Friday Five: Why I ALMOST Quit PiBoIdMo

It was close. Yesterday, I almost tucked the notebook away and just let it go. I was telling myself that this wasn’t the year for me, that it wasn’t a big deal, that I could just choose to stop. Why was I considering backing out of the month’s goal?

1. I haven’t really been “there” this year. Last year, my writing time WAS PiBoIdMo. I carried that notebook everywhere with me, and I scribbled ideas right and left. This year, the notebook has spent more time away from me than with me, at the very least in my briefcase, rather than on my desk. For whatever reason, I haven’t been focused on picture book ideas this November.

2. I started (FINALLY!) writing scenes for my YA. That old question/debate has raised its head: What exactly are you writing? Can you even handle multiple projects, or are you just doing all of them a disservice by trying to multi-task? If you spend time on more than one manuscript, will you actually FINISH any of them?

3. I’ve been working. I know–this is so NOT an excuse, but totally a “princess problem.” I love my job, I WANT my job, it’s totally not cool to BLAME it. Still, it does take my brain to different places during several hours of a day–I’m actually supposed to be focusing on job stuff. I mean, yeah, you know–they’re PAYING me! Like I said in number 1, I do drop the PiBoIdMo notebook into the briefcase during the morning, but it’s often still there when I drive home, and then…yeah, it doesn’t levitate itself up into my hands by itself.

4. The ideas I have been throwing into the notebook are, let’s face it…BLAH. Flat. Boring. Stupid. I know, get rid of the evil editor, but I also try to be honest with myself sometimes. I’ve been dipping into the shallowest part of my imaginative brain the last couple of weeks. I’ve been grabbing at those ideas that float there on the top, that I don’t even need a net or fishing line to catch hold of. And I’ve been saying. Good. Cool. Done for the day. I’ve been…LAZY.

5. I’m at a kind of stuck point with my current picture book drafts, the ones I did develop from ideas last year. Stuck as in, yeah, so, what do I do now. Stuck as in, Geez! I have to get SO MANY OF THESE “ready,” before they’ll take me anywhere in terms of publication–nobody wants just one or two. Stuck as in, you know…THIS IS HARD. Whine, whine, whine.

I was “this close.” I had the notebook in my hand–I can’t even tell you whether I’d gotten as far as concretely formulating the choice: 1) Put it away or 2) Sit down with it one more time. All I know is that I was standing there with it, not moving, not heading in one specific direction or another, and (here’s the kicker) NOT DOING ANYTHING ELSE.

And here came the idea.

I love this idea. I can see the character, I can see her problem, I CAN SEE THE PICTURES. (Don’t shoot me, all you illustrator-types, I know better than to actually tell you about them–they just float happily around in my brain helping along the happy-dance factor.) I want to write this picture book.

I’m remembering how big a haystack can be, and how teensy-weensy that needle can be inside it. I’m remember Anne Lamott’s shitty first draft and remembering how that applies to a whole pile of shitty picture-book ideas. And I’m remembering my overall philosophy about NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo: No matter how little you actually GET DONE in November, you can pretty much bet it’ll be more than it would have been if you hadn’t signed up.

And I’m remembering: it’s all about time and space. Just a little bit. Just that tiny moment of taking hold of your attention and pointing it in that direction. Yes, I’m busy. Good god, we’re ALL busy, and my level of it is so NOT the top of the crazy-schedule-meter. So, no, I’m not going to get 30 good ideas. I think I’ll get 30 ideas, but who knows. It’s okay.

Because in that blip of quiet time, that bubble of emptying out my brain of all the other goop, I did it. I opened the door, just a crack, and my imagination did step up to the light and offer up the silver platter. With lacy doily.

I have one story possibility. So, no, I’m not quitting. Not today. And probably not this month.


  1. Tara Lazar says:

    Hooray! That’s exactly the point…all you need is ONE good idea. And for every 20 or so ideas, you get ONE good one, so all that other drivel is NECESSARY drivel!


  2. I hear you on #3, Wendy! Felt the same way at the onset of my new posiiton in April. By days end, I’d had the life force sucked out of me, at least it felt that way. For me, regrouping my thought process in this utterly crazy 2012 while taking other things off my proverbial plate has the creative juices flowing again.

    Have you invited your inner-kid to yuck it up over the crazy events/personalities that you encounter during your day job? Last year that method [I was at the job from hell!] lent several good ideas for my PiBoIdMo list. Think about giving it a try ;~D

    Best of luck!


    • beckylevine says:

      Somehow, work feels very distant from picture-book writing. Maybe next year, I’ll be more relaxed into it!


  3. Yay, Becky! Those good ideas are golden. And well worth the 29 lame ones. Way to go!

    I’m not sure I have any that are jumping out at me that strongly as golden… yet. I have a few that I think might be workable into something worth pursuing, but mostly I have a notebook full of lame ideas–blah. And, yes, it does feel mostly like I’m being lazy and only scratching the most superficial layer so far. But, who knows… maybe someday I’ll flip open that notebook and a blah idea will combine with some other spark that I haven’t even encountered yet, and THEN it’ll turn golden. You never know. But I know for sure it WON’T happen if I don’t have the notebook full of lame ideas. πŸ˜‰


    • beckylevine says:

      That’s a really good point, Laurie. Just because an idea feels flat now, doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way! So maybe all the rest AREN’T totally blah. πŸ™‚


  4. Yay for you! There are always so many reasons to give up. Which makes it all the more amazing when we keep going. And all the more wonderful when we get that idea that makes it worthwhile.

    Wishing you a happy PiBoIdMo and a happy Thanksgiving!


    • beckylevine says:

      Thanks, Amy! I keep thinking about that idea, and it DOES make all the other stuff worthwhile. Sometime in 2013, I’ll have to carve out enough time to turn it into something.


  5. Delighted to hear that you had an idea blossom into delight, enough delight to keep you going in this amazing quest for 30 ideas in 30 days.

    I so needed to hear this today. I haven’t done anything PiBoIdMo-ish for a couple of weeks now, since I’ve been so focused on getting myself to Connecticut and seeing The Great American Mousical. Now I’m back and thinking “Should I pull out that notebook, or keep it pristine until next year?” Thanks to your post, I’ll pull it out and see what happens in the next two weeks.


    • beckylevine says:

      “See what happens.” That’s really the gist of it. Forcing things really kind of misses the point. πŸ™‚


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