MY SQUIRRELY IDEA-GATHERING WAYS November Theme by Tamera Wissinger

My little comp book.
Story ideas are everywhere. At least they are in my world…some are in my journal, while others are in the little composition book that I carry in my shoulder bag, or in the note pad I keep in my night stand, or on another little pad that I keep tucked inside my golf bag. They might also be on a sticky note (or napkin) in my car, on the grocery list (or receipt). A new favorite if I’m without pen and paper: the “Notes” app in my phone. This month I’m participating in Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo, the picture book writer's equivalent of NaNoWriMo headed by picture book author Tara Lazar), so ideas are flying in particularly fast – one or more a day. Wherever I am, if an idea strikes I try to get it down. The problem (if you want to call it a problem) is, I’m not very organized with my ideas once they’re captured.

In the wild, I recently learned, this gathering methodology has a name: Scatter Hoarding. It’s the behavior I see in the gray squirrel that, for much of the year, uses my backyard as her scatter-hoarding highway. She routinely busies herself with finding and then hiding her food supply in various places around the neighborhood so that she can come back to those spots later – when she’s hungry and there is no food available in plain sight.

It’s not one bit glamorous that my story idea gathering behavior is a teensy bit (or a lot) like the squirrel, but it works for me. In the moment, it's most important to me to recognize an idea, get it down, and tuck it away so that I can come back for it later. And I do. When I’m hungry for a new idea and there is nothing available in plain sight, I gather my scattered notes, take stock, and dive into the one that I find most tempting.

Maybe it’s not the most efficient way to handle ideas, but for now I’m content with my squirrely idea-gathering ways. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a PiBoIdMo story idea out of this. What’s your methodology for capturing your ideas? Do you scatter like me, are you more organized, or do you have a different frenzied, but effective way? My squirrely idea-gathering mind wants to know.
Tamera Will Wissinger writes poetry and stories for children. She earned her M.F.A. degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. She is the author of GONE FISHING: A Novel in Verse (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) and THIS OLD BAND (Sky Pony Press). Connect with Tamera online through her Website or on Twitter.


  1. I am so stealing this idea! I have papers randomly strewn around the house - this would be brilliant!

  2. It's so exciting to meet other members of this ideas are scattered and jotted on random bits of paper. The fun comes from picking one out of the pile and seeing where it will lead. Thanks Tamara. Happy "squirreling".

  3. I try to write in my PiBoIdMo journal, but if I don't have it with me I grab what I can and then put it in my (now bulging!) file folder envelope. Plenty to choose from is a good problem to have.

  4. Idea notebook keeper here, too. (I actually keep a little notebook in my purse.)

  5. I didn't think of myself as a squirrel until I read this lovely post. I have a little spiral notebook where I write life goals (revised on a near-weekly basis), titles of books I've read, lists of "things that are stressing me right now (and what to do about them), quotations I like - oh, yes, and a few book ideas, too.


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