ART IMITATES LIFE EVERY DAMNED TIME (Or: Art doesn’t exist without life to give it context.)

Has any life experience made you so angry you said to yourself, that’s going in a book? How about a joyous experience you couldn’t wait to journal about? Or, better yet, has something very real happened to you, no matter how small or inconsequential at the time, that made you want to change the world or at least your small part of it?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes and you then wrote about it, took a photograph or painted a picture, made up a song, a dirty limerick, or even the perfect FaceBook quip or Pinterest post, then I think you’ve experienced art imitating life. Oscar Wilde famously said: “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” This may seem chicken and eggish in the premise it sets out to prove, and to some extent it is, but I believe the distinction merits a look.

I make a lot of stuff up when I write. Gallery photographers use different lenses to generate and saturate color, to shadow and show effect. Painters experiment with light and shading. Musicians and poets play with meter and rhyme. What they and I can’t make up, and I believe this to be true of others as well, is the emotional content. Artists of every stripe, even mimes and sidewalk shell-game artists, have to draw on and connect with emotion, or their art falls flat.

I used my grandmother’s name in the second book I wrote for a character who otherwise was a compilation of women I admired as well as the product of my imagination. When it came time for that character to die, the emotion was very real. That scene rings true. I cry every time I read it because I let a piece of my life bleed into my art. The character wasn’t real, not wholly anyway. The emotion was.

That same story has part of its genesis in a visit I made to a long term care and rehabilitation facility. My client, an elderly woman with no family and a large estate, was recovering from a hip injury. She was also being billed $6,000 a month to share a room and drink Ensure. She didn’t even have a walker that worked. Needless to say, I was a little pissed off. I got her out of there, but not before she was billed $12,000  for a  60 day stay. That little adventure spurred the creation of Potter’s Woods, a wholistic healthcare facility. I made it up. I created a way to pay for it in my story – it helps to have a spare billionaire – and I felt better. Now, Mr. Wilde will be right if said billionaire reads my story and Potter’s Woods becomes a reality.

I can only hope.

My point is that artists, paid, unpaid, known and unknown, universally pour their life experience and the emotion that imbeds itself on the psyche as a result, into their art, even if all that comes out on the canvas is the representation of a soup can. It resonates with some people. It leaves others cold. Yet, the emotion is real whether it paints a rich and textured picture or it wounds with its starkness.

That’s life, baby. And it creates art.

So, my friends, does life’s emotion influence the way you create or the way you enjoy art? I bring my own experience to my reading and often I read a great story a little differently than friends who read the same words. How does your life experience influence your reading, your art, your enjoyment of others’ art? I can’t wait to hear from you.

My your life always be filled with art that adds to it and emotion that nurtures it.

Leigh Morgan

12 thoughts on “ART IMITATES LIFE EVERY DAMNED TIME (Or: Art doesn’t exist without life to give it context.)

    • No doubt about that one, Pepper! They’d say: “No way that’s real”. I’m still learning to blend fantasy and reality into some kind of creative soup people enjoy reading…it’s worth the trip.


  1. I use my dad’s retirement home in my WIP. It’s a good place, they truly go above and beyond, so I have an example to create the opposite. I right a lot of wrongs in my work as well. If ever I write murder mystery, I have a whole slew of eligible victims. 😉


    • Joan, I’m so glad your dad is in a caring environment that meets or exceeds in meeting his needs. I know they’re out there and when you find one it’s a gift. I’m with you on the murder mystery…heheheh. I can think of some people I’d like to off in print too 😉


    • Amen to that, Jill. I don’t have to be shot to know it hurts, it’s enough to have experienced physical and emotional pain. I just think writing has a ring of truth to it when the emotion is real and raw and compelling, because people relate to it on a very primal and elemental human even when the subject matter is fantasy or non-“human”. BTW: you said it a whole lot better than I did! Cheers. 🙂


  2. Great post, Leigh. All my books are based on true events that happened in my life or in someone’s I know. Like you, I cry and laugh when writing my books. Actually my whole writing career started because I wanted to share my traveling experience to Belarus. I had a whole notepad of stories that became scenes in To Love A Hero, and Rx in Russian.


    • Dear Mona,
      How wonderful that you jump started through travel. Traveling makes my life so much richer and more deeply textured. It invigorates me and stirs my soul. That’s another reason I love to read romances set in exotic (different from my backyard) locales. Thanks for commenting.


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