Time to confess.
I am probably the worst person Tara could have picked to talk about inspiration.
Why? Because blank pages terrify me.
For me, the most difficult part of writing is coming up with a good idea.
I have a lot of ideas, don’t get me wrong. But good ones? Those are rare.
But is that really true?
Go back and look at that fourth sentence again.
Notice the adjective modifying idea. I said I have difficulty coming up with a GOOD idea.
That’s my inner critic at work. She’s already qualifying, judging, and editing the idea before it’s even written.
Perhaps that’s just one of my neuroses. But I wonder if it might be true for you, too.
It’s DAY 4 of PiBoIdMo. Perhaps you have already generated 20 ideas. Good for you.
But if you’re like me, you may not have jotted anything down yet because your inner critic is at work.
My inner critic always seems to come out when I feel pressure.
Pressure to produce, to perform, to be perfect.
Consider the story of how I came up with my debut picture book, PIRATE’S LULLABY: Mutiny at Bedtime (Doubleday BFYR), illustrated by Tim Bowers.
At the end of May 2012, we had a flood in our townhouse. My family and I ended up moving out of our house and living in a hotel for two months during the repairs.
I was enrolled in a picture book writing class at the time and I had to come up with a story idea for our first assignment. The weekend before it was due, my husband took the kids to the park and left me behind in the hotel to write. I sat down in front of the computer and, yup, you guessed it – I drew a blank. Try as I might, I couldn’t come up with a good idea. I spent several unproductive hours spinning my wheels and then my family returned. My writing time was over and I went to bed that night no closer to having a story than when I started.
But our minds work in mysterious ways.
The next morning, I woke up and the first line of Pirate’s Lullaby popped into my head.
“Yo, ho, ho! Me lad, heave ho! It’s time to go to bed”
And what a wonderful first line it turned out to be! Not only did it give me the characters for my story (pirates) but it also provided the theme (bedtime).
Do you think that it’s a coincidence that my subconscious offered up that first line?
No, it makes perfect sense! Floods and pirates have water in common.
But I wasn’t able to come up with the idea when I was stressed out about coming up with an idea.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: the ideas will come.
It’s okay if they aren’t perfect.
Relax. Slow down. Open yourself up to inspiration. It’s all around you. Let it in.
But take a step back, too. Give your imagination the time and the space and the room to create.
Give yourself permission to play. Have fun!
And that inner critic?
Invite her back when you have a first draft and it’s time to revise.
Marcie Wessels received a B.A. in English and Spanish from John Carroll University, an M.A. in Spanish from Bowling Green State University and a Ph.D. in Latin American Literature from Tulane University. Pirate’s Lullaby: Mutiny at Bedtime (Doubleday BFYR), illustrated by Tim Bowers, is her first children’s picture book. She lives with her husband and their two children in San Diego, California.
Marcie is giving away a copy of PIRATE’S LULLABY to a lucky winner!
Leave a comment below to enter. One comment per person, please.
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!