I sit down at the easel, pick up a #10 Filbert brush and start adding to the latest painting. Looking at the small, eight-inch square painting of the baby snowperson. I smile. He’s really cute, but something is still missing. But what?
Letting out a sigh of frustration, I leave the question hanging as I dunk the #10 Filbert in a glass of water, clean and then wipe it with a cloth, and hang it upside down to dry. Whatever had eluded my grasp for the last week wasn’t going to be found today.
Pacing around the room, I stop to peer out the second story window of my art/writing studio looking for some inspiration. Finally, inspiration comes, but not about how to fix the painting.
What about a story to go along with the painting?
After I sit down at the computer, thoughts flow effortlessly as the words appear on the screen in front of me.
He was born on a cold snowy night at the North Pole. As a matter of fact, it was the coldest night on record, and with over twelve feet of snow dropped in a single day, it was also the snowiest…
A good beginning, but snowiest? Is that even a word?
A few more laps around the room and another gaze out the window doesn’t help to solve the missing piece in the painting — nor the English question at hand. Snowiest. Being stuck in a story is nothing new for me, but this one has me really stuck.
It’s the stuckiest. Laughing, I repeat the word: stuckiest. Now is that one a real word or another I just made up? My editor’s gonna have fun trying to edit this story. I smile again. Gonna. She won’t like that word either.
A man on the sidewalk strolls by our mailbox walking the smallest dog I’ve ever seen. He stops to talk to the across-the-street neighbor. She’s pushing a stroller with her newborn while struggling to walk her blond lab at the same time.
Suddenly the stuckiest story came unstuck.
Doing a little happy dance, I walk back over, sit back down at the computer, and continue with the story.
He had come into the world like all babies do, but there was something very different about him from the very start. He was small. As a matter of fact, he was the smallest baby ever born at the North Pole. And that’s how he got his name. Tiny – the tiniest snow baby of them all.
Is it snowbaby, Snowbaby, or snow baby? My editor is gonna pull her hair out about this story. Rubbing my head, loose hair falls down on the keyboard. I really need to stop doing that. Soon, I won’t have any more hair to lose.
Again, I push away from the keyboard and roll the stool over to the easel picking up a #60 Filbert. Time to prep more canvases with coats of winter gray. Who knew gray came in over a hundred different shades? But winter gray is perfect for the base coat of my soon-to-be-whatever winter paintings. An hour later, as I look over at the newly painted canvases on the drying table, a question comes to mind.
Why prep so many winter gray canvases if you don’t know what you’re gonna paint?
Little One and Sweet Caroline bound into the room as I finish cleaning the #60 Filbert. It’s the weekend, and having just finished breakfast, the girls were now on the hunt for their Big Papa. Immediately they stop in front of the painting.
“Ooooh, he’s so cute!”
“It’s a tiny baby snowman.”
“Snowperson,” I reply.
Then they ask, “Whose hand is in that red glove he’s standing on?”
“Good question. I never thought of that.”
As the girls argue between themselves as to whose hand it was, I sit down in the chair and ponder the question myself. Whose hand is it?
And that’s when inspiration suddenly hit!
The stuckiest story has now been unstuck. I roll back over to the computer and start to write again.
But being the smallest snow baby born at the North Pole wasn’t the most unique thing about Tiny. It was who his parents were: the most famous parents at the North Pole. None other than…
The story is not stuck again. No, far from it. What first had been a short story inspired by a small eight-inch-square painting has now grown to become so much more. Together we are currently storyboarding the tale of Tiny, his family, and the village of snowpeople who live at the North Pole.
Inspiration can come from almost anywhere at the most unexpected of times: from simply walking around a room, peering out a window, listening to children play or even argue. This time it came from all four.
Thanks to the imagination and creativity provided by our two granddaughters, the rest of this story will hopefully one day become a children’s book written not by one author, but three: Little One, Sweet Caroline, and me.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]