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Laura - from family photoThere’s a little stinker that sneaks into my life sometimes and hangs out in the corner of my mind, stealing my creativity.

And now that PiBoIdMo has provided amazing inspiration for finding fresh ideas and coaxing them into stories, I feel him lurking there again, trying to distract me from taking the next step.

He’s a clever thief and shape-shifter, and sometimes his name even changes.

On any given day, his name could be …errands, laundry, dishes, email, internet, TV, kid-activity-shuttle, homework monitor, gift buyer, holiday decorating, volunteering, car repair, home repair, toddlers, dinner, dog walking, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest…

But the name that most people know him by is:

procrastination block photo

And if Procrastination is constantly lurking in the corners of your creative place too, I hope to help you block him out!

I think of Procrastination as my time thief. He poses as life’s daily minutia, unexpected interruptions and distractions, and the multitude of excuses that feel like they are “Must-Dos-Right-Now.” He will keep you from continuing on your story journey… if you let him.

The trick is…not to let him. But how? How do you fit consistent writing time into your daily life?

I’d like to pass along a few tips to keep your creative mojo fresh, and hopefully, Procrastination-free.

1. Attitude and Expectations

I once heard a wonderful author compare life’s interruptions to a game of “Whac-A-Mole.”

Great description! And as I thought about it, I discovered that I was waiting for a time in my life when those moles would keep to their hidey-holes, and provide me with some free time to write. But as Dr. Seuss says, The Waiting Place is “a most useless place.”

Once I tweaked my expectations and attitude about life’s craziness, I stopped making its ups and downs my excuse not to write. Decide to make time to write. You’ll be amazed at the joy it brings and how your stories start coming together in ways you never imagined.

2. Track Where Your Time Goes

This is an interesting experiment: For 2-3 days, keep a log of what you do. Jot it down every hour. Then examine where most of your time is going. Is it going towards something worthwhile? Is it something that you value or will be glad you did a year from now? Are there moments when you could let go of a little web surfing, Facebooking, volunteering, etc. to schedule some time to grow your stories?

3. Goals and Rewards

Writing a complete story can seem overwhelming, which is sure to make Procrastination come calling. Break it down by listing small goals to work towards each day.

  • Today I’ll write about or draw possible characters. I’ll ask them questions.
  • Tomorrow I’ll write or draw potential actions and obstacles.
  • The next day I’ll play with fun word combinations, etc.

Once your daily writing goal is finished, your sense of accomplishment will be a real motivator! But you might consider a reward as well – your favorite recorded show, some Facebook time, chocolate, coffee…

I like to make a pact with myself that I cannot have my “reward” UNTIL I have finished my daily goal. For example, I am not going to eat that delicious snack-sized Snickers bar until I finish working on the next two stanzas of my rhyming picture book. I know it may sound a bit crazy or like I have “parenting issues” with myself. But it really does work for me. Try it – it might work for you too.

4. Schedule Writing Time

Take yourself seriously. You are a writer/ illustrator. Ask your family for the time and space you need to pursue your stories.

Then SCHEDULE time for your writing. Put it on the calendar and honor it like you would a doctor’s appointment. Turn off the email, internet, TV, and phone if possible.

Before my children were in school, I hired a babysitter once a week for a block of time, and went to Panera to write. It was a delicious, productive time—and my first book, THE GINGERBREAD MAN LOOSE IN THE SCHOOL, was written there. Panera holds a special place in my heart, as it was also the place where I received the email from GP Putnam’s Sons expressing interest in my story. Woo-Hoo!

But Panera also brings me to the 5th tip:

5. Go Somewhere Else to Write

If I am not making progress on my stories, it is usually a sign that I need to get away from all the little things that Procrastination tempts me to do. He rarely follows me into that corner booth of a coffee house, if all I bring with me are my ideas, a notebook, and my favorite writing pen.

I’ll leave you with a quote from From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg:

“Ideas drift like clouds in an undecided breeze,
taking first this direction and then that.”

Help your lovely, drifting ideas tell you which direction they’re going, by giving them the time they deserve (and not letting that sneaky thief whisk it away.

