I’ve had 11 picture books and 3 picture-poetry books published, including the popular and best-selling Where does Thursday go? I’m a Dirty Dinosaur, Columbia Sneezes and Silly Galah! I have 3 further picture books due for release.
Do you sit down with your pen or keyboard and ‘let the whisper’ take you with your writing? In other words do you ‘follow the leader’ for some time to see where your words will go?
Or do you plan meticulously, only feeling comfortable to begin when there’s a tangible shape or a possible outcome in mind?
Or perhaps you do both? Perhaps what works one way for one book might not be right for another piece of work. Or perhaps you begin one way, and find yourself needing the alternative method during the writing.
Recently I wrote two picture books, about a week apart. There’s something about picture books that grabs me and if I haven’t written one for a while, I get the itches.
I didn’t have a particular story in mind, but I was at the library and grabbed a dozen picture books. Later I read them all in one go. Call it drinking at the oasis.
A day later, I went through each book again; this time more studiously, taking note of the set up, the problem, the rhythm, the denouement and so on. I was feeding myself in a very pleasant way.
I still didn’t have a strong idea of what I wanted to write. Only that I wanted to write. This often happens to me.
And yet, when I asked myself what had been ‘bugging’ me for a long time, I came up with a phrase. It was to do with bones. It was like a jingle that’d lodged in my mind. I’d once written this phrase down, not knowing what had produced it:
there were bones about, in boxes and boots.
Although it was only a few words, it had, I thought, a nice sense of rhythm, alliteration and the potential to go anywhere; a trigger for many different stories. But which one?
You’ve probably also been in this situation where you think, but there are too many ideas! Which one do I go with?
In bed that night, I let ‘the whisper go’. Without stating it aloud, I said, whatever comes off my pen, I will allow it.
I wrote about fifty words and then put the pen down. I didn’t want to start analysing what I’d written! It was nowhere near a picture book, but it had spearheaded itself in a certain direction. It was something I hadn’t orchestrated or expected, yet I had an uncanny trust that it would take me somewhere – eventually.
Over the next few drafts, I deleted one original thought, added other ideas, shaped and re-shaped, wrote and re-wrote.
Eventually I had a picture book. I called it ‘The Bones of Jamieson Jones’.
Will it get published? I don’t know. But I had so much enjoyment writing it and allowing ideas to arrive without my head or pen driving them, it’s got to be worth something!
What about you?
Do you find it fascinating to stand back occasionally and wonder about that thing called creativity? What comes from those recesses of your mind that makes connections, sometimes in serendipitous ways, or surprises you, as if you’ve mined hidden treasure?
How do you write?
(watch out for my next blog where I’ll talk about When to let go; Picture book idea 2.)