The best part of the whole picture book making process, for me, is that moment when the idea comes—that SPARK happens—and there’s ignition!
It’s mystical, it’s mysterious, it’s magical, it’s COSMIC!
But how do we get to that point where this happens—where “channel D” opens and the idea pops?
For me, it’s just one of those things that can’t be forced. I’m guaranteed not to think up any ideas when I tell myself I have to come up with an idea.
So how do I get primed for the muses to start singing? If I knew a sure-fire secret formula, I would certainly share it with you. But I do know two powerful “tools” that seem to work for me: procrastination and doodling. . . and the beauty of it is, you don’t have to be an artist or illustrator to do either one!
Each one works in it’s own way. There’s research showing that procrastination can lead to creativity, and that doodling can help us think. Combine the two and you set yourself up for some creative thinking!
Certainly, there are merits to doing both independently, but I’ve found when I combine the two, my ideas—always in the form of characters—begin to appear. I call it procrastidoodling, and it’s what I was doing when I came up with the star of my picture book, HENNY.
A few years ago, I was assiduously avoiding an assignment for a class I was taking by drawing all sorts of birds. As I doodled along, I found myself thinking about how silly it is that some birds have wings that are relatively useless—birds like dodos and ostritches and chickens. . .
. . .when out popped a doodle of a chicken with arms! Much more useful, I thought. So I started thinking about all the things a chicken with arms could do…and Henny was born!
Since then, all sorts of characters have popped into my life—and all of them started out as procrastidoodles.
So try this: First, do something you think is frivilous. Waste some time watching a funny video, go for a walk, get relaxed. Then start doodling. Maybe listen to some favorite music while you do it. The trick is not to have any expectations about what you doodle. Trust me, it will free you up to get those ideas flowing. See how many Piboidmo ideas you get.
Who knows, maybe one of them will lead you, like the White Rabbit did Alice, down the rabbit hole to a whole new world—where your picture book will come alive!
Oh—and here’s a great TED talk on doodling. Why not procrastinate for a bit and watch it?
Thank you ! And thank you, Tara, for this opportunity to participate in PiBoIdMo. Have fun everyone!
Elizabeth grew up in Western New York State, studied art history in college, and went on to graduate school to earn a professional degree in architecture. While raising her kids, she kept herself sane by drawing portraits—mostly of other people’s kids—and did some fine art and scientific illustration. Upon completion of her maternal duties, she discovered that all of her architect- brain-cells had died, so she turned to drawing and painting full-time—FOR other people’s kids—and hasn’t looked back since.
Her debut picture book, HENNY (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), will be released in early January. She recently signed a contract for a new picture book, due out in 2015, about a little pig named Peddles, also with Simon & Schuster.
Elizabeth is represented by Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary & Media in New York, and is a member of SCBWI International, and SCBWI Western Washington.
Elizabeth is giving away a signed copy of HENNY once it’s released!
This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:
- You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
- You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
- You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)
Good luck, everyone!