How to Find Inspiration by Looking For It

Road to Ravenna Stacey Curnow

[Guest Post by Stacey Curnow]

First action, then inspiration

~ those are the words that drive me whenever I am looking for that elusive muse called inspiration. I’ve learned that if I show up first, whether it’s at my computer, a meeting, or a workout, she will most likely show up too. After all, one of my favorite quotes is this one, attributed to German writer Goethe:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

I recommend reading that first paragraph again. (I’ll wait here for you.) Note that nowhere in there does it say, “Wait for inspiration, and then your action will come easily, and you’ll achieve your dreams before you know it.”

Act first and expect inspiration to follow

I’m pretty sure that if I believed that waiting was the way to approach inspiration, I wouldn’t have accomplished much in my life. On the other hand, acting first and expecting inspiration to follow has helped me start working toward, and then achieve, many of my dreams. This was certainly true of writing a children’s story, which began as a dream over 5 years ago.

I’ve always loved children’s picture stories and filled bookshelves with them even before I had a child, but I never imagined writing one. That changed when, in preparation for my first child, I read a book on parenting, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn. It contained the story of Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady: I loved the story, but I was a little dismayed that it seemed to hang so much on physical beauty and romantic love.

I wanted to tell a story that focused more on friendship and freedom. I shared my dream with my husband and with my dear friend and extraordinary artist Daniel Nevins, and they were both enthusiastic about it. Daniel even agreed to create the illustrations if I ever managed to get the story written. Of course, it would have to wait, because my baby was born soon after I asked for his help.

The first two years of my son’s life passed quickly, but the story stayed with me. I knew I still wanted to write it, but there were so many other matters to attend to. Commitments to my family and my work as a nurse-midwife seemed to take up all my time. The few moments I carved out for myself seemed best spent doing mood-elevating exercise, which helped fuel me up for all of the other demands on my energy.

I felt I had no time to do anything more. And I doubted that writing the story would pay off even if I were to find the time, because then I’d either have to pay Daniel to do the illustrations or get a publishing deal that would pay for them—and both options seemed well nigh impossible. Still, the idea of the story haunted me (in a good way) and I realized there was nothing to be done but to “show up” and write the story.

Always be Writing

So I carved out the time. I sat at my computer. And I wrote. And I waited for the muse. And I wrote a little more. And sure enough, the muse arrived. I finished the story in February of 2007.

I sent it out to publishers hoping beyond hope they would love it as much as I did. I got a few positive responses, but nothing close to a publishing contract. After six months, I realized that if I was going to see this story “fully fleshed” – that is, illustrated—I was going to have to pay Daniel myself to illustrate it.  It was the most money I had ever spent on anything other than the down payment on my house, and it felt like a huge risk, but it was worth it to see my dream become a reality.

I sent the manuscript out, now with the illustrations, and (still many months later), got a publisher interested in the book. And it will be coming out later this summer! So, after perhaps the world’s longest gestation (5 years!), my baby, Ravenna, will be born. But she would have stayed a twinkle in my eye had I not been willing to take the action before inspiration struck.

Just Do It

To anyone who has ever had a dream, but felt you lacked the inspiration to see it come to reality, or doubted that anything would come from it even if you did commit to it, I can only say, do it. The boldness of acting on your dream really does have genius, power, and magic in it.

Stacey Curnow  is the founder of Midwife for Your Life, a website, blog and series of coaching programs designed to help women give birth to a life they love. You can find out more about her illustrated children’s book, Ravenna here, and order it here. Follow @StaceyCurnow

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  1. Mike Korner says:

    Great advice Stacey. Thank you.

    I like your Goethe quote. It reminds me of one from God’s Little Devotional Book, “He who wants milk should not sit on a stool in the middle of the pasture expecting the cow to back up to him.” It doesn’t exactly relate to writing but the same principle applies – you have to put yourself in the right place if you expect great things to happen.

    p.s. Congratulations on Ravenna!

  2. Hi Mike!

    Thanks so much for your kind note! Your cow quote made me smile. :-) And I just got some great news yesterday: My favorite bookstore, Malaprop’s, will host the “Ravenna Release Party” on September 24th! I’m a little nervous about it, and a lot excited! Thanks again for your note of support and encouragement, and take wonderful care! Stacey