July is the month we celebrate our country’s freedom. So, it's fitting to talk about celebrating our artistic freedom, our freedom to invent new forms of story and new styles of poems and lullabies, to move from the main stream into a new rivulet, to be radically creative.
When I think of radically creative writers and artists, Pablo Picasso comes to mind. He was famous for creating entirely new forms of art.
Jessica Stillman celebrates Picasso for his “ground-breaking weirdness” and she suggests that if we want inspiration for unusual ideas we should look to truly radical innovators, like Picasso.
Picasso said, “Every act of creation is an act of destruction.”
Often, at the beginning of a project, I slap far too many words on the page. Then, in order to find what I really want to say, I take away. I deconstruct. I eliminate. I simplify.
Try this, radical writers: As an exercise, cut all the sentences in your working manuscript in half. What do you have? Are at least some of the sentences improved? Is the story different now?
Stillman writes that instead of always trying to think outside the box, Picasso gave himself a “small box to work within.” He gave himself constraints, such as creating a painting with just one color.
Try this, radical illustrators: Paint with just one color.
Picasso also thought that action is the key to success. He produced thousands of variations of his ideas until he got it right, until he got it the way he wanted. Many of us spend far too much time protecting the first story idea that came to us. Question that first thought. How can we make it better, more radical? How can we manifest our true ability? As many little girls of a certain age knows, one way is to “Let it Go.” Let your first precious idea go. That’s what Queen Elsa did.
When I think of radical creativity in picture books, a few names come immediately to mind.
Jon Scieszka, the first-ever National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, turned fairy tales upside down and inside out.
For some of us, radical creativity might not mean changing publishing or a world view. It may mean simply stepping away from our comfort zone.
My upcoming book Lost. Found. is a big departure from my previous picture books that were long and filled with what some described as beautiful narrative. Lost. Found.’s story is made up of only two words. That for me is radical. Still the story keeps to what I’m known for - stories of value, of kindness, of hope. A traditional story in an untraditional vein.
One definition of “radical” is an action or thing that's especially impressive – awesome, cool, extreme. There is power in our unique perspectives. So combine your vision with a bit of talent, a lot of courage, and the willingness to go the distance to create something unexpected. Then you too may be “radical.”
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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