It’s PiBoIdMo Time!

Yay! Woo!

I do love PiBoIdMo (which, by the way, is pronounced Pie Bow Id Moe — I don’t care what anyone else says) and I recommend It to everyone!

Except for me, that is. This year I decided to (unofficially) give the NaNoWriMo thing a go. I gotta middle grade novel in me that’s just bustin’ to get out. I know Tara will be so disappointed. Or, more likely, she won’t notice or care; this is a busy month for her!

But to show my love — and to give myself  a little extra time to focus on said novel. I’m recycling the PiBoIdMo post I wrote for Tara last year. Recycling is good for the environment.




My mom has a habit of mixing bad news with the good.

“Happy anniversary!” she joyously sang into the phone. “Ten years! Congratulations!”

Before I could thank her, Mom followed up her salutation with words that were far less joyous:

“I think it’s high time you got your crap out of my house.”

Ugh. In an instant, my plan to use my parents’ home as a storage locker for the rest of my life was dashed to bits.

It was under these circumstances I found myself alone in my old room facing my childhood closet, mustering up the strength to take a reluctant trip down memory lane.

Inside were stacks of sketch pads filled with primitive drawings; old machines I, once upon a time, had a penchant for hoarding; and lousy souvenirs from equally lousy vacations. Then there were the toys – lots of them.

There was so much stuff to sift through, I was confident the job was gonna be a complete nightmare.

But it wasn’t. Quite the opposite, really.

I both smiled and winced at my homemade comic books. After reading a few, I decided that, with a little bit of tweaking (OK, maybe quite a lot to tweaking), the storylines weren’t a bad jumping off point for a new story.

I marveled at the bigger-than-a-bread-basket adding machine I got from my Great Uncle Bill. By force of habit, I removed the machine’s olive green Bakelite cover to reveal its steampunky guts. It was almost comical just how many moving parts it had. I punched a few numbers and watched the thing spring to life. In that moment, my mind filled with ideas about a kid inventor.

Then I spied my Erector set.

Shortly after this discovery, Mom strolled into the room to check on my progress. What she found was her 30-something-year-old son lying on the floor constructing a racecar of his own design.

She didn’t even blink.

“Good,” Mom said with a sharp nod. “You’re taking that home.”

Indeed I was. The Erector set, the other toys, the machines, and my primitive doodles. I was taking all of it. I had barely begun working on my closet and my brain was already swimming with new ideas.

Toys facilitate play. Play is an essential component of the creative process. There is a reason why social scientists say that The Creative Spirit flourishes in kindergarteners and begins to sputter once those same children head off to middle school. As we grow up, we voluntarily – eagerly – purge the fun stuff from our lives.

That was certainly the case with me. I still remember being a 12-year-old who desperately wanted to be an adult. I gave away most of the stuff that had once given me pleasure and shoved the rest into the far corner of my closet. I thought these actions would speed the growing up process; instead, they just made me a sullen teen with an un-fun room.

With age comes a sort of wisdom, however. Almost in tandem with the launch of my professional writing career, I began to rekindle my interest in toys. I soon noticed that my best ideas occurred when I was horsing around with a hand puppet or had a box of 64 Crayolas within arm’s reach.

I even had a Bert puppet! I was the cool kid.
I even had a Bert puppet when I was a kid! I was so cool.

Unrestrained, unselfconscious play moves my mind in new directions; moving my mind in new directions helps me to discover new ideas.

I am well aware that a lot of grownups don’t feel comfortable playing with an erector set without a grownup reason for doing so. Fortunately, many of us have children – or if we don’t, we can easily borrow some. Kids need Quality Time, and Quality Times gives us the justification we need to build with Legos, squish Play-Doh, and color Snoopy green.

You couldn’t ask for a better situation. You’re being a good parent and you’re mining for inspiration. You’re multitasking! Well done.

That kind of multitasking was exactly what I had in mind when I loaded up the trunk of my car outside of Mom’s house. I’ll bring this stuff home to my young son, I thought. We’ll play with it together. We’ll pretend together. And, in so doing, my little guy will become my unwitting picture book collaborator.

It doesn’t get more inspiring – or wonderful – than that.

