What inspires you as a writer? I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration and where story ideas come from as I participate in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo Challenge. I’ve been brainstorming with other PB writers in this challenge for a few years now, with varying degrees of success. But this year I’m well past my 30 ideas and feeling excited about quite a few of them.
I think this year is a little different for me, because I’m writing EVERYTHING down, like Corey Rosen Schwartz suggested in her post, and because I’m actively seeing out ideas. In years past, I used to sit at my computer, fingers on the keyboard, with my eyes gazing out the window. What was I looking at? Not much, I live on a pretty quiet street. I had some squirrel ideas pop into my head and a snowy scene or two would make it onto my list, but I rarely came away with more than a handful of ideas I was super excited about.
This year, I’m an idea machine and Pinterest has helped with some of my ideas. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting at my computer all day scrolling through Pinterest. I still listen to the funny kid at Target while pretending to read a K-cup box, I actively study the stacks of picture books I’ve hoarded from the library, and I’ve gained inspiration from the wonderful PiBoIdMo posts put up each morning. But sometimes there’s a special something in my heart, a memory or an experience that I’d like to share with kids, but I’m not sure how to turn it into a marketable picture book story.
When I was a kid, a friend of my mom’s gave our family a Gingerbread house for Christmas. This beautiful creation was an object of utter fascination for me. I spent hours taking it in, staring at the candy decorations, smelling the warm, cozy scent of the gingerbread, and wondering why in the heck my mom wouldn’t let me gobble it up!
Since then, gingerbread houses and gingerbread cookies have held a special place in my heart. But how do I want to share this special gingerbread experience with others? What story would make a great gingerbread picture book?
For inspiration, I when to Pinterest. There are probably a bazillion pins of gingerbread houses and cookies on Pinterest. Of course there are building instructions, recipes, and decorating tips. There are pictures of houses, ranging from graham cracker shacks to palaces fit for a gingerbread king. (Hmm, is that an idea?) I even came across pins that surprised me and sent my idea machine down a different track, a knitted gingerbread house ornament, for example. It was eye candy for my imagination and I came up with a bunch of ideas for gingerbread themed picture books.
I personally keep a few boards for inspiration. One is full of kid-friendly illustrations that spark my imagination. Two of my story inspiration boards are set to private. One is filled with pins related to a middle grade novel I’m working on—pictures of setting, articles for research, pictures of items I imagine are important to different characters, and so on. The other is a board where I pin any ol’ thing that sparks a story idea for me.
So if you’re a writer or illustrator looking for inspiration, consider creating a story inspiration board of your own. And seek out other writer’s and illustrator’s boards. You’ll be amazed at what you find.