by Alicia Padrón

Inspiration is wonderful but can be a scary word, don’t you think? If you are in the creative field you know very well what I am talking about.

I am incredibly lucky to be able to do what I love for a living, which is illustrating children’s books. Even though I am not a writer, I believe writing and illustrating are very much alike; one deals with words and the other with images, but both tell a story and more importantly both are governed by our creative side.

As I am sure most of you know tapping into that creative side is no easy task. I wish I had a general step-by-step guide to help others find their ideas but the truth is I don’t. I am sure there are many ways people can approach this but all I can do is share what I’ve found works for me, and hope this can help you as well.

So, what do I do to find inspiration? How do I get my ideas? The answer is simple.


Yes, nothing and I’ll tell you why.

When I first get a manuscript for a book, I read it and I am excited and eager to start working on it but I don’t. I don’t enter my studio, I don’t sit on my work table, I don’t do research on libraries or bookstores, I don’t even pick up a pencil. I do nothing work related.

I allow myself a good amount of time, from 2 to 3 weeks, and I make sure I have that nothing time when looking at the deadlines and agreeing on taking on a new book project. I need it for two reasons, one is to let the pressure of coming up with something amazing right away slowly fade, but more importantly to allow me to find and tap on my creative side.

I believe inspiration and creative ideas live in our subconscious, which is usually hidden and quiet because our consciousness is out and about controlling our everyday activities and dealing with all the stress of deadlines, paying bills, and general worries in life. We will not be able to feel inspired or come up with ideas unless we manage to shut that consciousness off.

In order to do this I find the best way is to engage in a lot of mechanical activities, those that require manual labor, so to speak, but don’t require actual thinking to accomplish them, like going out for walks, talking a shower, driving, sewing, washing the dishes, knitting, pottery, etc.. Any activity you feel you can do on “auto pilot” mode will work, they allow the consciousness to go sleep and for us to open communications with the creative side.

In my case it is walking 5 miles every day, taking long showers, listening to music and driving, those are the moments I find I am at my creative best, and I take advantage of this.

I think about the characters in my book, will they be an animal or a kid? How can I make them special? What do they look like? Do they have any special likes or dislikes? How can I make them relatable to the kid reading the book? I think about the setting, how can I make it engaging and visually interesting? I want to grab the little one’s attention with my illustrations, perhaps tell a visual story that only they can pick up or add a small detail they can find from page to page? I think about the general look of the book, what can I do to make this book special and stand out from others out there? Is it a bedtime book? How can I make it feel peaceful and calming? Is it a scary story aimed for very little ones? How can I make it not so scary but still let the message come across to them? I think and think for weeks until I feel my head is going to explode with so many wonderful ideas and images that I can’t hold them any longer and that’s when I enter my studio, sit down at my desk, grab that pencil and start working! It’s a wonderful feeling.

Some of those ideas I keep, others I might change a little, but the important thing is I am able to tap deep down when I needed to and by the moment I sit down to work I am no longer worried about a blank page staring back at me, instead I am filled with excitement and feeling productive.

You have to be brave and trust that even though it might feel risky to do noting for those weeks, it’s actually one of the most important stages you should go through. Allow yourself that time; it will pay off in the end. Use it to think hard, let that love for writing grow inside you, until your head is filled with wonderful ideas and your heart is filled with such excitement that you can’t take it any more. Then, and only then, you will know that is time. Inspiration will no longer be scary but a wonderful thing.

Alicia Padrón has illustrated 24 books for children, including the New York Times best seller GOODNIGHT, NUMBERS (Crown), LITTLE FOX, LOST (Pajama Press), ABC, BABY ME! (Random House), UN BESO ANTES DE DORMIR (Ediciones SM) and BRUSH, BRUSH, BRUSH! (Scholastic). She is known for creating heartwarming characters, especially babies and animals, in a sweet and sensitive style. All of her artwork is rendered in watercolor and finished digitally. Alicia and her family are originally from Venezuela and now she spends her days illustrating in her home studio in Florida, with her dog Lucy always by her side.

Visit her online at and on Twitter and Instagram @AliciaPadronArt.

Alicia is giving away a signed copy of her book GOODNIGHT NUMBERS, written by Danica McKellar.

Leave ONE COMMENT on this blog post to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!