JOIN US Wednesday February 24th at 10 a.m. in the College Station Barnes & Noble for our monthly meeting Our program is as follows: Mary Mize will talk about wordless picture books, and Molly Blaisdell will report on agents at a recent writing conference. We'll also discuss news and provide encouragement. Gentle critique begins at 9:30 a.m. Bring copies of 5 double-spaced pages of your work in progress. Those who have time may go to lunch at a local restaurant. Members and friends welcome!
Tricking Yourself into Writing
January's SCBWI meeting featured a talk/workshop lead by Pam Wiley about goal setting. One of the methods she mentioned for success was creating "exponential little bits" (otherwise known as baby steps) to slowly get closer to your goal. While it is tempting to push and pressure ourselves towards huge goals ("I'm going to write three hours a day!) in the long run it is easier to slowly but surely trick yourself by incorporating new habits stealthily into your current routine. And if there is one thing I have learned in my first year of SCBWI meetings it is that writing children's books is a long game.
So how do you break down the monumental task of birthing a children's book into small baby steps that can easily be incorporated into your everyday life?
Divide and Conquer
Make a list of all the steps that go into creating a story/book. Take those steps and sort them based on the amount of time and energy they take (as well as any physical requirements they involve). Then take a good hard look at your daily life and see where you can slide them in by pinning them to a task/activity you already do. Here are some examples:
Generating ideas / Getting inspired
Honestly, this can happen during any part of your day; the trick is to be ready to capture and store those ideas when they come to you. Whether you're daydreaming at the supermarket, playing with kids, talking with family, always be ready to grab a pen or even your phone and start jotting things down. Personally I like to keep everything in a file on Evernote since I can access it all the time on my phone or computer and can even add picture of a weirdly shaped cloud or a scene of my kids playing.
Having trouble getting inspired? Come up with fun little challenges for yourself in order to generate ideas like making up stories about the person pumping gas in front of you or imagining your child as an animal or mythical monster the next time she/he throws a tantrum.
Learning about the Industry
If you are a novice author/illustrator time spent learning about the publishing industry is time well spent! Even if you are an experienced author, our industry is undergoing so much change it can’t hurt to stay abreast of the latest trends. This is an easy one to slip into your daily life. Like to read in bed (or in the bathroom)? Subscribe to magazines about the publishing industry such as Writer’sDigest or go through your back issues of SCBWI magazines. If you’re a social media junkie follow your favorite authors, illustrators and publishing houses. In my case I am interested in multi-cultural children’s books so I follow a few publishers and authors that specialize in that area. And if you like radio programs and podcasts then check out SCBWI's podcast series or Sara Zarr's This Creative Life series.
This is the hard one, but it is doable. Remember, this too can be broken down into baby steps. If you know you will be stuck in a waiting room for a while, be sure to put that time to good use! Obviously it would be lovely to get 3 hours of uninterrupted time to write but if you put your mind to it even 10 minutes can yield something useful. It is also worth looking at your weekly calendar and figuring out how to bunch together activities/errands so that you can clear out a 2-3 hour window for writing at least once a week. If you decide that you can write on Tuesdays from 9-12 be sure to protect that window from intrusions and distractions. Remember, studies have shown it can take an average of 21 minutes to regain focus after being distracted or interrupted. Don't let your phone or dirty dishes steal 20 minutes of writing from you.
Resources for Writing from Home
Write Where You Live
I have no idea how and when I found this book but I love it. Some of her examples are a bit old since the book predates cell phones and Facebook, but the ideas are very useful. I love her advice to leave the cleaning till later (or never). Amen, sister.
Note to Self’s InfoMagical Project
Do you feel like technology is eating into your writing time? Are you struggling with information overload? Check out this neat project from Note to Self with challenges designed to help you make the technology that surrounds you work for you (in this case, help you meet your book writing goals).
Last Stop on Market Street
I’m really excited to read this year’s Newberry Medal winner, Matt de la Peña’s, “Last Stop on Market Street.” Not only is it a picture book (see this post for an opinion on why that is awesome) but it is the first Newberry award winning book to be written by a Latino author. Here is the description from Matt de la Peña’s website:
“Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share, and comes to life through Matt de la Pena’s vibrant text and Christian Robinson’s radiant illustrations.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of the SCBWI.