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Ideas – Where Do They Come From?

At the end of last week I was agonizing over what to post. Returning from Maine, where I worked intensively finishing a memoir, I felt like the creative juices were sucked right out of me. Usually a hike with my dog will inspire some imagination, but recently I pinched my sciatic nerve (not fun) and my dog hurt his paw, so we are both taking it slowly for a while.

I complained about feeling brain dead to my husband and he said, “Pick a mundane task and something will come to you.” He said when he feels that way he sweeps his shop (he’s a furniture maker) and it has a calming effect and opens the pathway to ideas.

I have a long list of mundane tasks to accomplish but I chose a pleasant one- to measure and cut up my large sheets of watercolor paper in preparation for painting scenes for my next book, Little Miss Muffet. I cut one sheet after another but nothing came to me.

So I went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. Filling the kettle, I looked out the window to see a hummingbird at the feeder. Usually they  are timid, hiding on the far side where I can’t see them. But this little guy bypassed the feeder and flew right up to the window to get a better look at me.We have casement windows and they were both partly open leaving a six or so inch gap. The hummingbird flew toward  the gap then ducked under the windows and  hovered a few inches from the screen, tilting his head this way and that, checking me out. Then he flew backwards, did a dainty swoop under the windows and took off.

It made me wonder. Was he just unusually curious? Was he trying to tell me that I need to change the sugar water in the feeder? Was he thanking me for providing the sugar water? Was he saying good by for the season? Or  was he there to inspire me? I decided that was it. I went back to the studio and jotted down some words relating to the bird: tiny, ruby-throated, nectar , hover,  flowers, hummer,  long beak… Here’s a little poem that resulted:

Tiny Hummer

Tiny hummer,
Nectar lover,
I can see you
Dart and hover,

Spinning like
A whirligig.
Rest awhile
And have a swig.

What? You’d rather
Spy on me?
Keep your tiny
Eye on me?

Needle beak,
Are you playing
Hide and Seek?

Or, perhaps,
You’re saying “Bye.”
You have many
Miles to fly.

Travel safely,
Tiny hummer.
Please come back
Again next summer!


                         photo via Wikimedia Commons









 So the questions are: Was my husband right? Did the mundane task open me up to ideas? Would the hummingbird have inspired me, had I not been in the right frame of mind? It’s hard to say. But I do know one thing: Nature never fails to fill me with wonder.

And what do you do to get the creative juices flowing?



About the author

Iza Trapani I am a children's book author and illustrator, fan of Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss, lover of big dogs, aspiring yodeler. When not in my studio, I spend time outdoors and have climbed over many a mountain to see what I could see.

45 Responses to Ideas – Where Do They Come From?

  1. Paying close attention to my kids gets my creative juices flowing, and a nice warm cup of coffee helps too!

  2. Kate Coombs says:

    I pick a random topic and start in with the what if’s. Sometimes if I’m stuck I look around my office or out the window for inspiration. But mundane tasks do help, as does showering, going for a walk, and driving. Nice poem! I like the word hummer.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thank you, Kate! Oh yes, the “what ifs”. I know them well! And showering, walking, driving are good moments for brainstorming as well.

  3. Cathy Mealey says:

    It’s lovely Iza – and so inspiring! I’m working on a poem right now about humming, but it is for my deCordova series. A very different character from your sweet little bird!

    Hope paws and legs heal quickly and you are soon rambling about together in the autumn woods.

  4. What a lovely poem! I know what you mean about those flashes of inspiration. I often get them while driving or in the shower. Never when I’m actually sitting in front of the computer ready to write.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thank you, Carrie! That blank computer page is a killer at times, isn’t it? I just peeked at your site and love what I saw- especially your delightful “About Story Patch”. I’ll be checking you out!

  5. This is so delightful, Iza! I love it! I don’t know the answer, but nature always inspires me too, as do mundane tasks – there’s nothing like busy hands and a free mind to let ideas come wafting in 🙂

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thanks, Susanna! Busy hands and a free mind are a good thing!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thanks, Susanna! You must do lots of mundane tasks and keep your hands busy because you are just a wellspring of great ideas. I love what you’ve come up with for the “Short and Sweets”. One of these days when I catch up, I’ll join in. Though I’ll admit, I’m not good at those quick exercises…

  6. Oh Iza. Your poem is beautiful. Is the photo of your hummingbird?
    Thank you for letting us know we’re not alone.
    I take nap when my creative batteries need recharging.
    Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

    If you interested, I’ve got a new website and blog. My website site is:
    and just add /blog after net to view my blog.


  7. Iza, I love this poem so much! Especially: “What? You’d rather/Spy on me?/Keep your tiny/Eye on me?” Delightful!

    Nature is always a huge inspiration, but I find that when I’m stuck on what to do with a particular idea, solutions often come to me in the shower. That seems pretty common among writers — must be the steam clearing our heads. But sometimes I have days where nothing but single lines and snippets come, and it’s so frustrating!

