Monday, December 2, 2013

Picture Book Life: Suggestions

Hi Picture Book Peeps!

I am starting a new series, PICTURE BOOK LIFE.  I will continue PICTURE BOOK WORKSHOP, but I really want that to focus on helpful tips for writers, whereas PICTURE BOOK LIFE is more about making observations about my life as an author/illustrator. 

They will interchange willy-nilly depending on what I'm thinking about that week.  I can't be tied down, people!  ;)

Today, I wanted to talk about SUGGESTIONS.

Ever since I started writing, people have given me many suggestions for books ideas.  The word "should" is always in the sentence.

Because this happens so often, I've actually become a little sensitive to it.  Despite the fact that I know that all these suggestions are coming from places of enthusiasm for what I do, and many of these people are good, kind friends of mine, every time I hear "should" it feels like someone is putting another job on my to-do list, another book in my arms, another load to carry on my back.

This weekend, Mike called me into the kitchen because some radio program was talking to poet Billy Collins. 

I LOVE Billy Collins!  Years ago, Mike and I went to a reading he did in Connecticut.  I didn't know much about him, but after that reading I was a life-long fan.  If you get a chance, get one of his audio recordings.  He reads his work beautifully, and it is so, so funny.

Anyhoo, Mr. Collins was reading was of his new poems called, The Suggestion Box, and it hit home.

In it, he talks about all the people who suggest or predict what he'll write a poem about.  The first is a waitress who spills some coffee.  "I bet you're going to write a poem about this," she says.  Then a student suggests he write a poem about a fire drill, and so on and so on.

Why is everyone being so helpful?  Mr. Collins wonders in a way that is layered with annoyance.

Finally he noticed some ducks, paddling gently in a calm pond.  He pulls out paper and a pencil.  "I knew it!" quacks the duck, thrilled that she has inspired a poem.

Why is everyone being so helpful is a line of perfection, because really and truly these people think they are being helpful.  And that is good.  It is kindness. 

What they don't understand is that story ideas come from an individual's views of the world.  If the suggestion people find something inspiring, then they should write about it.  Their inspiration can never be my inspiration.  I have to find my inspiration on my own.

And, in addition, I am never at a loss for ideas.  My problem is quite the opposite.  Sometimes I have so many flying around in my head, completing for attention, that I become confused and overwhelmed.  But that's a focus problem for another time.


I've decided that the next time someone says "You should ..." to me, I'm going to think Why is everyone being so helpful? and the humor of that line will carry me through.

EXCEPTION - I do, however, love when people tell me stories, just because they have a story to tell.  If someone tells me a hilarious story about a girl and her teddy bear named Talulah and I think there's a nugget there, I'll write it in my idea book.  So it's not that I don't like people sharing their stories, I just don't need folks prodding me with their ideas for books for me to write.  

Thanks so much for stopping in!  I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate!


Leandra Wallace said...

You should...definitely write more 'Picture Book Life' segments! =) I can only imagine that you do get suggestions all the time. And that was a good explanation of breaking down your feelings about it.

Mirka Breen said...

It's never the idea, it's the execution. If this was understood we'd get less of the write-about-Tallulah-Ducky and more Beta readers...
But I still say THANK YOU to the helpfulers.

Julie_c said...

Thanks Leandra.

You're so right about idea v. execution, Mirka! Thanks!

Amber Hamilton said...

Maybe we should compliment them on their idea and sign them up as a beta reader, because someone with such superior ideas would make a great beta reader. Hmmm...