Small Songs

Seems like hummingbirds are everywhere this month. I think they like the hot weather. Somehow they manage to find and kiss nectar out of drought-dried flowers, wings beating faster than sight.

I remember the first time I saw a hummingbird sitting on a branch. I must have been about six. I was surprised that hummingbirds had legs.

The other night, on a golden summer evening walk, I saw a hummingbird singing. I was close enough to watch its little throat bulging like a frog’s. The song wasn’t beautiful, but it inspired me:

A finger-long hummingbird who sings, because he can,

with all his might, an off-key warble,

a brave small song because,

in the world’s great harmony,

only this finger-long, emerald-backed little man

can sing that note.

This week, I hope you sing because you can.  And because you’re the only one who can sing your note.

Inspiration: The Playlist

How do you get inspired to create? 

Some authors (and other kinds of artists, too) have the luxury of full-time creative work. Others, like the 40 pictured in this article, have had brilliant, inspiring spaces dedicated exclusively to their craft. 

But some of us have other jobs. When I’m not writing, I’m teaching kids to craft paragraphs or fixing people’s grammar. I’d love it if my workspace always looked like this:


But more of the time, it looks like this: 


Or just this: 

Just enough space to sit in the middle of the explosion.
So how do you get your mind to travel to far-off places and create vivid, enthralling scenes when all you can see is the carpet that needs vacuuming or the piles of unanswered notes on your desk? 

I’m going to be writing a series of blog posts on where I find writing inspiration. These are my personal quirks to trick my brain into creating, even when the space around me doesn’t inspire or my brain would rather just spend all day staring out the window.

Number one is the playlist. 

For my novel-in-progress (which is very, very close to being my COMPLETED novel), I write to a list of songs that take me to the fantasy world of my story and reconnect me with the characters. I’ve developed an almost Pavlovian response to the song “Ora” by Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi (the first one on my list). The first few notes play, and I’m instantly in the story. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write another story to this song. It’s too tied to this set of characters. 

Over time, I’ve collected more and more songs for this list. There are now 43 songs on it, for a total of 2.9 hours. I know it’s a good writing day when I finish the last song and have to start the playlist over. 


With a few exceptions, most of the songs are instrumental, so the words in my head don’t have to compete with the ones in my ears. Some tunes are classical (like Beethoven’s 7th Symphony or Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”) but more have a Celtic flavor to them. I especially like Enya, Jim Brickman, and Loreena McKennitt. 

Soundtracks are also one of my favorite resources. Music that was originally composed to tell a story helps me tell mine. My list includes selections from the live-action Peter Pan, The Lion King, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. 


I’ve made playlists for other stories, too, but they look completely different (well, except for the emphasis on instrumental music). One has a couple of Irish drinking songs on it; another emphasizes classical Spanish guitar. When this novel is done, I guess I’ll have to start an entirely new playlist of inspiring songs.

Does music help you to create? What songs get your creative juices flowing?