A few years ago I was at a soccer match and was impressed by how often the ball just needed to get walloped to the other side of the field. In a tense situation, when my team was too close to their opponent's goal, they just needed to get the ball as far from the opponent's goal as possible. They didn't need to be precise, they just needed to move the ball out of the danger zone.
Sometimes in conversations, when I am feeling nervous or am struggling to express an idea, I just blab some words, throw something out there and that loosens me up so I can yammer my way to the point. That is definitely how it is in the beginning stages of a creative project, I just need to get an idea down, a loose sketch or a disjointed story, something I can work with.
It was a close match, up to the end, and every time they knocked the ball to the other end of the field it seemed pretty desperate and we in the stands were relieved when our team managed to do it.
That is how it feels in the beginning stages of a project, pretty desperate. A wild abandon, "I don't know what to do, but I have to do something." I am not sure why it feels that way. I don't have anything to lose by creating something bad. I am not in a soccer match, I am sitting alone in my studio and won't show it to anyone if I don't like it. So why panic? I suppose it is the fear that the first draft will be as good as it gets.
There are those who play for money, babe,
there are those who play for fame,
there are still those who only play for the love of the game.
That is T-Bone Burnett, from the song Killswitch. The name doesn’t seem right for such a beautiful song, but I have never been able to understand what the song is about. The concluding lines that I quote above fit so well with the music, I never mind not understanding the rest of the words. It serves as a good reminder for me that the only lasting pleasure that can be had from work of any kind is the work itself.
Earlier this week I mailed off the last bits of illustrations, including a cover and the end-papers. It is finally done! The illustrations for this book took an entire year to make. My other books have only taken six months (even that seems like a long time). For this book I went back to using ink and watercolor. With Green Pants I used pencil and watercolor for a softer effect, but for #4 I wanted the added definition and 'pop' that ink brings.
For the traditional artists out there, I'll note that I made a big switch from the toothier cold-press watercolor paper to the smoother hot press. For some reason I was very hesitant to make the switch even though it seemed like a pretty obvious choice. I suppose I thought people would be impressed that I made detailed drawings on the textured cold-press. "What a tough guy!" Nobody really noticed or cared, so I drew this book on the smoother paper. It made it a lot easier. My pen tips lasted a longer and I was able to achieve more detail. Sometimes I wear bright, loud socks and assume people take me for a slick, cutting-edge, "creative." Maybe that isn't the case, either.
I just mailed out the illustrations for the Book #4 yesterday. As I write this, the package is on a FedEd truck in Boston. In the next few weeks I'll draw and paint the covers and then I'll move on to book #5.
On Saturday, October 13, I'll be speaking about writing and publishing picture books at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in my fair city, Grand Rapids. I am looking forward to it!
I am finishing up the illustrations for my fourth title. When all is said and done, I will have spent a year on the illustrations for this book. Announcement forthcoming....
Green Pants Green Pants Green Pants Green Pants Green Pants Green Pants Green Pants!!!
March is Reading Month and I am visiting schools to talk about writing and illustrating picture books. The point is to encourage reading and I am continually impressed with all the inquisitive, eager readers I meet.
The Song of Delphine made the Best Picture Books of 2015 list on the friendly and robust Good Reads with Ronna blog! It is a nice list ordered by age of audience. Woopee!
The Song of Delphine was received warmly by Meghan Cox Gurdon of the Wall Street Journal:
"Young readers ages 5-9 will thrill as Delphine rides atop a smiling giraffe across the moonlit savanna—and gasp along with her when the animals return her at dawn to the wrong window. At the end of this enchanting book we are left with our hearts and horizons expanded..."
If you will be in West Michigan on Thursday, April 30, then come on out to the book release party for The Song of Delphine. It will be at Schuler Books (2660 28th St SE Grand Rapids, Michigan) at 7:00. And of course, you are welcome to come in your pajamas! We will have fun!