There's a natural disaster in my home town (major flooding), which I've been following closely on the news. In addition to my natural shock and dismay at seeing familiar landmarks be innundated with water, I'm also making notes.
That's what writers do, you know? We see something and thing, "Hmm. I can use that in a book." We're not trying to be cold-hearted or anything -- we see the human side to the disaster and we empathize. But we also recognize interesting data for our stories, and want to capture it while we can.
This whole Midwest flooding event has given me great ideas for my Big Book (the one I plan to write when I get all these other books out of my head). All those things I had a hard time imagining? They're happening right now. All I need to do is take notes, stretch my imagination a tiny bit more, and I'll have some great plot points.
So I guess that does answer that old question. Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?
In my case, art will definitely imitate life....