And speaking of thievery, I couldn’t help but “borrow” this cartoon from Facebook for my office cork board. It makes me laugh each time I look at it, but it’s also a good reminder.

batman procrastination


gingerbreadmanlooseLaura Murray is a children’s author, former teacher, and mom of three mischief makers. Her rhyming picture book, THE GINGERBREAD MAN LOOSE IN THE SCHOOL (GP Putnam’s Sons, July 2011), received a starred ALA Booklist review, was chosen as Washington State, Florida, and Kentucky Children’s Choice Book Award Nominee, and has inspired a forthcoming sequel entitled THE GINGERBREAD MAN LOOSE ON THE FIRE TRUCK! (GP Putnam’s Sons, July 2013). She loves writing picture books with funny, mischievous characters, and middle grade adventure/mysteries. Please visit her online for printables and teacher’s guides at

Check out the new Video Book Trailer of THE GINGERBREAD MAN LOOSE IN THE SCHOOL, made by the fabulous PiBoIdMo-er, Carter Higgins

Laura got the opportunity to meet Mike Lowery, the book’s awesome illustrator, and have him sign a few copies of THE GINGERBREAD MAN LOOSE IN THE SCHOOL after its release. Please leave a comment to win a first edition (includes a poster) signed by both the author and the illustrator, as well as some fun Gingerbread Man SWAG! A winner will be selected in one week. Good luck!

by Laura Murray 

Kids love to laugh (don’t we all!) And what’s better than a LOL (laugh-out-loud), giggle-inducing picture book?

So where do you get those snicker and snort-worthy ideas for your own picture books?

  1. Be an eavesdropper:  I absolutely love to listen to my own children or my kindergarten students as they imagine and pretend. Listen when they are in the back seat of the car joking with their friends and they somehow forget you are driving. Listen as you sit on a park bench at the playground or when you help out in the classroom.  These places are loaded with funny kid conversations and picture book ideas.
  2. “Baby Bloopers”: On the last page of Parents magazine, there is a section called “Baby Bloopers” where parents write in about the super funny things kids of all ages do or say.  When I received this magazine, I would tear out these pages and keep them in a file. (*Parenting magazine also had a back page called “How Embarrassing” that I collected too.)
  3. Google “Funny things that kids say”: You will not only provide yourself with many laugh-out-loud moments reading the hits that come up, but you will also fill your PiBoIdMo idea notebook!

The idea for The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School  started as a funny line that came straight from my three-year old’s  mouth one day as she dubbed herself “one smart cookie.”  It reminded me of a school Gingerbread Man hunt we did in Kindergarten and …voila… several questions later, I had the makings of a Gingerbread Man story with a new twist.

What questions am I talking about?

The very same ones that Karma Wilson and Tammi Sauer mentioned in their earlier posts—

  • What if? What if a class baked a Gingerbread Man, but he got loose in the school when they went to recess? What if he was really searching for them, instead of running away?
  • What could go wrong?  Oooh—maybe he could land in a lunch sack, or get stuck on a rolling volleyball…

But there was one more question that I pondered for this particular story—

  • How can I raise the funny factor? (What mischief would kids identify with in this school setting?)

Hmm… sliding down handrails, spinning in the principal’s chair, cookie-related word play, (and absolutely not “being eaten” in the end)!

So, as you look for your own ideas, remember to—

  • Listen to kids (or read about their escapades.)
  • Write down what they say and do, especially if it tickles your funny bone.
  • Take the idea you love the most and start asking questions – What if? What can go wrong?
  • And if your idea lends itself to humor—then ask, “How can I amp up the kid-LOL factor?”

There is nothing quite like hearing a child’s chuckle as you read your story, so…


Laura Murray is a children’s author,  former teacher, and mom of three mischief makers. Her debut rhyming picture book, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School (GP Putnam’s Sons, July 2011), was chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection, received a starred ALA Booklist review, and has inspired a forthcoming sequel  entitled—The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck! She loves writing picture books with funny, mischievous characters, and middle grade adventure/mysteries. Please visit her online at

Laura got the opportunity to meet Mike Lowery, the book’s awesome illustrator, and have him sign a few copies of The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School after its release. Please leave a comment to win a first edition (includes a poster) signed by both the author and the illustrator. A random winner will be drawn one week from today.

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