Born and raised in the Pacific North West (Washington State to be specific), I'm currently living on a farm, raising chickens, and writing in North Yorkshire.
A former editor of Durham University's online magazine, The Bubble, I also write for the magazine Carpe Nocturne, and have several short stories published in a variety of anthologies.
You can pre-order the Nightmares When I’m Cold anthology, ready to be placed lovingly in your e-reader on 12.1.21.
The book will be officially released on December 1, 2021, when you will hopefully be able to quickly get your print book as well. There have been problems brewing in the publishing world regarding the supply chain for a couple of months now. But we are hoping they’ll be resolved in time for the release of the anthology we have been working so hard on, Nightmares When I’m Cold.
The e-book is beautiful, and simply more than I could have asked for. But the print version?
…be still my beating heart…
It is truly stunning, in my opinion. With plates introducing each story, created by Stephani Eerkes-Keylock, and the artistic formatting provided by Fabled Beast Design–there are no words for how beautiful this book turned out.
This book contains a chilling collection of stories that prove nightmares dwell far beyond the realms of sleep.
What happens when we allow obsession to guide us, when we delve too deeply into secrets, or when we are too far away from anyone for our screams to be heard?
With tales from Rachel L. Carlyle, KM Kasiner, Hana Jabr, Breanna Teramoto, as well as Katrina Carruth ranging from the gothic, to science fiction, to fantasy, to just plain horror, prepare to explore Nightmares When I’m Cold.
While we of course want plenty of copies to be bought ahead of time, having a team of reviewers at the ready would be extremely handy. If you want to be on this team and receive an advanced reader copy of Nightmares When I’m Cold, then get ahold of me! Fill out the form below to learn more about helping make this anthology a success.
Inspiration comes in strange forms. And often seemingly out of nowhere. While I don’t usually write in any form other than pros, the idea came to me to write a poem. But in a very specific way: using Tarot cards. Because, why not? After all, if I can use them for everything else, why not for a poem?
As soon as the idea hit, so did all possible complication I could think of:
How many cards should I draw?
Should I draw one card per stanza? Per line?
If I need to figure that out, then I need to figure out the form of my poem ahead of time, wouldn’t I?
What if I drew one card as the topic of the stanza, and then a card for each line?
Maybe a card for the beginning of the line and the end of the line?
What if the start of the stanza was the topic card reversed and the stanza was about how to right the card?
And of course, how would you decide what that card has to say? After all, you’re not doing a reading. This is a poem. The cards can say so many different things based on the cards around them, the prompt or question, or simply the feel of the reading. Could I read a card in the form of a poem rather than as a reading as a whole?
K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid
Then I realized I was making this way too complicated.
Writing, like divination, is about feeling it out. It’s about tapping into that water aspect of ourselves, our creative, intuitive self. It’s about diving deep into our wells and oceans and seeing what we pull from the depths.
In other words, it’s about going with the flow.
So I tried it out, letting the cards tell me how many I was to draw.
I took a deep breath and sank into my body, letting my hands do what they knew to do: shuffle the cards , letting my fingers feel the directions of them. I stopped thinking, and instead simply felt. And when the time was right, I began putting cards down without too much thought.
I chose one per line, and each angled row of cards was a different stanza.
Here’s what my process looked like:
I breathed in a drew a card at a time, letting the deck dictate where to put each card and when to stop.
I assigned each card on word.
I looked at each stanza, writing down the word per line, then spent time writing the stanza itself, incorporating the essence of the meaning of the word.
I moved on to the next stanza, repeating the process until I was finished.
Add up the cards in each stanza to get a theme for the stanza in the form of the Major Arcana.
While I’m not going to share what I wrote (I am certainly no poet), I wanted to share the essence of what each line revolved around, to give you an example of how you might play around with this method.
Okay, so I didn’t intentionally pull a title. I happened to have a card that popped out when I was moving the deck, and thought I would stick it at the top and see if that card came into play at all.
In my opinion, it did.
It was the 8 of Swords – self-bound.
The 8 of Swords is a reminder that while the situation might seem difficult, you are the one who holds the ends of your ropes. You have the ability to change your perspective. You can untie yourself, remove your blindfold and obstacles, and get yourself out of the situation that feels so impossible. You have this ability.
Spoiler alert, this played nicely, given the last line of the first stanza, which focuses on resistance.
Furthermore, the 8s, in Tarot, correspond to the Major Arcana card, Strength. This is about finding the difficult parts within ourselves and approaching them with compassion. We don’t fight against them, instead confront them with understanding.
