I’m a hummingbird! Unfocused? Way more alive.


I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about the shimmering violet beard of Costa’s Hummingbird. He’s brown, until he tilts his head in the sun to attract his mate, and surprise! A brilliant flash of purple.

(I’d watched the new David Attenborough Life in Color before bed.)

I had gone to bed with the question, what makes me feel alive?

Through a swirl of images that night, I felt a profound insight arise. Too tired to get up and write, I took a mental snapshot of the bird’s purple beard to remind me, and let myself doze off.

In the morning, just a word was left: hummingbird. The full insight, if it could ever have been explained rationally, was gone.

I went about my day. I sat down to gather my thoughts on our August theme: passion. I remembered that I wanted to look up something Elizabeth Gilbert had said about passion some years ago.

Lo and behold, in the short talk I was thinking of, Liz says there are two types of people in this world:

1. Jackhammers.

2. And Hummingbirds!

Elizabeth herself identifies as a jackhammer: she focuses on one thing at a time, digs deep, and doesn’t stop until she’s done.

The hummingbird is the person who buzzes all around. Reads three books at once. Flutters around multiple passions and projects.

It sounds flighty and undisciplined.

But Liz has a reframe:

If you are a hummingbird, you are cross-pollinating the world! This is important work!

Hummingbirds make new cultural connections. We carry information and ideas between flowers that are otherwise strangers. And THAT is what makes us feel most alive.

I always thought I was a jackhammer. Or at least, that I needed to act like one to complete anything of merit, like a novel.

But I love sitting in nests of random inspiration material, infusing myself in different books, articles, movies, teachers, and gardening projects.

Earlier this week, I was reading three books: The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck, Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Hush by Rubin Naiman. Picking up where I left off in each, they all opened to a section that mentioned Dante’s Inferno. A divine wink!

What my dream was trying to say: I’m a hummingbird. I’m more of a hummingbird than I am a writer, even.

In trying to be as passionate as a jackhammer, I lost touch with my true nature!

So I’m trying Gilbert’s advice for hummingbirds: follow your curiosity, not your passion.

I don’t need to double down to finish the next draft of my book. My novel needs me to go out and live!

I’m now happily making small steps towards 3–4 different projects, not too troubled by what gets done first.

So instead of chasing my passion into the future, I am following what makes me feel alive. I feel both free and full of uncertainty.

(Ah, the signature feeling of creative doing.)

That is what I want for us. That is what I’m writing about this month.

Curiously following the sugar,


Photo credit: Brooke Lark on Unsplash.

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Kathy Martens

Sarah, This message soothed my owies this morning. Just EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I too am a hummingbird! And I’ve been shaming myself about it for, oh I don’t know, MY WHOLE LIFE! Thank you for sharing this. I will read it again right after I read a little more from, The Great Migration; The Art of Is; Radical Intuition; A Swim in a Pond in the Rain; and The Name of the Wind. ? Love you so much! Xo
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Anita Chauhan

Kathy, thanks for the comment, and I'm so glad that it resonated.
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Cindy Bahl

I have jackhammer moments but it is obvious that I am a hummingbird. I thought it was a bad thing but love the reframing you provided. And that our 'cross-pollination of the world' is much needed. It's so automatic to put ourselves, and our traits, into a negative light. Your post, instead, lets me see the beauty and contributions my type brings to the world. I definitely have multiple things going on at once. Multiple writing projects. Reading multiple books. And so much more. This is excellent advice in regards to feeding into my hummingbird nature, fueling it, instead of forcing myself to be something I'm not. Thank you!
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