I am participating in a little venture called PiBoIdMo (for my non-writing friends, it stands for Picture Book Idea Month). Basically for the month of November, I have to come up with 30 picture book ideas.
Last year (my first), the ideas practically oozed from my pores. But this year is different, and I reluctantly confess I know why. I am going through one of those dark periods. It pertains mostly to my writing, but it seeps into my otherlife as well. You know the questions: Who am I? What am I doing with my life? Is all this work worth it? What the heck do I write for anyway? Do I really write picture books, or do I write something else? (This last question haunts me the most lately. I sense an existential crisis in the making!)
But today as I walked out of Barnes & Noble in a desperate attempt for inspiration (okay, maybe my real intention was to buy that issue of Entertainment Weekly that I missed because my subscription lapsed), my next idea literally hit me in the face, or rather, my nose. In the cool misty air of autumn, I smelled the early morning aroma of...you guessed it (probably not) -- barbeque.
The olfactory blessing wafting out of the gas-station dive blasted me back to my childhood. I grew up on pit-cooked barbeque from the little town of Lexington, NC (look it up non-NC friends...it's nearly famous), and I immediately felt a longing for my home and my roots. Then some "what if" questions followed, followed by the fleshing-out of a character, an imagined friend, and then yowza! An idea came quickly on the heels of an unexpected whiff of roasted pork. (Please note that no pigs will come to harm in this picture book).
So if you are feeling lost in life (or ideas) this morning, remember your roots. Return to your childhood, when the world was filled with familiar sights, sounds and smells. You might just find your best you waiting for you there.