And thus, this was what my poem was about.
I flipped over the first line to get the following cards:
XIII Death – Transformation
9 of Cups – Embodiment
XI Justice – Truth
VI Lovers – Highest Choice
9 of Wands – Redundant
I wrote these down in my notebook, then then began to write what I thought about death in terms of transformation. For me, it is a moment of stepping into transformation, whether we intend to or not, and not being able to go back. The process has already begun.
So what choice do we have? That of examining our wants, our goals, what would make us happiest and set us on cloud 9. That’s what the 9 of Cups is about, and that is what we have to embody. If we have to transform, why not embody what we want to transform into?
And how do we know how to do that? We must look inward to find our own inner truth, our personal Justice.
When we know this, we will take the higher path, the one that will lead us to our inner growth, our divine evolution. This is the card of the lovers. This is what this line is about.
Except, perhaps, there is resistance. And what is the cause of the resistance other than ourselves? We have fought so hard, and we continue to fight. But perhaps, just maybe, if we see the battle is won, that we no longer need to be on guard, then the energy we seek, that we need for our transformation, can flow freely.
Adding Up the Cards
As I mentioned before, I add the cards to convert them to a corresponding Major Arcana. If you’re not familiar with the Tarot, this might sound very strange and kind of confusing. I’ll walk you through it:
Add up the number of the cards
If the number is higher than 22, add the digits together
The resulting number will be a corresponding Major Arcana
The reason we take an extra step with numbers over 22 is because there are only 21 number Major Arcana cards.
The numbers we’re working with for this stanza are 13, 9, 11, 6, and 9.
13 + 9 + 11 + 6 + 9 = 48
This is a number higher than 22, so we add the two digits together: 4 + 8 = 12.
So the corresponding card is the Hanged Man. However, we can take it a step further and reduce the number down by adding the digits together again:
1 + 2 = 3 the Empress.
This guides me a little more, should I want to. I can start with the message of the Hanged Man and end the stanza with the Empress, or I can aim to elevate the poem from the Empress to the Hanged Man. I won’t go into these card meanings, but it’s just and added something fun to play around with if you’re like me and like complicated things.
High Priestess – Intuition and Secrets
Ace of Swords – Inspiration
Empress – Nurture
Ace of Cups – Nourishment
3 of Wands – Expansion
How do we find what we are resisting? What we are fighting for? We call upon the wisdom and energy of the High Priestess, who helps us to navigate our intuition and our inner secrets. Settling with her will show you what you need to know.
Armed with a sword, the Ace of Swords, you can cut away what is no longer needed to make way for inspiration. The new ideas are endless. Like cutting away weeds that have overgrown and smothered what you need so desperately to grow.
The Empress then teaches you to nurture what remains. She tends to your inner strengths, to the new aspects of yourself that will aid your transformation.
What’s most important, with the Empress and High Priestess combined, you’ll learn how to care for yourself, your first true love, teaching you how to find and nurture your self-compassion, to fill your own cup.
From there, you expand. Into the world, into new forms of expression, you expand. You transform.
Adding Up the Cards
For this stanza, the numbers on the cards I’m working with are 2, 1, 3, 1, and 3.
2 + 1 + 3 + 1 +3 = 10
Since it’s below 22, I don’t need to reduce it down. This card is the Wheel of Fortune. Though, it is a two-digit card, which means I can reduce it further to 1, the Magician. Personally, I find both of these cards go superbly with the cards drawn for this stanza.
The Star – Hopes
10 of Cups – Fulfillment
Kind of Swords – Wisdom
The Star provides you wishes, hopes, and a direction to take aim. She promises you success, if only you’ll let her help you aim your bow into the stars.
The 10 of Cups shows your success, your brimming cup so full it fills ten of them. Your heart is content, and there is no further joy. The water flows. There is no more resistance. You have given up your stance. There is no more fighting.
Therein lies the wisdom of the King of Swords, master of his art. Master of his words. Master of his passion that is your expression, dear writer. Therein lies the wisdom.
Adding up the Cards
For this final stanza, we only have three cards to work with, and thus, three numbers: 17, 10, and 4.
17 + 10 + 4 = 41
4 + 1 = 5 the Hierophant.
One could go further and add all the stanzas up to see what the corresponding Major Arcana card would be for the whole poem. However, since I drew a title card, I don’t feel it’s necessary.