40 Replies to “It’s PiBoIdMo Time!”

  1. I remember that! It’s good for a second read though 🙂

    Good luck with NaNoWriMo – I did it a couple of years ago you may remember and it was a great experience. I think I will do it again, clearly not this year, but maybe next!

      1. Dogs are always good – with or without a sled/wagon…but most have to be satisfied with gooshing in mud, finger paint, or colored shaving cream on a tray/cookie pan…mud. Definitely mud – a do it yourself project even….

  2. Thanks for the reminder. My old brain forgets. Good luck with Nano. I decided to focus on getting all of the slush in my pile polished to a puddle so I can pour it over some transoms. Now go talk to some sock puppets, and we’ll see you on the flip side.

  3. I had a Bert puppet! And an Ernie one, too, but my sister bit his nose off.

    And I was given a huge box of crayons for Christmas last year. I’m hoping for a repeat this year, since we used them down to stubs!

    Happy unofficially Nano-ing, Mike!

    1. Ernie deserves to get his nose bitten off. Do you remember that segment on Sesame Street when Ernie makes a bust of Bert out of clay? Long story short: Ernie forgot to sculpt the nose, so he RIPS OFF Bert’s nose and STICKS IT ON THE STATUE!

      Ernie is a psycho.

      I hope your box of crayons is a Crayola 96 count. Nothing less will do.

  4. How exciting, good luck! I let Matthew leave his Lego out because he plays with it so much better. He’d never get it out if it was tucked away.

  5. Oh, is that where you’ve been? I was wondering why I hadn’t bumped into you on PiBo yet (especially after I linked to this exact lovely post about play from last year in the PrePiBo post I got to do for Tara. Eh-hem.) You just HAVE to stop by. There’s unicorns and farting and dust bunnies.

  6. What as awesome story…. you also sound like you had a pretty good childhood and mom! Who keeps their kid’s stuff that long? (Oh wait…I do) LOL! My daughter has her very own storage unit that I PAY FOR with her crap in it and she is 27 *sigh*
    Thanks for sharing Michael! 🙂

  7. I “borrow” kids all the time. Not having any of my own, I’m always volunteering to spend time with the ones that belong to my friends and family. Especially if there is a new kid flick just released. I couldn’t possibly go on my own without a kid in tow. 😉

  8. Since I only recognized the first half of this recycled compost, I’m glad you reposted it so I could finish it 😉 Also, I need to clear something up here: toys, just like picture books, are for kids of ALL ages! In case you didn’t know, a Disney Imagineer designed one of their rides using his old Erector Set 🙂

    And this is the first year I gave in and decided to do PiBoIdMo. I’ve been aching to write my novels and keep getting sidetracked by life and picture books. I don’t WANT anymore PB ideas! lol Then Tara comes along with this plethora of amazing prizes and totally lured me in. Now here I am, saddled with MORE ideas! *sigh* If I didn’t illustrate, I probably wouldn’t mind it! I can tell you one thing, the only challenge I really want to participate in is NoNaNoWriMo4MeEvEr 🙂 You people are nuts! lol Seriously, though, for whatever reason you’re doing it, I hope it serves its purpose for you, regardless of the word count 🙂

      1. lol, Mike! That’s actually a great ideal! (*sigh* yet aNOther idea!) I’ll call it “The HodgePodge Adventures of the Reluctant Creative” 🙂 What’s the killer is I ended up writing a book from one of the ideas ’cause I couldn’t help running with it. Just watch–of ALL the work I’ve done over the years, THAT may be the one to get published! LOL We’ll see. Right now I’m not doing anything with it. I have other submissions to work on 🙂

      1. Makes me like you even more, Mike, ’cause I don’t remember you bragging about it 🙂 I think it’s great! Where can we read the story? I can’t remember if it was an actual link on Kathy’s page…

    1. Oh, you!

      It stands for Picture Book Idea Month.

      That said, I was a student at Carnegie Mellon University, a school that is ludicrously proud of its Scottishness. (It even has a bagpipe major.) So, I’d have no problem hanging out with fellows in kilts — provided, that is, they cross their legs in a ladylike fashion.

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