Write it down

I’m a collector of ideas. Though not a very good one. I have a tendency to let brilliant, world-changing picture book ideas escape by not writing them down. Great ideas slip into my head at inopportune times. Almost never when I am at my keyboard or sitting with pen and paper in hand. They usually manifest themselves while I am driving. Or in the shower. Or toting that bale. If the idea is good enough, and it almost always is, I don’t worry because I am certain I’ll remember it and can write it down later. Which is almost never the case. I inevitably forget  what was so damn good.


Another time and place I get terrific ideas is in-between the sounding of the snooze alarm. That semi-lucid state where every idea is magnificent and perfect for the book I want to write. The kind of book that everyone will embrace. The kind of book that will sell millions. But I don’t believe I’ve EVER recovered a snooze alarm idea. Friends in the writing world have suggested more than once that I keep a pen and a tablet by my bedside to scratch out those ideas when they come. I’ve tried. Lord knows I’ve tried. If I can struggle to open my eyes and write an idea down, chances are it will be unintelligible when I eventually get up. But more than likely, the idea will fall into that “so-freakin’-brilliant-there-is-no-way-I’ll-forget-this!” category and hitting the snooze button I’ll plummet back to sleep, congratulating myself on my brilliance, never to recall even glimpse of that idea again.

For the past few years, I’ve participated in Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo.) The idea is to come up with one picture book idea a day for the month of November. (The same month I grow my pathetic mustache and beard.) It  seems an easy task, right? One idea a day for thirty days. Not even a fleshed out story—just the idea. Over the past 3 years, I have created a list of nearly 90 story ideas gathered during PiBoIdMo. I’ve structured a handful of them into viable stories. In December 2012, I was going over some of the ideas I had written down the previous month, had an Ah Ha! moment with one of them, and wrote  BUNNIES!!! the same day. And in January, 2013, BUNNIES!!! got me a new agent, sold immediately, and comes out this January. So. Writing ideas down, no matter how obvious or memorable or spectacular you think they are, works. I just need to do it more consistently. Even in the non-facial hair months.

Writing (picture books) is hard. Writing down ideas for picture books shouldn’t be.



  1. Perhaps these aqua notes are worth a try!


    Tara had posted them after last year’s PiBo; or maybe an old-fashioned tape recorder 🙂

    Good luck!!

  2. I have a small portable recorder. Can keep it under my pillow, take it with me in the car and stick it in a pocket wherever I go. I’ve tried the paper and pencil idea, and as you said , writing it doesn’t work as well. I have problems figuring out what I wrote and the spark that initiated the idea, seems to have disappeared. Just saying what I’m thinking seems to work so much better.

    • Hmmmm…. That’s an idea, Jennifer. (Although I hate the sound of my voice.) I wonder if I could make that work in the semi-wakefulness when these things come. Or if I would, like mentioned above, count on remembering an idea based on its sheer brilliance and forgo the recording…

  3. Thanks for the reminder about Picture Book Idea Month. I’ve gathered some good, not so good, and maybe great ideas as a result of this annual prod. And you’re so right about writing them down. Otherwise, like clouds, they will just float away. Way to go with BUNNIES!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing! I haven’t done PiBoIdMo before – but plan to give it a good try this year.
    I seem to get great ideas while working in my garden with filthy hands, or while driving. I’ve pulled over more than once to make notes in my ever-present spiral-bound. And while usually my ideas hold til my hands are washed, I have been so nervous I’d “lose it” that I scribbled a memorandum to myself on the patio with the kids’ sidewalk chalk.

  5. This is great! I can’t recall what I had for breakfast, much less a story idea that popped into my head while driving a car full of stinky boys home from soccer practice! I now carry a pen and paper in the soccer-mobile and the kids write down things when I shout out “Get the paper & Pen!” They actually love helping and have given me more than a few ideas of their own! Now….If I could just figure out what to do about those endless ideas that come while I’m in the shower……

  6. Another challenge is actually finding the scribbled notes on random pieces of paper that I have stuck in my purse, or car console, or around the house. I do keep a teeny notebook in my purse but when I’m driving, I’ll write down a note on whatever’s handy, usually a receipt from Chick-Fil-A for a large Diet Dr Pepper. Who knows what brilliance has been dumped in the recycling bin?

    Dog walks are another time that ideas pop into my head, and not long ago a friend suggested I use the Notes function on my phone (or whatever you want to call the little notepad icon on the iPhone.) My dog tends to be quite happy to take a sniffing break while I type in my thoughts. However, the appearance of a squirrel can be hazardous.

    Looking forward to BUNNIES!!!

  7. The problems with a pad and pencil by the bed are 1. I can’t see without my glasses. 2. Dark. There’s a whole Seinfeld episode about a joke idea Jerry wrote down in the middle of the night and tries to decipher the next day. It can’t be done. I think if the ideas are actually good enough, they’ll stick. Like Bunnies! Great title. I can’t wait to see it. Congratulations!

    • I remember that episode—it was a joke he was going to tell on the tonight show! He even tried to get the maid with minimal english skills in his hotel in L.A. to try and decipher it. Thanks re: BUNNIES!!!

  8. Love this piece. It spoke right to me. I am now inspired to make a point to WRITE DOWN my ideas. 🙂

  9. Me too. But being inspired and actually acting on inspiration aaren’t always the same thing. ;^)

  10. Were you channeling me when you wrote this? I was laughing out loud because I could relate to ALL of it, esp that semi-lucid “magnificent, bestselling idea ever” that you’re sure you won’t forget. Ha. Also, big thanks for reminding me about PiBoIdMo. That’s what I need to get my momentum going. Can’t wait to see BUNNIES!!! when it comes out.

  11. Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

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