What Inspires You?

“What inspires you to create? What inspires you, not just your music, but your life?” 

This question makes me wonder. Do we have to be “inspired” to create? 

I started out my songwriting journey writing solely by inspiration. I’d hear lyrics and melodies in my head. All I had to do was sit down at the piano and follow their lead. They always seemed to lead somewhere. Based on that experience, I was convinced that it was best to just wait for the inspiration.

One time I heard one of my favorite songwriters say that they wait for inspiration. They never write unless they first hear a phrase or lyric in their mind. That seemed very magical and spiritual. 

Then I attended a songwriting workshop where the leader said we write by inspiration AND perspiration. “Nah,” I thought to myself. “Why would I bother making myself sweat to write when I can wait to feel inspired?”

Then I heard about the non-profit organization called Songs of Love. They were looking for songwriters to write and produce songs for children and teens with a lifetime disability or terminal illness. Something nudged me to audition.

When I found out that I was accepted as a songwriter, I was thrilled and anxious to get started. Until I got my first profile. “Now I HAVE to come up with a fully produced song within 25 days,” I said to myself while feeling a sudden sense of panic. What if inspiration doesn’t strike? Oops….

Remembering that songs are basically a combination of elements: lyrics, notes, rhythms, etc., I started to focus on the task. I played with the rhythm and sound of the child’s name. How could I creatively use it in a song?  

Aha! I had a chorus idea. Then I started in on the verses. Next thing I knew, I had a song. I felt extremely inspired.

I’ve been writing for Songs of Love for over 17 years now and I can say that I’m no longer convinced I need to wait for inspiration. It sure would be nice to feel something special every time I want to write, but I’ve discovered that creative juices can get flowing just by starting.

One of my songwriting heroes, Robert Sterling says “As dull as it sounds, songwriters find their ideas and inspiration hiding in mundane, everyday things and places—in resources available to anyone willing to pay attention. Those same resources are all around you every day, and they fall into two general categories: reading and listening.”

Back to the original question… What inspires you to create? 

I decided to take a different approach for answering this week’s fan question. I was pretty sure that if I’d sit down and take the time to reflect on the songs I’ve written, I could probably always trace their start to a specific event, phrase or moment.

So over the weekend I sat down and listed the song titles from my albums. Beside the song title, I wrote a short phrase that describes the spark that started the song. You’ll see that some ideas were just simple, every day events or words, like Robert suggests. They didn’t come dressed up in sparkles like some kind of fancy genie who pops out of a bottle when you make a wish. Oh if only!! But all it took was a spark and inspiration soon followed.

I hope this will inspire you to pay close attention to the things you hear, see and feel! You never know when creativity is waiting right around the corner.

Big sister flies away (Big Blue Sky)

Vocal exercise (From My Heart)

Digging in my garden (Master Gardener)

Wilted flower garden (Rain)

Y2K (Just When You Think)

Sunday sermon (Living Fire)

Feel like I’m always fighting another battle (God is Able)

Racine (The Memory of You)

Husband shoveling snow (Moments)

A discouraged friend (Who You Are)

The word “turn” (Turn and Look in His Eyes)

Youth missions – camp sermon (Love Me)

Moment of overwhelming peace (Sometimes)

Bad news (Be Joyful)

Family finances (The Bottom of Grace)

Doubts (I Still Believe)

Faulty synthesizer (Never By Accident)

Family farm auction (Bidder on the Heart)

Making a career decision (Wrong Thing)

Flashy female speaker (Personalities)

Watching a friend’s life change (Free From the Inside Out)

Spontaneous Spirit jingle (He Can)

Pussy willow tree on childhood farm (Innocence is Good)

Visiting my father’s grave (Someone Else’s Shoes)

The harp and the bowl sermon (In the Hand of the Lord)

Cat looking out the window (Shatter the Glass)

Blooming lilacs (Missin’ You)

Tragic accident (I Can Pray)

Phone call from my brother (Pond Beside the Barn)

Teenage slumber party (Wonderfully Created)

100 year church celebration (I Know God)

Radio show (Miracles)

Radios in India (One Small Box)

Playful piano (Joy to the World)

Snow drifts (Portraits of White)

List from pre-school mom (MOPS)

One night I had a dream (Back to the Heart of Christmas)

Writing challenge from producer (Ride in the Sleigh)

Church drama (You With Me)

A Christmas shop (Take Another Look)

Facebook comment (Hope Walked In)

Figure skating (Brand New Me)

I’m feeling free (Feels Good to be Free)

David & Goliath (Who Do You Think You Are?)

Drum beats (Out of the Box)

Misunderstanding (Don’t Quit)

Motorcycles (It’s All About the Ride)

Serenade song for church staff (Blessing Song)