The key to staying inspired on the road to being published is being kind to yourself, and recognizing success in all forms. Here are four ways to push through stalled creative momentum by taking control of your inspiration:
- Pivot and remain productive.
If you have days when you cut through 1,000 words like butter, then it is reasonable that you will have days when words skitter around your story without making sense. Don’t beat yourself up—take a break from what you’re doing and pivot to what feels inspiring in the moment.
Sometimes I’m motivated to flesh out an entire scene, other times I just want to line edit, or sketch, or research marketing trends. Creativity can’t be forced, so when it falters, focus on another piece of the project:
- Craft a Twitter strategy to promote yourself and your work.
- Research agents and editors who are likely to love your query.
- Learn how to make a meme.
- Build an author website.
- Explore new software to streamline your process.
- Enter microfiction contests (the best writing prompts!) to refresh your creative brain.
All parts of the project are worth your time.
- Attend conferences.
If you feel mired in your children’s book creation journey, attend a conference (look no further than SCBWI) in person or virtually. Each conference and workshop I attend energizes me to perfect my manuscript. I’ve heard wisdom and anecdotes from industry insiders like writing icon Judy Blume, celebrated illustrator LeUyen Pham, and Arthur Levine, one of the editors for Harry Potter, and used that inspiration to drive my work forward.
Writing conferences exist to give you tools for success.
- Make yourself laugh.
Story speed bumps crop up and try to derail us, but they’re only questions waiting for answers. Put your imagination into overdrive and picture all kinds of story solutions while leaning into the fun of creating children’s books. Enjoy the process because it is your endeavor, no one else’s.
I voice-to-text myself any scenario that pops into my head to fill a plot hole, no matter how ridiculous. Knowing I don’t have to use that idea frees me to have fun with it. Or, try making silly sketches of your characters outside of their world—see what you can make them do in various wacky situations.
Inspiration is at its most potent when the imagination is set free to frolic. Maybe a simple solution to a story speed bump will emerge, and maybe the big smile on your face while you enjoy your work will translate into the words you write or the illustrations you make. With persistence, your delight in creating stories could someday be felt by the people holding your book.
- Consider the bigger picture.
In addition to a host of rejection emails from publishers and agents in my inbox, somewhere in my attic is a box full of rejection letters in old-school, self-addressed-stamped-envelops. I feel dejected imagining person after person rejecting what I’ve crafted. That’s human.
Yet, I know that behind each ‘no’ is a decision about the children’s book publishing business. Every editor weighs their current projects, where my work would sit in the marketplace, how it would be promoted, potential story conflicts with other books on their list, the state of the supply chain, etc.
Our own unflagging advocacy for our manuscript is the only part of getting it published that is in our control. That means remaining poised for the next opportunity because just like falling in love, timing is everything. Polish up your elevator pitch and be ready for success!
If inspiration eludes you, remember that you are creating something that fulfills you beyond commercial success, and let that carry you forward with tenacity and joy. You never know, with perseverance, you could be the one inspiring others.
Naomi Shibles worked as a reporter and editor, and is seeking representation for her middle grade and YA manuscripts. Her work is forthcoming in the 42 Stories Anthology’s Book of 42. She lives in Charlotte with her husband and son.