I think I’ve talked here before about how I used to be a one-idea person. I had one idea for many years, and I wrote on it and wrote on it and wrote on it and sort of revised, and–honestly–it never went anywhere.
So I was really glad when another idea came along. And that idea turned into a story I write and learned-about-revising on, and that I hope–someday–someone will love as much as I did.
But when I was done, then I was sort of staring out into nothing. No more ideas. And this, as you can imagine, was pretty scary. I’d sort of known this possibility was lurking there all along, especially as I wrote and wrote and wrote on that first book and didn’t have any story characters poking at me, asking for my attention. But I had something I was working on, and so I didn’t let myself worry too much about that something maybe not being enough. Until…it wasn’t.
What changed? A couple of things. Caro called to me from the pages of a history book, demanding a place in a real-life moment. I got the contract to write The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide, and, in the course of that project, I had to come up with many passages from “fake” stories. I used these passages to show my readers what to look for as they critiqued. When I went to think of a picture book idea, I got one–and it turned out to be one that I didn’t want to be fake. It was a story I wanted to write, for real. That idea turned into the picture book I’ve been working on this year. Which, if not done, is at least well on its way to that point.
Somehow, having two projects to work on seemed to loosen the latch on my idea door–I’m now at the point where I have several I’d love to dig into, when I have time. A friend of mine talks about “princess problems,” and I think having too many ideas fits under that umbrella-so no complaints here!
But…I’ve never been in the position of having to actually think of an idea. (I know, another one of those problems!) And I’ve decided that–guess what? I want to write another picture book. There are a few reasons behind this want:
- I have figured out that I like writing in this genre.
- I’ve heard recently that some (all?!) agents want a writer to have several picture books in the done pile before they’ll consider signing that writer. (No, I’m not letting this scare me, but I’m accepting it as a possible market reality.)
- I like having not just more than one idea, but having more than one project I can actually work on at–basically–the same time. I like switching between the two. The thought of doing that with two novel projects pretty much blows my mind, but I do feel like I’ve been able to make steady progress on this picture book and my YA in the past few months. Which is good.
So…the other night, as I was heading into sleep, I let my brain drift. I don’t even know where I was sending it, just…out there. Maybe I was hoping for a visit from the muse, maybe just reassurance that I hadn’t turned back into a one-idea writer (or at least a one-picture-book-idea writer). I went to sleep without the visit or the reassurance, but I’m learning not to let that stress me out too much.
The next day, I didn’t worry at it, but…sometime in the afternoon, I opened up a new Scrivener file and popped down the basic idea for, yes…another picture book.
Is it magic? Is it just being open to possibilities? I’ve heard this is the most frequent and challenging question authors hear–where do you get your ideas?
As of today, I have no clue. But I’ll tell you one thing–not knowing is definitely a princess problem.