The Things I Love: Objects And Activities That Help Ideas Flow Rather Than “Burst”

Hawk Watching Our Bird Feeders

Yesterday, Jae from Lit and Scribbles featured a quote from legendary author Ray Bradbury, words that encouraged her to explore what objects inspire her and to wonder about the sources others draw upon for creative ideas.  Bradbury said:

If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed to trap them before they escape.

I consider myself “overstuffed,” too, on a variety of sources of ideas: my trio of Lilliputian comediennes, my cause-lawyering job, many books, a growing number of blogs, and so on.  I love each one of these sources of inspiration, my children most especially, but today I’m going to talk about another love of mine, one that facilitates my creative expression precisely because it’s essentially “idle” time, unmarked by the frenzied overload of stuffing myself “full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, [and] music”:


Yup, I spend much of my free time watching birds, listening to birds, and reading about birds in books and on blogs (honestly, there is no such thing as too many bird pictures!).  You would think that the amount of time I spend doing these activities would detract from the amount of time I have available for everything else I do in my life, but it turns out to be one of those hobbies that facilitates creative work.

Bird-watching is a lightly entertaining pastime that offers an escape from more stressful activities in my life.  Not only are birds beautiful and interesting to watch, but the time spent watching them is a moment to breathe. It’s a time when ideas that have been burbling around in my head have a moment to settle and flow out of my brain, rather than “burst” like Old Faithful.  I love bird-watching because it’s not a time when I stuff myself full of idea-generating content, but a time when I can process the content I have collected previously.  For me, watching our feeders is second only to the shower in terms of creative “epiphanies.”  It helps me re-charge and think through ideas I have, and on occasion, the birds themselves are the direct source of inspiration and one or two of the quirky personalities outside the window — the co-parenting Red-bellied woodpeckers or the skittish titmice — end up in a story.

Bird-watching is a widespread enough hobby to have many blogs and societies devoted to it.  So, it’s not a particularly embarrassing or unique source/facilitator of creative inspiration, but for those who may feel embarrassed to share a few words about the activities or objects that inspire them, I point to another quote from Ray Bradbury, courtesy of Letters of Note:  “Be your own self.  Love what YOU love.”

Everyone’s source of inspiration will be different, and hearing about the wide variety of objects and activities that inspire other imaginative minds is what is so interesting about Jae’s request.  Check out Jae’s blog if you’d like to participate.

Happy Friday.


  1. Love this. Birdwatching, gardening, even cross stitching are all things I use for “quiet, thinking time” which can work for or against me depending on whether I’ve got a lot on my mind or not. If the “thinking” is turning into “obsessing” I just move on to something else. More often than not, as you said, it’s the best time for thoughtful inspiration. (I’m happy to know I’m not the only one who finds the shower to be the hands-down winner, though!!!)

    1. I used to love to garden (not that I was ever that good at it), and I thought I would garden when we bought our house, but it just hasn’t turned out that way. My yard looks okay, but only because we have no-nonsense, low maintenance plantings. I hope I’ll find more time for it when my youngest is a bit older. There’s nothing like birdwatching, gardening, and (of course!) the shower for reflection and inspiration!

  2. So do you take pictures of these birds as you watch them? I think there should be a follow-up post comprised mostly of pictures of your favorite birds. Thanks. You described it so well and so full of passion it made me feel like I need to get out there and watch some birds myself. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jae! Unfortunately, I’m a terrible photographer. My husband took the picture of the hawk by our feeders, but we rarely capture the birds on “film.” I get my fill of bird pictures from blogs and books.

    1. It IS good for the soul! Gardening is, too, both in terms of the physical activity and creative expression involved in designing and nurturing a garden and also the beautiful views it creates (which you are kind enough to share on your beautiful blog!). I wish I had more skills in that area.

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