This last weekend, I successfully completed the PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) challenge – see the links to the right of this column (http://taralazar.com/). The aim is to come up with 30 ideas in 30 days, although I set myself the additional element of finding one per day, rather than relying on “inspired” days to carry the load. Truth be told, I found this fairly easy. I often let my mind wander off for a walk, whether it’s in the shower, or on the bus to work, or in meetings at work (ahem)… If my body was as well exercised as my mind, my doctor would be much happier!
Nevertheless, I found it a really good habit to get into. There were daily blogs about different techniques that you can use if you’re feeling uninspired, but the key for me was just not to force it. When you feel the pressure of the blank page, and all you can focus on is the stark blankness of the all-encompassing white page, white, WHITE, WHITE! … Then you’re not really getting yourself in a mentally creative state.
My best flow of ideas came while I was at the computer and half-listening to the University Challenge quiz show that my wife was watching at the other end of the room. As I didn’t know the answers to any in that particular run of questions (which, sadly, isn’t at all unusual), I just let my mind wander and treat the topics as a stream of idea-prompts. Chemistry, history, music, art… In the space of five minutes, I had half a dozen “good” ideas down.
There did seem an odd batch of people commenting on the facebook pages as the month progressed too. There was a mix of “look at me, I’ve got 70 ideas and it’s only day 2”, and “help! It’s day 27 and I’ve only got 3 ideas!”… To the first group, I’m not sure why you felt a need to broadcast that. It’s not a competition. Are those 70 ideas – and the hundreds that follow – any good? If they are, wow, but how (and when?) are you going to turn them all into picture books? (This is surely the point.) I’d go for quality over quantity every time. (Except for chocolate cake… Always make allowances for chocolate cake.)
To the latter group, have you really given your mind time and space to wander in amongst the madness of daily life, and forgotten about that white, WHITE page? It is undoubtedly true that some people are more creative than others. That is the nature of things. But a single idea a day is not beyond anyone, especially when that idea can be something small like a character name, or a set-up, or even just a punchline or pun that you want to turn into a story (I had one of these around the line “a bit of a clown”).
I’d recommend any picture book writer should give it a go, and set your inspiration free!
1) Never be too far from your notebook / phone. You never know when inspiration will strike!
2) Never rely on a list being saved in one place only (I lost my first batch of ideas through a file being corrupted).
3) Take your mind for a walk in the woods on a regular basis.
4) Try not to do 3) during a meeting with your boss…
Now to try and turn some of these ideas into completed picture book stories. Anyone with me?