by Jeanette Bradley

Where do ideas come from? Why, from caffeine of course! And books. Books and caffeine are the best combination. Join me for a virtual cup of tea while I read to you from some picture books that have deep insights into the creative process.

“Toad put his head very close to the ground and shouted. ‘NOW SEEDS, START GROWING!’
Frog came running up the path.
‘What’s all this noise?’ he asked.
‘My seeds will not grow,’ said Toad.
‘You are shouting too much,’ said Frog. ‘These poor seeds are afraid to grow.'”


Story ideas are seeds. They are scared of loud noises. They don’t like being told they aren’t good enough to write down, or they are too much like another idea. They tend to flee when criticized, and they take their friends with them.

Don’t scare off your ideas by holding out unrealistic standards. (“You must be polished and ready to publish!” or “You must be absolutely unique!”) Let your ideas grow at their own pace. Treat them all as worthy of being jotted into your notebook, or on the back of receipt, or typed into your phone. Remember they are just seeds, and they might arrive as a single word, or an incomplete image. They will grow.

In Henkes’ Caldecott-winning title, Kitten tries, and tries, and tries to drink the big bowl of milk in the sky, and fails miserably.

“So, she went back home—and there was a great big bowl of milk on the porch, just waiting for her.”


Inspiration can be elusive. If we chase after it, we often fail to catch it. But then, when we’ve exhausted every effort, an idea will be sitting on the porch, just waiting for us. Sometimes the best ideas come when you are sitting in traffic, or shoveling the driveway, or generally not looking for them.

Still stuck? Have a cup of tea with a friend. (Or whatever it is that you like to drink—beer, moonlight, tears of your enemies are all acceptable.)

“Susan liked Fredrick’s ideas, and he liked hers.”

~ Dean Robbins, TWO FRIENDS

Sometimes it’s a simple as that, my friends. Share your ideas. You will both come away with more than you started with, just like Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass do when they share tea and thoughts, in this beautiful book.

“Every tiny atom in your body came from a star that exploded long before you were born.”


Finally, a reminder: It is amazing and magical to be alive and reading blog posts and brainstorming story ideas. Tap into your stardust magic. Pause as you are taking out the trash to look at the sky. Go for a walk in the woods. Take a minute right now and hold your hand up to a sun and watch photons streaming through your fingers from space.

This is also a reminder to not take yourself or your ideas too seriously. You are but a bit of leftover star swirling in a minor galaxy in an expanding universe. No one cares if that idea you just had is stupid, and you shouldn’t either. Write it down.

No one cares if you don’t have an idea right now, and you shouldn’t either. Take a nap or go for a walk. Your ideas will grow while you aren’t paying attention.

When you come back, they may be sitting on the porch.


Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. Her debut picture book LOVE, MAMA was published by Roaring Brook Press in January 2018. It contains no cities, pastries, or trains, but was made with lots of love. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. Find her online at:, on Twitter @jeanettebradley, and on Instagram @jea_bradley.

Jeanette is giving away a copy of LOVE, MAMA.

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!