I have a lot going on writing-wise, and am enjoying every minute I get to spend working. As I focus on my longer projects, however, I like to have shorter projects to work on when I need to clean out the “mental cobwebs” before a big edit, or just to be able to come back to a longer w.i.p. with fresh eyes. But for the first time in years, I don’t have several picture book ideas floating around in my head!I know that I am super focused right now on my longer projects, so I keep telling myself that more ideas will come…and I know they will. But in the meantime, I am looking for ways to generate ideas. Here is what I have come up with so far:
Carefully comb through old writing or “idea” files. I know that I have at least one old idea that never panned out. Maybe this will be a possibility!
Visit a library or book store and spend some time just browsing. Too often when I am at a book store, I am looking for something specific and don’t have the time to just be there.
Revisit favorite children’s books. What makes you love them? What did you love to read as a child?
Think about any special interests or hobbies that you have. Could any of these become a nonfiction book or provide the spark for a new story?
Search for “current needs” lists. Sometimes magazine editors, school librarians, teacher organizations, etc. will share what readers or teachers are looking for. If current needs match with your interests, then you can run with it!Have a chat with a writing friend and bounce some ideas off each other. Sometimes just talking with a like-minded writer will bring ideas to life!
Pay attention to your dreams, and keep a notebook by your bed. Yes, like when you are sleeping. My middle grade w.i.p. began from a very vivid dream I had one night, but I didn’t have a pencil anywhere nearby so I ended up scribbling everything in eyeliner on a random piece of paper—never again will I let this happen! Stephenie Meyer shares here about a dream that proved tremendously successful for her career.Spend some time around children. Kids provide the best inspiration, hands down! The main character in one of my picture books was inspired by a little girl at Barnes & Noble who was wearing red cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. I overheard a little boy teasing her, saying, “Girls can’t be cowboys!” She immediately retorted, “Yes they can!” and then turned around and picked a book off the display wall and started to read. At that moment, a character was born!
READ children’s books. Lots of them!
READ children's magazines, as well. If you do not write for children's magazines, why not give it a try? Often the process of writing articles or short stories can spark ideas for authors.
Relax, and have faith in yourself as a writer. I firmly believe that as writers, we go through seasons much like the natural world. There are times when we bloom with new ideas (spring), and then we carefully cultivate these ideas until they are thriving and strong (summer). Then we edit, polish, and submit our completed work (fall). Finally, we take a deep breath, rest, and wait for the blooming to begin again (winter). Spring is right around the corner!
This is a short list, I know, but it got my wheels turning. If you’d like to share about how you generate ideas, please comment below. Happy Writing!