It was shocking how well it turned out. I loved the flow of it, though, again, I won’t share what I wrote. I’m not a poet, after all.
However, I loved the play with it. While I do sometimes write poetry, especially if I’m reading it (which I do get into some poetry kicks from time to time, which you might have noticed if you follow me on Instagram), I generally let it flow. However, some of my favorite poems I’ve written have been somewhat calculated as I tried to fit them into a form. Finding a form like that helped me to get creative with my words and pay attention to the rhythm. I found different an unique ways of expressing myself within the form’s parameter.
This is what I experienced while trying to write a poem this way. It also tapped into a different part of my brain, one that I certainly feel that I should be using while I’m writing. After all, in the Tarot, creativity and intuition both fall into the same element (at least, the way I read the cards they do). So why should I be surprised at how well using my intuitive part of my mind worked when applying it to my creativity?
I truly recommend giving this a go. Even if you don’t read the cards, getting a creative deck that speaks to you, that you find inspiration in, and writing down a key word that floats to mind as you look at the card can be a great way to tap into your creativity.
My Question to You
Would you be interested in a cheat sheet with a keyword for each tarot card, as well as perhaps a few “classic” poetry forms to play around with? Let me know in the comments. Also be sure to let me know if you played around with this method, or any similar method. I would love to hear all about it!
For a writer, writing is the dream. The writer wants to make it in the world and let their words hold their place in it. However, getting to that point can be somewhat overwhelming. So much so, that writer overwhelm can stop some writers from even starting. The goal then is just to reach the finish line of their novel or story, to be able to write “The End.”
But what about when you reach the finish line? What then?
We all know that the rough draft is not the final draft. And no matter how beautiful you think that first draft is, it is not the final draft. Editing and revision is a huge part of the writing journey, and it can seem like a daunting task, but it is a necessary one. This can create overwhelm in itself!
Then you have to consider what you want to do with your book when you’ve completely polished it. Do you want to just keep it for yourself? Make a small batch to give out to friends and family? Publish? Do you want to self-publish, or do you want to traditionally publish? Do you use indie publishers or one of the big 5?
There’s a lot to think about!
The good news is that there are ways to deal with this kind of stress. Let me walk you through the six ways to deal with overwhelm.
Six Ways to Combat Writer Overwhelm
Let me first start by saying that this is in no particular order. There are steps which might benefit you to take part in before others, or some steps which might not even be applicable to you. I encourage you to try everything to prevent your writer overwhelm, but I’ll leave the order in which you test them up to your own creative expertise.
ONE Make a To-Do List to Prevent & Overcome Writer Overwhelm
When I was in college, I would get overwhelmed by everything on my plate. It didn’t help that I was working three jobs at the time, including my tutoring gig for the college, and not including the private tutoring I was doing on the side, or even working as a class assistant for the ESLA students.
When I had the massive tsunami of to-do’s crashing through my mind, I stressed myself out, to put it mildly. I would sit and stare at the homework I was supposed to be doing and be completely paralyzed and unable to focus on getting anything done.
Finally, I wrote a list and organized it.
It went something like this:
Create a list of everything that needs doing by the end of the week/month
Organize it by what needs doing first
Break down the steps for each item on the list (research, editing, writing, gathering surveys, how long a shift takes, etc.)
Estimate how long each task will take to complete.
Write out how much time I need for daily living (eating, sleeping, transport, exercise, etc.)
Create a schedule for each day to complete each task
I found that when I did this, I realized two things:
I didn’t have as much on my plate as I thought I did
None of my tasks would take as long as I thought they would
Once I had a visual in front of me of what needed doing, by what time, and how long it would take to get each thing done, I was able to make a plan and stick to it.
Breaking the Day Up
I would take this a step further and break my day up by my breaks. So, for example, lunch break, coffee break in the afternoon, and dinner. As a student, you can imagine that I didn’t stop once dinner time hit. I would usually keep working into the evening, only to get up at 3 in the morning (yeah, you read that right). I’m not suggesting you get up at 3 in the morning to start your day, by the way.
When I broke the day up with my breaks, I could section my day into “bite-sized” chunks. I knew that before breakfast I wanted to go back over my math homework. I knew that between breakfast and lunch I had a class, a tutoring shift, and an hour to work on my English paper, during which time I would pull out the quotes I wanted to use, and so on.
The trick was to only look at the section of the day that was coming up next. This meant I could compartmentalize the day, which made my tasks more manageable.
