On writing “The Birthday BOO!”
(Or How to Create a Monster….)
Yesterday, as I sat at my desk, gazing out of the window, I noticed a spider starting to spin its web. It started with one strand and then slowly, meticulously, began the painstaking process of putting another strand into place, until the whole web was perfectly complete.
And so it is with writing. It all starts with one strand. A spark. A thought. An idea that gnaws away inside you and eventually DEMANDS to be put down on paper.
And then, if you allow it, another thought flows on from that. Then another, until you are riding a wave and surfing a sea of ideas. (It’s about the closest I’m going to get to any other kind of surfing…)
And the other thing to remember is that it can come from the most unexpected, random place.
The idea for the Birthday BOO!…
…came from a children’s story I wrote many years ago (another random gnawing that just had to be written down.) It was called “Shh! Listen Carefully” and it started like this:-
“Don’t believe anything they say
For something is STRANGE in the world today.
The walls have ears,
The windows are eyes
And everything you see
Is strangely ALIVE…
Everything is watching
And waiting for you,
To read this book
And uncover the…BOO!!”
The story never got finished and languished away in one of my many notebooks tucked away in drawers. But, the gnawing continued and when I re-discovered it one day, a new idea started sprouting from it…
…and the Birthday BOO! was born.
A spotty, hairy monster who just wants to be loved and do his job (don’t we all ). But like an untamed, over enthusiastic child, he hasn’t yet grasped that being overpowering isn’t the best way to get your message home.
Sometimes you need a little guidance to show you a better, easier way – one that sits in harmony with those around you, but still allows you to express yourself fully. (AND have much more fun in the process because you’re not annoying everyone.)
That’s where your child comes in.
He/She gets to be the grown up here, the wise counsel, the one with the brilliant idea. They help the Birthday BOO! to become more self aware, to evolve a little bit more. It’s initially hard for the Birthday BOO! – there are tears – but by the end of the story, the Birthday BOO! and your child have bonded completely and both are having a lot more fun.
So the Birthday BOO! strands were woven into a story…
…you could say, I felt my way through it, There was no pre-planning or plotting of the story. I just allowed it to be. Each verse was moulded and shaped with care – with only the help of my trusty rhyming dictionary to occasionally open up a new word that I might not have considered before.
Talking of which…
Tools are useful.
Don’t knock them. Anything that opens up new inspiration, that takes you to an unexpected, but delightful, landscape is a wonderful part of the creating process. My writing journey wouldn’t be where it is today without many years of reading some excellent books about the process. This list put together by the Writing Cooperative contains some excellent recommendations that I’ve read (or heard great things about).
And when the going gets tough?
Sometimes dropping it completely for a while, is bizarrely, also part of the creating process. Life gets in the way sometimes, we get distracted or doubts spring up. Then it’s best to move away – don’t make it hard, nothing flows freely when things are ‘hard’. Tuck it away – take a walk, have a bath, stroke your cat – and allow the strands to gently start rebuilding themselves.
Because there’s the final and often most frustrating part of the process. You can’t force it. To create your own monster, you almost have to let it have a life of its own and set it free. Then you can find a gentle way of taming it into something that will bring you, and hopefully others, much joy.
And the spiders web?
Well it finished it. It’s big and beautiful, spiky but strong and anchored firmly in some unexpected but delightful places. However, the spider has already moved on to build another web, not caring whether you appreciate its creation or not, just knowing that it is all an essential part of the wondrous, creative process of life.
Alison Reddihough is the co-founder of Tickled Moon and the writer of their first personalised books “The Birthday BOO!” and “The Christmas Wrapper”
If you’d like your child to help the Birthday BOO! then you can learn more about their adventure together here.
All illustrations of the BOO were created by the very talented Jodie Wonford.
And aside from empowering your child to help others and problem solve, find out the other “7 Key Benefits of a Personalised Children’s Book” here.
Finally if you’d like to see how a spider builds its web, check out this stunning BBC Earth video here.