Monday 30 September 2019

Creative Process • by Natascha Biebow

I recently had an epiphany about the creative process.

Here’s how it goes:

Imagine you walk into a building.

You look around, take in the place - its atmosphere, the furnishings, the knick-knacks (or the lack there-of), the smell . . . you start to make a story in your head about the house and the people who live there.

So, there’s a story right there.

But what if you dig a little deeper? What if you look in the attic, under the floorboards, or in the historical records about the place and its owners?

This crocodile - a gift from a WW1 veteran - was uncovered beneath
the floorboards of a Welsh Primary - what surprising items
will be beneath the 'floorboards' of the story you're crafting?

A new story slowly emerges . . .

Some of it is unfamiliar, strange, even.

So, now you’ve got to sit with the unfamiliar, the blank page. What next? Is THIS the story you ask? Sit with it for a moment.

But sitting with that blank page is scary. What if the story doesn’t come? What if it isn’t good enough? What if nobody likes it?

The fear grows. EMPTINESS. The story stops.

But hang on a minute.

Get out of your way! Look FEAR in the eye. TRUST the process.

Fear is your friend. Look harder at the story, for the story.

Ask it what’s at its heart. What is the feeling of the story?

What is it telling you, telling the world?

What would a child really like about this story?

Now, I give myself permission to be inspired by other things. I leaf through magazines. I go to galleries, parks, playgrounds, writing events or whatever lends itself to the theme at hand. Completely unconnected things are often the best way to kick-start the writing process in new, exciting directions.

Recently, I heard author M. T. Anderson said speak:

"Don't just live in the place you live." Authors need to embrace the unfamiliar, he said. "Open up the floors and see what's there. Explore the strange and the new, and make it your own . . .  that is where the sublime happens."

How can you make it your own?

Only you can look for the story inside, in the pockets of life that you carry around with you.

But if you’re brave enough . . . What might you uncover? Something unexpected, something exciting – just waiting to be discovered!


And so your story, those words on the page, they start to take shape, to have more depth, and maybe now they also have more resonance too.

Because they are bigger, wider. They reach into the world into place other people, your readers, can also connect with. When they visit, maybe they’ll see other things, perhaps even things you never even saw in the original story.

And so . . . they will find in it their spirit, their connection, too. 

And this is a process of creating story. It isn’t ever the same, but perhaps we can all share something in this experience?


Natascha Biebow,
MBE, Author, Editor and Mentor
Natascha is the author of The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons, illustrated by Steven Salerno, Elephants Never Forget and Is This My Nose?, editor of numerous award-winning children’s books, and Co-Regional Advisor (Co-Chair) of SCBWI British Isles. She is currently working on more non-fiction and a series of young fiction. She runs Blue Elephant Storyshaping, an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission. Find her at

1 comment:

Lynne Garner said...

Interesting post - thanks for sharing.