The Road to Ravenna: How to Find Inspiration by Looking for It

April 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Guest Space

We welcome back Stacey Curnow, Midwife for Your Life, this week! More about Stacey below.

iStock Happy ReadingFirst 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.”

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.

I still thought about the story often, especially during those late-night feedings when it was just my son and I. As he nestled against my breast, I thought about how precious he was to me, and how I wanted more than anything to support his freedom to become exactly who he wanted to be and to find his own path to happiness. Even though it was painful to consider, I knew that I would support him even if he chose a path that would take him far way from me.

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.

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.

Illustration by Daniel Nevins (c)

Illustration by Daniel Nevins (c)

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 spring! 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.

So to anyone who has ever had a dream, but felt she lacked the inspiration to see it come to reality, or doubted that anything would come from it even if she 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 Photo smallStacey Curnow works as a certified nurse-midwife in North Carolina, and over more than 15 years her career has taken her from western Indian reservations to a center-city Bronx hospital to the mountains of southwestern Mexico.

She is the founder of Midwife for Your Life, a website and series of coaching programs designed to help women give birth to a life they love. Many of her articles have been published in print magazines and online.

She lives in Asheville, NC with her husband, young son, and Ruby the wonder chicken.


14 Responses to “The Road to Ravenna: How to Find Inspiration by Looking for It”
  1. Bo Mackison says:

    You are so right. If we wait patiently for inspiration to visit, the only thing we will learn is patience. Big congratulations on your upcoming book–how exciting!

  2. Chania Girl says:

    Stacey, I enjoyed what you’ve shared here today very much. (And I was also delighted to discover a fellow Carolinian: I grew up in SC and lived in Winston-Salem, NC for ten years.) Your sharing of your dream and how it (slowly but surely) came to be were just the encouragement I needed about my own dreams that seem slow in coming. Thank you!

  3. Stacey says:

    Hi Bo!

    Thanks so much for your comment! I love that you said,”If we wait patiently for inspiration, the only thing we learn is patience.” So true! It’s great to cultivate patience, but it doesn’t exactly create the juice that action does, does it? And I want to squeeze the orange, not just admire its color, texture and fragrance! :-)

    Thanks, also, for sharing your enthusiasm for Ravenna! I am over-the-moon excited! Take wonderful care, Stacey

  4. Stacey says:

    Hi Chania Girl!

    Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, it’s wonderful to meet a fellow Carolinian – especially over the pages of an Aussie magazine!!!

    I’m so glad you found encouragement in this essay for your dreams! So many wonderful things have come from keeping my dreams as an ever-fixed mark on the horizon, but I still need to be reminded of it too!

    Right now I am nurturing other fledgling dreams and it feels like they will never develop…and then I remember, “Oh, right, this is what it’s like, but it *is* coming!” And then my anxious doubt shifts to joyful anticipation once again!

    I appreciate the support and encouragement I receive from The Calm Space and it really helps me enjoy the journey so much more! I’m so glad to have everyone here as a fellow traveler! Take wonderful care, Stacey

  5. Hilary says:

    Hi Cornish Stacey .. well done. Ideas with dreams attached do stick. So congratulations on getting to this point and find a friend to collaborate with on the art work ..

    It is that starting isn’t it and then going with the flow as ideas and thoughts develop the process ..

    Have a great weekend … Hilary

  6. Stacey says:

    Hi Hilary!

    Thanks so much for your note and congratulations! Yes, the more I deal with my creative process, the more convinced I am that “it is the starting!” I hope you have a great weekend, too! Take wonderful care, Stacey

  7. Anne Maybus says:

    Congratulations! How wonderful for you.

    Isn’t it funny how many of us have a similar theme through our work – take action and inspiration will come. Don’t just wait for it. There must be a truth there.

  8. Stacey says:

    Hi Anne!

    Thanks so much for your note and congratulations! I was traveling for several days (a fabulous event with Byron Katie!) and away from my computer. I really appreciate knowing that you follow – and encourage – a similar process! Take wonderful care, Stacey

  9. Stacey, with all of the support from your friends here at the Calm Space, your book will be an instant success! Congratulations! Make sure you let us all know when it is released. :)

  10. Stacey says:

    Hi Joanne!

    Thanks so much for your sweet note of encouragement and support for me and Ravenna! Of course I will let you know when she is out in the world! Perhaps we could arrange a book signing in Australia!!! Much love, Stacey

  11. Stacey, you’re an inspiration to us all! Thank you so much for sharing the story of your book journey! A book signing in Australia sounds like a really good plan to me.

    By the way, I just love the illustration – is the book all in black and white?

  12. Stacey says:

    Hi Karen!

    Thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement! I appreciate them – and you! – so much!

    Yes, the illustrations are all black and white. When Daniel presented them to me I was surprised (and a little disappointed, if truth be told) because he is *known* as an amazing colorist, but he thought it was fitting for the “retro” feel of the simple story and I came to agree fully with him! Now, of course, I LOVE them and couldn’t imagine them any other way!

    Thanks again – Calm Space – for all the lovely support and encouragement! Love, Stacey