After my first picture book Poppy’s Pants was published, I received a call from my dad. He said, “I’ve discovered after years of writing that coming up with new ideas can get hard, so I’m going to help you out.”
I was anxious to receive this bit of collegial wisdom from my dad. Even though I am more than 40 years old, I relish a grown-up conversation, from one artist to another with my Dad. He said, “Here’s my idea, Poppy’s Car.” Imagine stepping outside of your air conditioned South Carolina home to drive your Buick LeSabre into town. Being a writer, you only need to use your car to run the occasional errand. It has been weeks since the last time you started the car up and an unusual amount of debris has collected between the windshield wipers. You turn the wipers on to clear the debris when to your surprise, an angry bird squawks at you. There, between your windshield wipers sits a bird’s nest complete with four eggs. This truly happened. Dad had no choice but to relinquish control of his car until the baby birds learned to fly. I worked on a story inspired by this phone conversation for a while. It remains one of many stories filed away in my Apple computer. At some point, it became too difficult to resolve and so it waits. Perhaps it will resurface some day.
I’ve found that ideas can be easy to come by, but not always easy to turn into a working story. Once you start looking for them, you’ll find them in casual conversation, observations and sometimes they will appear while day dreaming. When an idea presents itself, I test it out by writing or sketching, If my brain becomes crowded with potential then that new idea just might work. A good solid idea should be roomy enough to house many more ideas. Ideas that are connected to the core of the original. Have you noticed that ideas tend to come with their own tiny spark to get you started? Coming up with 30 ideas in 30 days has the nice side benefit of giving the participant a little thrill each day, like a spoonful of mental fuel. Ideas are far better than the most delicious latte to get a person going. Although, I like to combine the two. Usually, that little thrill you get from a new idea is enough to label it as a “good” one, worthy of developing into a good picture book. But, the only way to find out if it will make a good picture book is by working through it.
I have a theory about good ideas. I think they need time, maybe even years to form. They start as shy notions that need time to swim around in the muddy soil of your unconscious before planting some roots. When those ideas surface, it’s like meeting an exciting stranger you swear you’ve met before. I hope to enjoy meeting someone new each day this month.
Melissa Conroy, Pat Conroy’s second daughter, never intended to follow in the family business, instead choosing a career as an artist and creator of the Wooberry Dolls, huggable hand-crafted dolls bearing her childhood nickname of Woo. It was a chance meeting with Blue Apple Books publisher Harriet Ziefert that began her new career as an author. Melissa Conroy’s latest book, Grandma is an Author, was released this week!