Monday, July 8, 2013

Picture Book Workshop #21: Inspiration

A question that I get asked often at author visits is: Where do you get your inspiration?

The answer is probably a little too vague to be a good one, but the truth is everywhere and anywhere.

The inspiration of Wink the Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed came from a boy's Halloween costume.

Monkey Ono came from an illustration I did in the second Wink book.  I'm working on an early reader book right now and the initial inspiration for that one came from some boys wondering if anyone would step on a piece of dog poo on the sidewalk.  (The story doesn't have anything to do with dog poo, in case you're wondering, but rather, I found it so interesting how delighted the boys were to see if anyone would step on it.  It was like mischief was afoot, but they didn't cause it so they wouldn't get in trouble.)

Ideas are easy.  Remembering ideas is a little trickier for me.  So if I'm going to dole out advice, it is this: Always have a notebook close by.

I have one by my bed.  I have many in the art room.  I have an idea book that sits on my computer desk by my writing books.

Sometimes I write my ideas down on scraps of paper and then tape them into my idea book.   Sometimes the idea is a title or an image of a face.  Whatever it is, I write down as much as I possible can about my idea.

Some ideas won't go away.  They nag you endlessly until you start to write them.  Other ideas can be patient and sit quietly in the book until you have half an idea for something else and you need another half of an idea.  Well then, it's good you've been keeping track of them.  I just pop open an idea book and flip around until I find something.

I think keeping a journal of your ideas is especially good if you already have some characters in mind but you're not sure what they should be doing.  It can be challenging to come up with clever stories when you first sit down to brainstorm.  Take an idea that you already had and see if it fits a different set of characters.  It's like trying on your friend's clothing.

I also feel that as you start to get diligent about writing down your ideas, you will find that you start noticing more and more story ideas everywhere you go.  Pretty soon the bigger problem won't be What should I write about? but rather How do I decide which of these fabulous ideas to pursue?

And that it another blog post altogether!


Ruth Schiffmann said...

My problem is writing things down in any old notebook. Then I rarely go back to look through them. I did start an idea box though, where I keep all those bits of paper that I write ideas on.

Julie_c said...

That's so funny, Ruth, b/c that's exactly what I do with my receipts! I stick them in a box and then every three months I organize and record them. Whatever works, right?!

Mirka Breen said...

Ideas come from everywhere. This non-answer is the still the best if this is a general question. Specific ideas are like sparks, and creative people usually remember very well these moments of light.

Maureen said...

This is the truth. I have several idea books scattered throughout the house (whichever one is closest is the one I write my ideas in). Sometimes I forget about them. A couple of weeks ago I found an old story that was half-finished from three years ago. I just couldn't get it going back then. Now, three years later, I looked at it, and finished it in two days!!!

I will definitely check out your ninja books. Seems like something my daughter would like!