I'm spending some time in the Laing Art Gallery today. People often ask writers about how they do their research. I'm sure we all have our our own styles and preferences. My writing is inspired by people, music, and pictures. I see vivid images in my mind which I try to capture with words. I use music to generate the mood and atmosphere I am trying to create. The thread that binds the pictures together is plot and that's where imagination does its thing.
When I wrote 'The Storm' I found historical texts of mid-nineteenth century village life dry and lifeless. They told me facts, but trying to translate that into story didn't work for me at all. Then one day I was wandering around the Laing and I noticed this painting. It's 'The Women' by John Charlton. The subject is self-evident and it was everything I wanted in the scene of the villagers hauling the lifeboat across the moor to launch from the East Sands beach in their attempt to rescue the crew of 'The Embla.' I spent many an hour sitting in front of the paintings of local fishing communities. These were my primary source of research, as they helped create the pictures in my head.
I'm not sure creatives appreciate how much we may inspire each other. Clearly, writers will be inspired by writers, but my work is influenced by so much more. It's a melting pot of art, music, writing, film and theatre. I churn it all together and hope that what comes out is my own creation, inspired by, but in its own way greater than the sum of its parts. I love the thought we're all the part of one large community, feeding ideas, sparking new ways of of thinking, generating new work. I don't write for other writers. I write for my readers who could be anyone. However, as creatives we stand on the shoulders of one another. Not giants, just slightly strange people with a drive and compulsion to share our own vision of the world.