At the end of May, I published my first children’s book, Shine: A Bedtime Story. Over the better part of the last decade, between the books I’ve published as an author, a ghostwriter, and under a pen name, I’ve published nine books in different genres, none of which include children’s books, so Shine is a first for me.
Shine is a bedtime book for young children, designed to encourage and empower little ones before they fall off to sleep.
It’s a short story, with a long back story.
It started off as a poem I wrote one morning a few years ago for my kids. I loved seeing their little spirits shine in all that they did, always moving toward what they loved fearlessly without fear of embarrassment or failure. I wished, in those moments, that I could bottle that fire for them; that I could hold onto some of that light so that I could hand it back to them whenever the world threatened to dim it, or make them forget that it was there.
As I wrote the poem, I could imagine what it looked like illustrated. I initially thought that it would be something that I would create just to give to my own kids, and started trying to do the illustrations myself.
Now, I am not a horrible artist(e!) in a 9th-grade, intro-to-painting kind of a way, but I am no book illustrator, so after my own creative attempt failed, I let it sit.
And then life happened, and I stopped writing, at least publicly. For a couple of years, I just fell silent. And while I needed that time, once I was ready to come back, I had a hard time finding my voice.
What do I say? What do I want to say? Do I have anything interesting to say? Will anyone listen? What does this have to do with my personal “brand?” People haven’t heard from me in a while and this is what I come back with?
So may questions, but the answer to all of them rang through clear as a bell.
Girl, Who Cares?
No really, who cares?
See, there are times in this life when thinking of yourself as special, fabulous and loved serves you. But every now and then it doesn’t. Because the reality is that my “brand” isn’t Pepsi or Coke, or even Shasta or the generic soda from Food Lion. No one is going to riot because I change my colors or my recipes. I mean, half of the people who know me are probably reading this thinking “you write, books?” if they’re reading it at all.
I say this, not as a celebration of my own mediocrity, but instead an acknowledgment of the freedom that comes with being in that very position: I can come back whenever, however, because no one was stressed about me being gone.
So with that, I just decided to be free. Instead of being stuck, I decided to write whatever I wanted to write, whenever I felt like writing. Not for money, not for a brand, just whatever was inside of me demanding to be written.
I reached back to the central message from one of my favorite books, the War of Art, and decided to take a year and just to do what was inside me and not think too hard about the end of it. I wrote and created recklessly, not for gain, or even for anyone else’s eyes. Just created for creations’ sake.
And now, I have another book, one that’s probably one/thousandth of anything else I’ve ever written in length, but whose creation would help me understand the children’s book publication process, and be significantly harder to publish than anything I’ve ever done in the past. More on that in a later post.
In the end, I’ve been able to reclaim my voice, and even more important, to re-discover how good it feels to turn a thought into a thing. Because there’s nothing quite like taking something that exists only in your mind and turning it into something that you can hold in your hand. To pull something from your imagination to ground it in reality. And the lessons you learn getting from there to here are invaluable.
So here I am. Back, for now, with a special word of encouragement for those of you who might feel creatively stuck. Whatever it is that is in you to do, take some time to stop worrying about your brand, who’s going to buy it, or who’s going to like it. Step back and stop thinking about anything other than “it.” Just work on it. Start doing your stuff until you can say you did it. I promise you, it will all be worth it.
Buy Shine: A Bedtime Story which takes young children on a beautifully illustrated journey toward bedtime while encouraging them to shine wherever they are. Available for Kindle and in paperback.