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The Colors of Inspiration

How much does the color scheme of your writing environment affect you? Many writers feel that it is important to have a calm, organized space in which to write. At minimum, we need a spot to plunk down our computer and maybe a notebook. My writing desk has a hutch with shelves where I can place books for reference and objects related to my subject (heh heh) that keep me focused and inspired.

Some writers prefer silence, others nature sounds, and many of us enjoy listening to music while we write. I choose my writing playlists carefully, because I am trying to create a very specific mood or "flavor" in my WIP that I haven't exactly found in any work that I've read. I'm trying to write the fantasy book I've always wanted to read but have never discovered. My current writing playlist includes Rammstein, Gogol Bordello, Dead Can Dance, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, The Tea Party, and Led Zeppelin.

It's a complex flavor I'm mixing here, with some contrasting elements to hold in balance. The goal is to create a kind of self-aware fantasy that has genuine beauty and passion, silly fantasies that are indulged only with a grain or two of salts, biting humor, aching paradoxes, undercurrents of rage and obsession, tender love, and only the most delicate garnishes of sarcasm and kitsch.

I am not a fantasy or romance reader in general. I am bored by formulaic plots and stock characters in novels. I despise the cheesiness, weakness, sentimentality, and cutesiness found in many fantasy and romance characters. In "funny" or satirical fantasy/sci-fi books, I'm a bit tired of the same old jokes and the dry, dry wit. If I've heard it before, a dry joke simply comes off as smug and nerdy to me.

Instead, I want to write a fantastical story that is juicy, unapologetic, exciting, funny yet deeply serious, and feels essentially "true" even though it's set in an impossible time and place. Whether or not I'm accomplishing that remains to be seen, but it's my aim.

So in addition to music, I try to be aware of the color scheme of my writing environment. I grew up in a family of artists, and I am a very visual person. My writing always contains visual imagery that reflects the mood or sets the tone for the action.


My main writing desk is tucked into a niche in my living room, which has a misty color scheme similar to this watercolor, above. The walls are a soft, slightly bluish, textured green. There are natural wood and brown and violet accents. The mood is overall soothing and a little romantic, without inducing the gag reflex. There is no grandma pink anywhere, and there is a coolness to the hues--ultra-feminine without the fluff. I took the photo above out of my favorite childhood book, which is the main muse for my WIP. Published in my birth year (1982), it is a collection of rewritten Tales from Grimm bound in a hard, brown cover with a small, faded golden emblem of roses on the front. The illustrations (including the one above) are watercolors painted by Mercer Mayer, known for his Little Critter children's book franchise. (What a different style, huh?) The tales in this book are hardly appropriate for small children, but this was my favorite book from an early age. The prose is written in a simple, "gauzy" (as Miss Moppet might say) style that feels romantic without the cuteness and a little eerie.


By contrast, I sometimes carry the laptop into my Yellow Room for a change of pace. In this bright and saturated environment, I write the best scenes dealing with sexual tension, ecstasy, spiritual awakening, conflict, and heightened passions. Though I do love the ethereal loveliness of Mercer Mayer's fantasy watercolors, my favorite colors have always, ultimately, been super-saturated and rich. (Just look how cheery Miss Moppet looks in that winter-slaying ensemble!) As a kindergartener, I was surprised to learn that most little girls preferred pink. I had always perceived pink as a wimpy, watered-down version of luscious, juicy red. Vivid orangey-yellow (not pictured very accurately in the photo above, sorry) can be anxiety-inducing and eye-straining, so I don't tend to dwell in this room for very long, extended writing sessions. But this color also focuses the mind, amps up energy, and stimulates creativity. There's nothing more boring to me than a novel with a homogeneous tone from beginning to end, so I try to vary my writing mood based on the scenes I'm working.

Oh, and by the way, the empty wall space behind Miss Moppet is reserved for a silly painting of Mr. G and me in the college years by a buddy of ours. It's pictured in an unfinished stage in the current blog header. Talk about inspiring passion with a sense of humor!

What are the colors of your inspiration?

Comments

  1. i have lots of info on color theory and the effects of color on behavior if you ever get really bored!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I might need to consult with you before decorating a couple of rooms! For example, if bright yellow really makes babies cry, uh, we're going to have to reconsider throwing a crib in the Yellow Room when/if we need to stick a crib somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I like how the girl in the watercolor looks like you. Eerie!

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  4. The funny thing is, the stereotypes of 'boy' and 'girl', blue and pink, are shown in research also to be two of the most calming colors on the mood!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Esperanza: Mr. G noticed this too. All the women in the book's illustrations look sort of like prettier, idealized versions of me. They're tall and thin with long bones, high foreheads, round and light-colored eyes, long noses, fair complexions, and full lips. It's a different aesthetic than the busty heroines with crayola-colored hair and Sharpied-on chola eyebrows found in a lot of fantasy/sci-fi book covers and illustrations now.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lisa: I know, those are both good baby room colors. But blue makes me feel cold and down, and I've never liked soft pink. Though I could probably find a pink tone I liked... I dunno. Maybe green? I will have to give this some thought.

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  7. green is known for it's calming effect! that's why tv studios use a 'green room' for people waiting to go on air. plus it's pretty much the best color :)!

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  8. I friggin' love the bright yellow that's already there, but it won't work if we end up using the room for a nursery. I wonder if we can partially cover it with a jungly green foliage or graphic pattern.

    Crazy in a good way?

    I've always wanted to paint a mural, too... We just watched a movie set in Spain in 1913, and there was this mansion with wild art deco and nature-themed murals on all the walls.

    I'm thinking art deco baby room would be much more fun than Winnie the Pooh or pastels or something.

    ReplyDelete

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