It’s a pretty great gig.
I figured I’d like it, and I do. A lot. But what I didn’t realize is that I’d love it. And I do. A whole lot. What I love most about the new job is that I’m surrounded by incredibly creative people all day long.
And some seriously impressive talent.
For my whole grown-up life I was a teacher who loved to write whenever she had the time to do it. Now I’m very much a little fish swimming in a big, wonderful pond of inspiration. I work with gifted writers, photographers, and designers. I am learning so much.
I’m a total nerd in the office, in awe at what everyone does. I soak it all up like my five-year-old absorbs the names of Star Wars characters. I didn’t realize just how much consideration went into the placement of a photograph on a web page, how much deliberation creative people engage in over cover art, how adding the right word to an image can stop you in your tracks.
Add to that the kind of stories I get to tell and it’s almost creativity overload.
In a good way.
I worried that this type of work—full-time work out of the home—would take away too far away from my children and my children’s writing. I worried that I’d have no energy or ideas or desire to write after work hours. I worried that I’d be too busy. I was filled with scary grown-up what-ifs about the whole deal.
I am busy—much busier than I was before. I’m also happier, which is kind of a funny thing. I think it’s because I’m engaged in something I love to do in an environment rife with creativity, and my time at work, though it’s time away from my family, enriches me so I can be better for them.
Besides the happiness, something else has happened. Even though I’m busy, I’m noticing more.
I always try to pay attention to what my kids notice because that’s an important thing to do if you want to write for kids. You notice what they notice. You pay attention to what captures their attention. You see the single snowflake, the way the sunlight captures the floating dust specks in the air (which, by the way, are far more plentiful since I started this job. I’m learning to accept it as part of the deal).
At work, I started noticing the way the other people in my office noticed. Light, color, shape, finding just the right angle and just the right picture, stopping to examine and even photograph tiny things that on my own I’d completely miss.
It got me thinking about picture books. There’s a lot of noticing going on in many of them.
Some of my favorite ones include wonderful, not-so-obvious surprises, like little Easter eggs hidden in the pages that were meant for you, the reader, to find—if you just took the time to notice.
Ever notice how the pictures in Where the Wild Things Are get bigger as the fantasy expands and shrink to nothing when Max returns to his still-hot dinner?
Ever notice the hilarious bus stop signs in Suzanne Bloom’s The Bus for Us?
How about the little other-story references tucked into Margie Palatini’s Piggie Pie?
And what about how that sneaky pigeon shows up in other Mo Willems books?
I’m trying to notice more of those not-so-obvious things in the books we read as well as my everyday world. I think little surprises—the ones you’d miss if you were too busy with the daily business of living—might be the best little story seeds of all.
And if you don’t write stories, maybe they’re just fantastic little reminders to stop for a second and smile.
The one yellow leaf in the pile.
The complexity of a flower.
The simple beauty of ice.
The soulfulness of an animal's eyes.
The radiance of a child’s smile when offered a lollipop.
The moving colors of a soap bubble.
The intensity of a five-year-old’s 3:00 a.m.“YES!” when he notices the massive overnight snowfall out his bedroom window.
Your own wonder when you see it, too.
Here’s to writing, reading, smiling, and noticing the big and little things.