Updated: Jul 13, 2020
Today, I talk about the beauty of collaboration and how it pushes us to higher and better things. I also look at how ideas grow and morph. I've included some archive images of ideas as they pass from seed to flower.
Ideas come from the strangest of places. When they arrive, you must hold onto them with both hands, lest they disappear into that magical void from whence they came.
It's not enough to have an idea. It’s essential, for sure. But only one of many small steps towards the concept.
An idea should be followed by the fattening process. Adding meat to the bones and putting it through its paces to see whether it has those hypothetical ‘legs’ we talk about. Is it a stand-alone idea? Does it have serial potential? Is it layered? Innovative? Interactive? Does it resemble something that came before? All important points to ponder at this stage.
I thrash my idea about a bit. Take it out of its comfort zone, talk it through with others, and bring it to life. And when I finally understand it, this pliable, glowing new thing, what do I do with it then?
I leave it. Walk away and give it time to settle. Well, for a week at least. If the force is strong with it, it will still be next week. If we’re genuinely smitten with it, we will also be tomorrow. That's how we know we’ve really got something. We sift, screen, and separate wheat from the chaff.
And that's when ideas really come to life, for me and everyone else.
While creating my latest books, I’ve had the good fortune to share part of this fantastic journey with a creative whirlwind and kindred soul called Lisa Williams. She is to illustration what I am to story. I plant a tiny seed in Lisa's ear, and she’s right there with me in our extraordinary dreamscape. She plucks characters out of the ether as if they’d already existed.
Then there are the guys at Team Author. Sarah Fountain and Sue Miller. With their eye for layout and editing, it helps bring the whole thing together and co-ordinates our creative tasks effectively—a genuinely joyous process.
From a doodle on a letterhead or corner of a cereal box, my monsters and bugs came to life: a real team effort and no doubt. Creative collaborations test you. There's an exchange of energy that passes between people. A power that is created when you delve deep into your subconscious self, and access that inner child that exists in us all. It is an infectious thing, and something so essential to life: it's up there with breath, food, and water. It’s pure imagination. True self-expression. It is the catharsis of storytelling in all its forms. In word and picture.
For me, creativity was always a solitary thing, up to a point. But meeting these guys, my world is suddenly in super HD. I see scenes in my head, where before I saw words. I now see through a director’s eyes, thinking of full scenarios and inventing with that in mind. There's no doubt it has made me into a much better writer.
My last comment will be on authenticity. Staying true to the creative vision that first sparked you up. Don't accept anything less. Only then can you sit back and be absolutely blown away by the strength of your achievement.
My vision had been to ensure that this book, told from two sides of a story, literally and figuratively flipped on its head. I wanted it to be truly innovative, and a beauty to behold. Making that happen was a bit of a brain teaser at times, so many things we had never had to think about before. Still, we got there in the end. The fantastic printing company, Biddles, made the most beautifully crafted hardbacked books you've ever seen! Just as I imagined them. And that completed the picture. That sense of satisfaction is hard to beat.
I would recommend creative writing to anyone who truly wishes to explore who they are and what they are capable of. You'll be amazed by what you find when you set your mind free.
Start on your journey. Watch a seed grow, from a tiny speck into a giant beanstalk. To quote my seven-year-old son, Nathaniel, ‘Things can become real if we imagine it.’
Lisa Williams is an Illustrator specialised in children’s book illustration, educational and publishing. she has illustrated titles such as My mummy is a monster, Ben and the Bug, Rosie and the Unicorn, Thats Our Home, and many many more. follow her on Facebook here.
Natalie Reeves-Billing is a Liverpool-based author with a focus on children's books. Follow us on Facebook for regular updates on her books and other projects.