Say Yes to Writing Adventures

writing craft | Writing for Children Blog | craft | writing for children and teens
July 7, 2016


This week I've been doing a lot of research. I've been reading about the voyages of Captain Cook. I hadn't thought about Captain Cook since I was a
child, and then he was just a name on a history test. Now, I'm trying to get a feel for what it must have been like to sail in a painfully crowded boat into cold that is beyond belief. And to do it for a simple love of adventure.

I'm not very adventurous, but I write about it a lot. Kids like adventure. They like to imagine crowded ships surrounded by water and pack ice. They like to imagine sailing up to an island where no one from your country has ever been and meeting strangers who are welcoming and kind. Or even angry and prone to throwing rocks. It's all adventure. Adventure is about going somewhere new, doing something new, taking a risk.

As I said, I'm not very adventurous. This shows nowhere more than in my writing life. I tend to like to work with publishers who've appreciated me in the past. I tend to like to stick to forms I know well. But without adventure, I don't have much chance of fresh discovery or blazing creativity. Without risk, there is limited reward. Of course, there's less chance of rejection too. And I do hate rejection so very much. 

In order to succeed and keep succeeding I have to push down that fear of rejection. It's a fear that pops up when I'm offered a new opportunity that I've never tried before. It's safer to say, "No." But if I say "yes" and succeed, that could be glorious. So I kick myself in the seat of the pants and I insist upon saying, "Yes." I say "yes" to trying new things. I say "yes" to options that push me  out of my comfort zone.

This year, I was asked to do school visits. Now, some writers love school visits. And I love kids. But school visits? That sounded scary. What if I
stink? What if the teachers think I'm terrible? Where will I eat? (Somehow, just stepping into a school brings back those old popularity freak outs.) But what if I don't stink, and the kids love me, and I meet teachers who go on to champion my work? And more than all of that, what if I find inspiration in the doing?

So I said, "Yes." I did the school visit. Actually, I did five. They were fun. They paid well. And they asked me to come back next year. It was a nice chance to do something away from my computer and my typing and my big blank screen. And I got to talk to kids and see how excited they were about silly things like mantis shrimp and chupacabra and an elephant's fear of bees. We had an adventure together, and I know I am the better for it.

Every time I've said "yes" has not resulted in good things. I've failed. I've hoped big and fallen flat. And I've not enjoyed any of that. I haven't found the silver lining in the dark cloud. I wasn't singing in the rain. I was bummed. But I discovered something important. It didn't kill me. It didn't even stop me from being a writer. It was just a direction that didn't work out. The writing journey isn't a flawless straight line. Like testing paths in a maze, sometimes you have to backtrack to the last place that worked. 

And then you have to press forward again. Not timidly, because that never leads to triumph, but boldly. Kids like adventure. And I'm trying my best to like it too. How about you?

Mac Barnett teaches


Here is something you might like to say yes to: a free lesson from none other than Mac Barnett from his keynote during Picture Book Summit 2015



Jan Fields is a full time, freelance author and an Institute ofChildren's Literature Instructor. Would you like to have your owninstructor teaching you on a one-on-one basis? Take the free aptitude test here.

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