Crossing Items Off
When you have a massive to-do list, it can feel like you’re trying to dig a hole on the beach in the surf. You keep shoveling sand and water out of the hole, but it just keeps filling up.
When you list out your tasks for a day, including the mini tasks to build up to the whole task, you feel a sense of accomplishment. You can see that you’re getting things done, and that you’re not just digging a hole that won’t be dug. This is essential to keeping you going through a daunting mountain of work supporting that writer overwhelm.
When we can visually see what we’ve already done and that we’re making progress, we’re more likely to keep moving forward.
TWO Get Clear on Your Goals to Prevent Writer Overwhelm
What do you want to do with your story/book/writing career? Do you want to be the next Stephen King? Do you want to be a travel writer? Do you want to make a passive income? Expand your business with your knowledge? Become a self-help guru?
Do you want to just get your story out there, and then whatever happens, happens? Do you want to be a part of the 20Booksto50k rush to make your living with rapid release self-publishing? Or are you wanting to create something for your loved ones to enjoy?
Knowing your goals can help you decide the path you need to take. Furthermore, when you know what you need to take, then you can prevent unnecessary actions, and thus prevent writer overwhelm.
I want to be very clear with this: your goals must represent what you want, not what you think you should want.
This might take some time and a lot of self-reflection to know what it is that you truly want from your writing life. There are a couple steps you can take to discovering this.
Your journal is your trusty companion that you should be utilizing throughout your writing journey. It is your conversation with yourself so you can understand what’s going on in your head, what you’re feeling, and so on.
In this instance, you can work through these questions in your journal to understand your goals better. Go through each question one at a time and really spend some time writing on it. Set a timer on your phone or your watch and give yourself at least seven minutes to write on each one, trying not to stop writing even when you’ve run out of things to say. If you do run out of things to say, write “I don’t know what to write” on repeat until something else comes up or your timer runs out.
Get into the “why” of each answer you give. Keep asking yourself until you feel you’ve reached the core of your answer.
What does success look like to you?
Where have you been successful in the past, in any area of life, and by whose standards of success? How did it feel?
What does writing success look like to you? How is it measured? In money? Books printed? Books sold? Books written?
What does a writing career look like to you?
What does success look like on a daily basis? As in, what does your writing routine look like, how you fit it in with the rest of your life, etc.? Does this include a possible wordcount goal, chapter goal, hourly goal? Get specific.
What is your writing routine now?
How do you feel after completing your wordcount or hourly writing goal? Are you relieved? Drained? Exhausted? Pleased?
What is your timeline of success?
These questions are meant to help you get real with yourself, to know yourself. Often times, we’re stuck in the story of what we’re told is successful or accomplished.
When I graduated high school and was asked what I wanted to do with my life, I said I wanted to be a starving writer. I had in part being glib, but I was also being real. My version of success at that time was simply to write. I didn’t care if I published (I did care, but that wasn’t the end goal), or if I made money. All that mattered to me was that I was always writing.
Map out what your life would look like if you succeeded in your goal. Get as detailed as you can. What does the overall picture look like? What does your living situation look like? Really dig in and look at each area of your life:
Lifestyle and livelihood – your housing, your income, how you live your life
Body and wellness – how does this affect your physical and mental self?
Creativity – you’re a writer, so it feels like you should always be creative, but if you sell your book and become the next J. K. Rowling, how will it affect your creativity? Just ponder this idea.
Relationships – how does this affect your romantic life? Your social life? Your family life?
Society – how does this affect your role in society? Will you do more in your community? Less?
You – how does your success affect who you are?
Go through and examine how you define success for your writing and imagine yourself in that place. Think about how that affects each of these areas in your life. Be as real as possible. If you want to make your living using a rapid-release method of writing, how does that affect your body? Does it mean that you need to move more because you’re sitting for longer periods of time? Does it mean you would need to ask more of your partner while you work to reach this goal?
Once you’ve taken an honest look at each area of your life, ask yourself if you like what you see, if it’s something that you can embrace. If so—excellent. You’re doing this for you.
If not, that’s okay. Ask yourself what you want each area of your life to look like and then see what version of success fits. You can play around with this as much as you want.
This is for you, for your goals, for your life. No one can live your life but you, so make sure that your writing goals are tailored for your idea of writing success.
Meditation is an extremely useful tool in just about every area of life, but especially when it comes to preventing as well as overcome writer overwhelm. It can calm us, bring us into a state of presence, and put us in touch with our creative sense. When we feel swamped, it can help to bring clarity of mind, which in turn can help us to organize our thoughts and quell our anxiety.
