Tuesday, December 7, 2010


With my final Mason Dixon revision behind me, and the last of the in-term grading done for my two classes, and my signing off on my guest-editorship for the University of Maryland's Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly today (hooray, hooray), I am now officially in groping mode for a new book idea.

Some of my author friends don't need to grope for book ideas. They already have more ideas for books than they could write in a lifetime; their panic is never "What will I write next?" but "Will I live long enough to release these characters into the world who have taken up residence in my head?"

Some people just have very fertile and clever brains. Of all my writer friends, the one with the most fertile and clever brain is Utah picture-book author Rick Walton. I've heard Rick speak several times, and it's always amazing to behold how his brain works. Rick says that he writes - get this! - some two hundred picture books in a year. Two hundred. He says he might end up selling and publishing five or six of these, so he has a very low publication rate from his ideas. But because he has so many ideas, he ends up publishing a ton of books. And, I might add, a ton of delightfully creative books.

My brain doesn't work that way. I have to sit down and slowly, consciously, painstakingly create an idea out of nothing. I tend to create one idea at a time, usually no more than one or two ideas in a year. I lie on my couch with my clipboard, pad of paper, and pen, hour after hour, day after day, until I finally start to form my idea. But then when I have an idea, it usually gets published. I have a much higher publication rate for my ideas than Rick has for his. My brain isn't better or worse than Rick's brain. It's just different.

So now, as soon as I finish posting this, I'm going to put in a good hour of groping for a book idea. And another one tomorrow. And another one the day after that.


  1. OMG, I am so like you! Envious of the people who claim that ideas run rampant in their heads. I have to grope as well!

    And, wow, I own some Rick Walton books, but I never knew he wrote that many in a year!!!

  2. I see some similar things among my scientist friends. Some have far more ideas than they can ever hope to pursue, while others like me have few. This unequal fertility of ideas rewards finding good collaborators: Those with many ideas can share them. We usually need feedback about which ideas are likely to be fruitful, and it often seems that those who are most fertile are least critical of their own ideas. Often you will need the specialized skills of others to bring a good idea to fruition. So, by working together with trust and respect for one another's talents, we can make sure that the best ideas are accomplished and everyone can contribute.

  3. Time management! I've always been, or felt like, time's victim. Remember that saying, "If you want something done, ask a busy man [woman]?" I heard that a long time ago, from a smart, busy and productive friend.

    What a great blog -- I look forward to following you. I will make the time.