My Third Novel's Conclusion, My Heartbreak

My heart begins to break when I think about completing this particular book -- because this narrative has sustained me like no other story I've known. It's both more personal and more universal than my other works. But beyond memory and archetype, it's a cri-de-coeur about needing to become the person one is destined to be. And in the writing, I have met my own life's work, my own fated journey -- having the sense all the while that the pages are suffused with a resonance, an energy, an electrified field that defies explanation. Writers hope and pray to be overtaken by a work in this way -- to be conscripted into passionate service of a profound story. To experience it even once in a lifetime seems a great privilege. I still have several months before this novel is complete, and this constitutes my reprieve. Because I'm not ready for the beauty to end.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Art Inspires Art

The Unfastened Heart began with a work of art I bought at an out-of-the-way auction.  I spent more than I could afford on a lithograph of Marc Chagall's "Bella," which is a thoroughly magical depiction of Chagall's wife as a bride -- angels and birds and candles and flowers all surrounding a beautiful, gentle-eyed woman.  I got the sense of goodness and abundance emanating from Bella, rising up from her very skin, and my character, Mariela, is in her own way based on her portrait.

What struck me about the painting more than anything else was that Marc Chagall loved his wife with a love that was transcendent of an earthly view.  To him, she was clearly holy, the central blessing of his life.  And I wanted my work to capture the remarkable reverence that a man can have for the woman he loves.

I didn't realize until I was nearly halfway through the novel that, when looked at in a certain way, Bella could be seen to be holding an infant in her arms -- an astonishing revelation to me since I was expecting a baby at the time, and so, too, was the young woman I was writing about.  It was one of those very rare instances in which art becomes life and life becomes art.  My work took on the same quality of abundance and wonder that surrounded Bella in all her silent splendor.  When I sat down to write, the words poured themselves onto the page.  Chagall was somehow whispering in my ear.

I hope The Unfastened Heart will inspire other artists in turn.  I've heard from several of you that you're in the process of reading the novel, turning to your oil paints, pastels, photography, etc.  It's lovely to imagine the art as a river that travels through us and on to the next artist, who has his or her own unique vision to convey in response to the work that came before.  Art inspires art.  And artists inspire community.  Thanks to you for being part of this one.


  1. Lane -- the Chagall story is beautiful. I wasn't aware of the source of inspiration, and in reading your post, the image of the artwork was so vivid, including the impression of an infant. Thank you for sharing it!


  2. the lyricism of "the unfastened heart" has defined my very being. it is the chant i repeat inside my head - when i want to close the world out - to remind myself to be open. i have a signed first edition that i revere.

  3. I saw the announcement which led me to finding your blog online. I am a very very new illustrator but I will definitely send an entry. Trying to capture the thought or the feeling or the mood in one frame will be tricky but the thought excites me. Thanks for the inspiration.