    I’ve also been amazed at the ideas that have come from Susanna’s Short & Sweets AND the challenges on David Harrison’s blog. I’m usually not into prompts, but both these places have been so helpful to me over the last few weeks, if only to keep me writing SOMETHING when I have so little time. So glad you’re back, friend! Heal quickly!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thanks so much, Renee! That’s my favorite stanza too 🙂 It’s hard to be creative in an overloaded life. I struggle with that too. That’s why walks, long drives and showers (or baths for me) really help. We are in the moment then- a quiet time for pondering. I am still catching up, but will soon spend time reading the Short & Sweets. Susanna came up with such excellent prompts.I can’t wait to read your entries. I have no doubt they are wonderful!

  8. I love this poem. It’s very hummingbirdy.

    Hummingbirds are amazing. I love the (surprisingly loud) buzzing of their wings and the peeping noises they make to one another as they swoop around the feeder. My sons like to stand quietly next to our feeder so they can see the birds up close.

    Reading, hanging out with my boys and spending time outside all help to unstick my creativity. I get a lot of ideas just from talking with my kids about the things they love.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thanks, Heather! Yes, it’s always startling to hear them whizzing by.Little ones are the ideal source of inspiration. They say the cutest things and their sense of wonder about the world is irresistible!

  9. This poem is so perfect and compact and tight and beautiful…just like…just like…just like a hummingbird! I love it. Heal well knowing that hummingbirds are honored by your words! a.

  10. These are the lines that speak the most to me:
    Needle beak,
    Are you playing
    Hide and Seek?

    Or, perhaps,
    You’re saying “Bye.”
    You have many
    Miles to fly.”
    – sense of wistful sadness and letting go.

    I usually run or do my yoga/pilates to keep the creative juices flowing – reading well-thumbed poetry books also helps a great deal as they speak to my soul and compel me to write even if against my will. 🙂

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thank you so much, Myra! I’m glad you like my lines 🙂 And yes, I do pilates as well and take walks (used to run, but knees got old…), and find that exercise opens the mind to creativity. Good to see you here. Now I am off to check out your site!

  11. Laura Shovan says:

    Hi, Iza. Welcome to Poetry Friday. Did you happen to see the hummingbird documentary on PBS? It was amazing — beautiful photography. I have all sorts of tricks for when I’m stuck. A favorite is to open a book of poetry, take a first line from a randomly chosen poem, and free-write in response.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thanks Laura! No, I missed the documentary. Too bad…I like your trick of choosing random poems and first lines. I’ll have to try that!

  12. Tara says:

    He certainly did seem to have a message for you – what a lovely poem he (or she!) inspired!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thanks, Tara! I just did a google search and it looks like I guessed right that he was a “he.” The males have ruby throats and brown -gray bellies; females have white throats and bellies. Thanks for prompting me to learn an interesting fact!

  13. Love this! I managed to find the perfect place (or timing) to put up the feeder this year, and we’ve had little hummers in and out all summer. So glad you paid attention to your wee colorful “messenger,” and shared such a fun poem here. Can you believe those little guys will go, solo, hundreds of miles in one stretch on their journeys soon?

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thanks Robyn!I always say “if you hang it, they will come.” Usually they show up at my feeder within an hour or less of my putting it out. Such wonderful little creatures!

  14. Matt Forrest says:

    Love this! Trochaic dimeter isn’t easy to write without sounded forced – and you did this wonderfully.

  15. Tabatha says:

    Enjoyed your poem very much, Iza! Welcome to Poetry Friday!

  16. Violet N. says:

    This is delightful, Iza! The rhymes are easy words, but natural and flowing. (I like “rest awhile / And have a swig.”)

  17. Vikram Madan says:

    Marvelous – lithe and lovely. Thanks for sharing this poem 🙂

  18. BBF! What loveliness I see in this poem. I could actually see a real hummingbird in my minds eye. It’s genuine and moves beautifully off my tongue. You got the gift, BBF. Thank you for all you teach me!

    I have decided to write poetry. Just trying my hand at it. So I am studying it right now. Your beautiful stories make my brain want to try it for picture books too.So I have one started. We shall see.

    Love you. <3 Truly I do!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thank you, lovely BBF! I am so glad you are inspired to write poems and rhyming stories!And I can’t wait to read them!!! xoxoox

  19. Love this–especially

    Needle beak,
    Are you playing
    Hide and Seek?

    Wonderful! (And I usually go for a walk or sit and starre at something when I’m in need of ideas. Usually my problem is the opposite, though–too many ideas, but either not enough time or I can’t execute the idea the way I want!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thank you so much, Laura! Yes, that is the problem isn’t it? Ideas are abundant, but turning them into poems or stories- now that’s the challenge!

  20. Laura S. says:

    I love hummingbirds and I LOVE your poem! I find the best way to get the creative juices flowing is to not stress over it. Maybe go for a walk. Then sit down and just write without erasing, without pausing. Usually a kernel of something good and creative comes from that.

  21. On my last visit to my mom’s house, we watched two hummingbirds from her front window. We discussed how they seemed to be playing (flying around the tree branches, then swooping down to the feeder). It is one of my favorite (recent) memories of time spent with my mom. Thanks my friend, for the poem, I plan to share it with her.
    See you in November! I can’t wait!

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