For weeks, my husband and I planned to spend the whole day surrounded by nature. Serendipitously, I found myself in exactly the right place when I most needed bucketsful of inspiration and encouragement to fill my empty well.
We started our day at a lovely botanical garden. We strolled through winding paths lined with flowers and butterflies, trellises and arbors, sculptures and reflecting pools. My romantic soul swelled with appreciation for nature’s beauty, and my mind overflowed with ideas for my writing.
Just beneath my joy was the familiar fluttering anxiety about the fate of a book I’d written with a friend from my teaching days. An editor at a well-known publishing company had reached out to us more than a year ago about our self-published book, Lessons in Loveliness.
Legal contracts were signed, several painful rounds of edits were made, and a sample version of our book went through two test markets. The editor told us she would have a definitive answer for us by the end of August. It was the second week in September and more than fifteen months since the process began.
Mike and I were enjoying lunch at a favorite outdoor restaurant when my phone dinged with an email from the editor. Her message was to the point; the answer was no. My co-author and I briefly consoled each other. It was a learning experience, and we certainly had no regrets. I assured Mike I wasn’t upset and was ready for a fun afternoon at the zoo.
Then the voices appeared. Why did you ever believe you would be a published author? The book wasn’t very good. You’re a terrible writer. Your blog is stupid. You should stop writing. Tears flowed, but only for a moment. I remembered a quote by Vincent Van Gogh, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
The animals at the zoo further lifted my spirits. As we were leaving, we saw two white Trumpeter swans gliding on the far side of a lake. I was content to watch them from a distance, but my husband spied a path behind a building where he thought we could get a little better view.
Leaning against a fence, we noticed the swans were swimming closer to us. I snapped pictures on my phone, certain they would soon turn away, but they swam right up to the bank about a hundred feet away. Unbelievably, they walked out of the water and moved closer and closer to where we were standing. I held my breath, not wanting the magic to end.
Just inches away from us, they pranced and posed gracefully like ballerinas in a private showing of Swan Lake. I was mesmerized by their curved snow white bodies, long elegant necks, and jet black beaks. Their inky markings stretched across their eyes like glamorous masquerade masks. They occasionally made a soft sound like a single note on a trumpet. After nearly half an hour, I thanked them for filling my deflated heart with an enchanted combination of awe, happiness, creativity and faith.
I am sure the swans were a serendipitous sign from the heavens that I should keep writing. A skeptic may say the swans came to us because we were standing where they’re often fed. Thankfully, I am a romantic. Nature, my muse, came through at just the right time, with just the inspiration I needed.
And you, my friend, must find your muse. What inspires you? Is it music, art, children, athletics, academics or something else? Seek it out and let it sink deep into your pores so it becomes such a part of you that you have no choice but to let it out and share it. Keep doing the thing you were made to do, no matter what the voices tell you. §