“Where do you get your ideas?”
This is the question that kids and aspiring writers ask me the most. And the answer is kinda lame: I have absolutely no idea.
I recognize that many people think about ideas as elusive endangered species that love to play hide-and-go-seek with us writers. But I disagree. I think ideas are everywhere! They fill the air around us like hyperactive dragonflies, just waiting to be snatched out of the air, captured, and put to work. Our job is to collect them. The problem is…we don’t always.
We JUDGE our ideas. And then we DISMISS them.
How many times have you done it? An idea buzzes your way at the most unexpected time. Maybe during breakfast. You’re happily eating away on your raisin-crunch oatmeal, not thinking about picture books at all, and suddenly you find yourself thinking,
“I wonder what would happen if this spoon….ATTACKED ME???!!!”
It’s just a blip on your imagination, and in the micro-second that it takes you to think “That’s stupid.”, you dismiss it and continue chomping.
HELLO? THAT’S A PICTURE BOOK!
(Not yours though. Hands off…that one’s mine.)
That little dragonfly of a idea buzzed into your head for a reason…it wants to be used. It wants to be put to work, to be brought into being. Your job was to capture that little sucker, but instead, you judged it and dismissed it as inconsequential. And then, horror of horrors, you forgot about it.
And the idea dies. Unused. And unwritten.
When I first got the idea for a story about a bunny being stalked by evil root vegetables, don’t you think my first thought was “Dumb idea”? It totally was. But that didn’t stop me from capturing the idea that later became CREEPY CARROTS.
A lion, a wolf, and a shark all feel terrible about their meat-eating ways. Until they get some great advice from a wise old owl…who then meets a grisly death at their hands. What a TERRIBLE IDEA for a picture book! But when that idea showed up in my brain, I was on it like a fat kid on Cinnabon (and being less-than-svelte myself, you’d be surprised how quickly we can move when frosting-drenched cinnimon is around). That idea became my book CARNIVORES.
I am a collector of ideas. And so are you. Every idea you can get your grubby little mitts on.
How you keep them is up to you. I don’t keep my dragonflies in a cage. Or even a journal. I put them under a rock. Literally. (I know…weird. Maybe it’s a boy thing.)
I have something in my office called an Idea Rock.
And EVERY idea that flits my way gets captured, no matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing. You can see in the picture…there are ideas captured on 1000-Island-Dressing-stained-napkins that I got while eating rueben sandwiches. There are post-it-note ideas. There’s even a wedding program with an idea on it under there (man, that wedding was boring). I go through life with the assumption that every idea holds book-worthy potential, that no idea is inconsequential, therefore, they all get captured. They get put under the rock, and from there, they’re going nowhere (that rock is really heavy). And so, even if they do get momentarily judged (as ideas and dragonflies will), they never get dismissed, so they never get forgotten.
I have hundreds of ideas under there…more than I’ll ever be able to write in ten lifetimes. They’re not all gold. They won’t all become books. But they are all CAUGHT.
So put your judgement away and get your net ready. Because that buzzing you hear may just become your next book.
Aaron Reynolds is a New York Times Bestselling Author and has written many highly acclaimed books for kids, including Here Comes Destructosaurus!, Carnivores, the Joey Fly – Private Eye graphic novel series, and the Caldecott Honor Winning Creepy Carrots! He has a passion for kids’ books and seeing kids reading them. He regularly makes time to visit schools where his hilarious hands-on presentations keep kids spellbound. Aaron lives in Chicago with his wife, 2 kids, 4 cats, and anywhere between zero and ten goldfish, depending on the day.
You can visit him at www.aaron-reynolds.com.
Aaron is giving away one signed copy each of CREEPY CARROTS, CARNIVORES and HERE COMES DESTRUCTOSAURUS!
These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes 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!