?

—Patricia Zontelli, Menomonie, Wisconsin (and London)

Pat, I do like thinking about all the pleasures there have been in what has been a very large and sometimes exhausting enterprise. Though I’ve sometimes been flummoxed, I’ve liked the challenges of doing things that are entirely new. Read more…

Permanent link to this article: http://emilymeier.com/interview/on-writing-and-the-other-arts-2