Movies are more of a natural influence. I tend to write stories with multiple main characters and multiple story lines, so movies like American Beauty, Closer, and Princess Mononoke have been very influential to me. I watch them over and over again to learn how to pace multi-character stories and how to transition from one character to another.
But, other forms of art also inspire me. I love the music of Radiohead, for example. Whenever I listen to their album, OK Computer, I immediately feel like I want to duplicate what they are doing musically in my writing. Shostakovich also inspires me this way, as do the paintings of Agnes Martin and Paul Gauguin, just to name a few.
An obvious problem arises. How does one translate these different art forms into writing?
Can it be done?
One of the things I love about OK Computer is that the musicians make use of these intricate counterpoint lines to balance the main melodies. When the singer finishes a phrase, and before he starts a new one, another line of music rises up in the gap to keep your attention. These lines often overlap so that as one sound is tapering off, another is just developing. In my writing, though, I've never been able to do anything close to this. I've always felt trapped by the fact that our writing is so linear, that readers can only pick up one word, or one sentence, at a time. Poet John Ashbery has experimented with having poems that are meant to be read simultaneously, but I'm sure that borders on the fringe of what readers are willing to put up with. I know in my own experience of that particular poem (I think it was in The Tennis Court Oath, but I may be wrong) was that I ended up not understanding anything.
So, I often ask myself it is a pointless pursuit to try and translate music or painting into my writing? Perhaps the beauty of these separate art forms are that they are, indeed, separate. But, I realize that part of my motivation to write is so that I can take part in the creation of art that I find to be beautiful, and it saddens me to think that some things are "off limits".
Do you think that other forms of art can ever be more than just an inspiration to your art? Can you steal techniques from other artists the way you can steal from other writers?