There's a children's book here somewhere.
For as long as I can remember, humor has been my go-to. Whether it’s breaking the ice in an initial meeting, having some sarcastic thing to say (that’s more funny than mean), or simply just doing something random to get a rise out of someone, I genuinely enjoy laughing. I tend to go overboard occasionally and someone (my wife) is quick to tell me to dial it down. I don’t. She tries though. I've used humor in speaking engagements and probably use it to my advantage as I have an innate ability to crack a joke and not laugh at all. This is extremely frustrating for my co-workers as I tend to do this in serious situations, but I find it hilarious. To a certain extent I do care what people think of me, I am only human, but overall and in most situations, I don’t. So, it was only natural when my buddy Ben and I were deciding what entrepreneurial quest we would tackle first would be, writing children’s books was a great fit. To quote a line from Grease, “The rules are, there ain’t no rules.” Thus, the world of children’s book writing.
I will not bore you (at least not in this blog) about the information, research and due diligence we did when we first started. There were plenty of trips to the bookstores and reading online to go cross-eyed. However, I do want to touch on a few keys things that have certainly helped me out during this whole process. When we initially started talking about children’s books we got extremely excited. There were ideas flying all over the place. There was talk of cows and birds and socks that smelled and all kinds of ridiculous story lines during some awesome brainstorming segments. One word that stuck with me through those initial meetings and has stayed close through this whole thing has been the word – imagination. I love the quote by Henry Thoreau, “The world is but a canvas to our imagination. I truly believe that.
So, we started with that, a blank canvas. But what do you put on paper when there are a million different directions to go? My advice is to look around you. There are children’s book ideas everywhere. Now granted, it certainly helps I look at things from a certain perspective. I love my friend Chynna’s Instagram bio that reads, “Irrationally optimistic.” I feel I share a dash of that. Or at least I think I do. So, my first thing I would say that has helped me out, has been to have a positive outlook on life in general. Yes, bad things will happen. Trust me, I’ve experienced plenty. I also refuse to become a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife did. In other words, put your past behind you and move forward. Just add a smile. If you think positively you will literally see the good everywhere.
The second key would be to filter out a lot of ‘idea fairy’s’ that pop up unannounced. An ‘idea fairy’ is someone who always comes at you with, “You know what would be really funny, is if you wrote about...” or “you should go (to a place) and sell your books” basically it’s a lot of ideas that don’t necessarily fit your plan of a specific project, vision, or strategy you are going after. My advice here is to say, “Absolutely, thanks!” Side note – If I've ever or recently told you “Absolutely, thanks!” I really appreciate your thoughts and ideas and I'm looking in to that thing...promise... Bottom line, your vision for your story, is just that – yours. So keep your circle extremely small, focus on the end game and swat the idea fairies away.
A third key would be to keep your eyes and ears open, always. I never knew I would be inspired as much as I am by watching my sons. I listen to them playing, hear their arguments, hear their negotiation tactics about who gets what action figure etc. and I’m instantly inspired. Kids are the best. Your own kids are the absolute best. Use that! For instance, my son woke me up this morning and I got him, put him in bed with me and his mom and he starts talking. First, he was speaking in third person, “Conrad awake daddy.” “Yes, I know son, I see you.” He whispers, “I'll be right back.” He hops off the bed and disappears for a couple minutes. He climbs back in bed. “Conrad pooped daddy.” See – instant inspiration. That happened this morning by the way. Granted, I may not write about that in particular context, but the idea of a potty-training book titled “I’ll be right back” might be a winner.
Or there was the time I’m down stairs and I hear some rumbling upstairs where my oldest son is supposedly sleeping. I walk up to investigate, and he is in on his bed with a headlight turned on putting a Lego together at 10:30 p.m. I say, “Grayson, what are you doing?” I don’t even finish the sentence and he says, “I’m a workin man!” I didn’t even say anything else, I just walked back down stairs. In this instance I go to the idea of a kid who, “when the lights go out, he goes to work” and a whole series of books is born based off what this kid can build during the night. So, you see, it's all around you. You just have to look for it.
Now that I've become more accustomed to my approach on writing and creating stories, I often say, “there’s a children's book here somewhere.” It usually follows some encounter in a local grocery store where I’ve seen a boy riding in the cart – on the bottom part with both hands and feet inside like he’s an extra on the movie Cool Runnings. Or when I hear a toddler girl tell her mom she wants to have a horn on her head like the unicorn does. Oh, and there’s the time I walked in on a group of kids in my CrossFit class and each had an extremely guilty look on their face and they just start pointing at each other – keep in mind I had said nothing, they just started pointing. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Lastly, know this, if you decide to do anything. I don’t care what it is, there will be those who look at you from three different perspectives. One type of person will be happy for you. They’ll support you and like your photos and get a kick out of what you are doing, thanks mom, love you too. The second type of person will not really care either way. They view themselves as someone who just doesn’t care in general about lot of things and they certainly don’t have any opinions about your work, much less the time energy and passion you put in to it. Watch out for these folks, they’re energy vampires and they’re trouble. The third type would be the all-questioning, all-knowing motivator. This person has all the answers, all the advice and more than anything all the “ideas” that can get you off track, remain out of focus and can derail a vision faster than anything. Use discernment on this type, you never know, one of those million ideas may be good.
My hope is that you’ve read this, and it hopefully will inspire you to keep pressing in on your own journey you’re currently taking. Be it writing, sketching, painting, or anything really. I hope you pursue it wholeheartedly. Expect hick-ups to happen and roll with them, stay positive and avoid the energy vamps that try and drain you. Finally, stay creative! I am a firm believer in this and will continue to be until I'm proven otherwise. If you just read that and said to yourself “I’m not creative” or “I can’t...” I challenge you right now to do a mindset change, immediately. I have to go now, my son just came in wearing a superman cape, rain boots, a Davy Crocket hat while holding an umbrella...hmmm, there’s a children’s book here somewhere.