by Jennie Jarvis
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending a great workshop on writing Children’s Picture Books, conducted by Alicia Thompson (@Aliciabooks). I’ve never written Picture Books before, and I don’t have any children. However, I was suffering from a post-writing project burnout, and the idea of exploring this new medium seemed… well, fun.
Sitting through the workshop was probably one of the best things I could have done for myself as a writer! Not only did it remind me of all the Children’s books I loved growing up (The Giving Tree, Where The Wild Things Are, Curious George, The Monster At The End Of This Book, etc), but it breathed fresh life into my own writing outlook.
I left the workshop with all of my writer’s burn-out completely wiped out! I felt energized and ready to get back to writing. In The Artist’s Way terminology, my well of creativite energy was full once more, and I was ready to get back to my next WIP.
Why did this workshop leave me so inspired? Here are the five reasons why I thought exploring this new media left me feeling invigorated:
1. It forced me to think outside the box in which I’ve been working
When we focus on our writing, we can get so boxed in with what we are doing, we forget there are other ways of telling stories. By exploring the simple ways Picture Book authors tell stories, it forced me to rethink how I work. Were there things I was doing that could be simplified? If Dr. Seuss could write Green Eggs and Ham using only fifty words, was I over-thinking my vocabulary choices? Even if I decide to keep everything the same in my own work, being forced to question how I was writing a story lit up parts of my brain I hadn’t accessed in a while.
2. It reminded me why I do this thing called writing
The books discussed in this workshop reminded me of the simple joy of reading – which is the whole reason I got into writing to begin with. Picture Books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Corduroy and even Everyone Poops are simple stories intended to teach young readers new lessons about dealing with the world around them. It’s because of books like these I became a writer in the first place. Okay, maybe not Everyone Poops but The Giving Tree and The Lorax were huge inspiration pieces for me growing up. It was a beautiful reminder of why I spend hours of my “free time” each week sitting behind a laptop, slowly developing bad posture, as I type my stories onto the page.
3. It allowed me to play
Any time I try something new, I feel like a kid trying out a new toy on Christmas morning. Feeling like a kid is extremely important for all artists, including writers, since it’s children who have the purest forms of creativity and passion. The Artist’s Way, a twelve week “recovery” program for blocked artists encourages you to have an “artist’s date” each week in which you allow your inner creative child to play. For some people, this means going to a museum or taking a hike. For me, it meant exploring a new form of writing. It was fun and challenging, and this kid had a very good Christmas!
4. It challenged me to try something new
I never gave any thought to writing a Picture Book, but after this workshop, I went home and tried my hand at writing one. I have to say, I’m pretty proud of the manuscript I came up with. Nothing may come of it, but it challenged me to get out of my comfort zone. Considering I tend to write intense stories with emotional struggles, it was nice to write sit back and write something simple and elegant.
5. It made me question myself
Many writers I know are way too serious about their writing. I include myself in that statement. We get so serious about what we are doing, and we take every discouraging rejection or other set-back of our work to heart. By exploring a new medium, it made me ask myself – why are you doing this? If it’s this stressful and nerve wracking. are you in the right field? In other words, are you sure you should be writing at all? If the answer to that is yes, then are you writing in the right format? Should you be writing Picture Books instead of screenplays and novels? Should you be writing for children instead of adults? Even though nothing changed after my self-questioning, it’s important for us to stop from time to time and reexamine our motives. This way, our goals can stay fresh, and we understand why we are on this road to begin with.
Attending that Picture Book writing workshop was a great experience for me. What writing workshop can you take that’s outside of your comfort zone?