by Joan Waites
It happens to the best of us. We sit and stare at the blank page, wondering if we will ever come up with another great story idea or artistic masterpiece.
As easy as it would be to give up when we hit a wall like this, sometimes taking small baby steps towards the bigger picture helps to get the wheels turning.
For example, last November I participated in “PiBoIdMo” or “Picture Book Idea Month” an on-line challenge started by children’s author
Tara Lazar. The premise of the challenge is to motivate both published and unpublished writers to come up with one picture book “idea” a day for one month. Not a whole manuscript, but a title, unique character, or a rough outline…just a little something written down that might jump start a future story idea. It seems like a daunting task, but just taking minutes a day, I was surprised at how much you can accomplish. Of course not all these ideas will be worth pursuing, but the hope is that one or two, or a combination of several of these ideas will eventually become a polished manuscript ready for submission.
Another challenge (going on right now), is the 12 x 12 in 2012: Picture Book Writing Challenge. Participants are challenged to write one picture book manuscript for each month of the year in 2012.
If Novel writing is more of what you are interested in, consider participating in National Novel writing month, another thirty day challenge: http://www.nanowrimo.org/
For those wanting an artistic challenge, you can participate in “Illustration Friday.” A weekly word prompt is given out and participants may then post their work each Friday in an on-line gallery. This is a wonderful way to experiment using a different style, medium, or technique, as well as a great way to freshen up a portfolio with new work.
Many of my colleagues have also given themselves a self-imposed challenge of a small illustration or sketch a day (based on a particular theme) for one month. Each illustration is then posted on Facebook, sometimes with a contest at the end of the month to win a piece of original art. It’s a great way to build a following while giving you the push to create new work. Some themes I’ve seen featured are monsters, fairies, and Christmas doodles during the month of December.
Participating in a challenge like one of the above could also be adapted for use in the classroom. Both writing and artistic challenges could be conducted for a week instead of a month. At the end of the week, have students choose one story idea or one illustration to develop further for the final project.
The next time you are faced with that blank page, challenge yourself one step at a time. Those baby steps just might lead you to the right destination!