Meditation can also help us delve into ourselves. When we quiet our minds long enough to listen to the voices of our subconscious, or intuition, we can learn what we truly want. This is extremely helpful when considering your goals as a writer, as well as your goals in your daily life.
There are many ways to use meditation, but here are a few that I recommend.
Making meditation a habit can help clear your mind in general. When you create time and space to make meditation a part of your daily routine, your mind is overall calmer. You can read about this more here.
Daily meditation can be as simple as paying attention to your breathing.
There are many guided meditations on YouTube that can help you anchor and center yourself. These meditations can also help you delve into yourself specifically to find answers. One might take you on a journey to talk to your future self, another might take you to a path to get in touch with your intuition. Look through what’s available on YouTube and give a couple a try.
Again, on YouTube, you can find meditations which play throughout the night. These are sometimes called subliminal messaging as well, depending on the you choose. If you can hear the words being spoken, they will often guide you into a meditation, or, if you’re like me, into sleep. The words will either play audibly or under the guise of the accompanying music, throughout the night.
I personally have used these for a variety of things including my fear of flying, waking up motivated, overcoming anxiety during this pandemic, and so on.
Spend a week experimenting with these to see how they help you.
FOUR Delegate Your Tasks to Overcome Writer Overwhelm
What? Delegate? Delegate what to who?
I used to work in video production. By that I mean that I helped my partner at the time build up his video production business by helping him market himself, learning to film, learning about cameras and audio, and learning to edit.
In return, he wanted to help me with my own writing overwhelm.
I laughed and told him that my writing was a solo project. How on earth could he help me?
At that time, I wasn’t in any position to be helped with my writing projects. I had one book that I had completed and tried to self-publish (which I have since buried and covered the grave with cement), and was barely writing anything else.
Once I began to take my writing more seriously, I could have asked him for help—and lots of it. There was a lot that I wanted to accomplish, and doing the research for detracted from my writing time and added stress.
Here are some tasks you can delegate:
Research for your book
Research writing competitions
Research agents/magazines/journals/anthologies/publishers accepting submissions
Writing your cover letter for your submission or query letter.
Book cover design/finding quality and affordable designers
Finding Beta readers
First round of edits
Setting up your author website/social media
Social media management
These are just to list a few.
There are a few areas where it is essential to hire a professional. Editing and book cover design are two of those areas. You might be able to design your book cover yourself, if you’d like, but unless you specifically have a background in design, you might be better off handing the task over to someone who does design for a living.
With editors, while you might be an editor yourself or have a keen eye for mistakes, you are too close to your project. That is a fact. Your brain will fix mistakes, and no matter how many times you comb over your MS, there will be some tenacious mistakes that get through.
Fun fact: Gone with the Wind has two typos in it. Those suckers get through no matter how big the book.
There are plenty of ways you can get your piece as polished as possible, but you should still hire someone to proofread, to copyedit, and potentially provide a developmental edit.
You don’t necessarily need to go to a big company to get some of these tasks completed. Have a look on freelance websites for people offering their services. Some great websites are:
However, when you hire a freelancer through these websites, be sure that you stick to the website, especially when it comes to sending documents or completing any transactions. It keeps both you and the freelancer safe and above board.
Likewise, be sure that you get a sample of their work before you hire them. There are many wonderful writers, artists, and website designers out there, but they can also be buried by people offering subpar work for a low price. It is better to spend the extra money to get something you will be happy with.
FIVE Adjusting Your Timeline to Prevent Writer Overwhelm
When you set yourself a goal, you need to be sure that you set a realistic timeline. A failure to do so can result in writer overwhelm.
Deadlines are wonderful things. They can keep us focused on a task or a project and get us to the finish line. However, sometimes we set unrealistic timelines, which causes stress, which then leads to overwhelm.
Your Personal Timelines
When you’re writing for yourself, you need to check in with yourself and be sure that you’re not the one contributing to your stress. If the timeline you set yourself is too strict, but you don’t see a way to move it, take some time to examine why you are stuck on this deadline.
When I first decided I needed to make money with my writing, it wasn’t for the love of writing, but because I had student debt to pay off. I wanted to half my debt-paying time. This put a lot of strain on me. It meant that I was going to need to come up with £500 every single month.
When I became overwhelmed with this, I adjusted my timeline. I didn’t need to do it right away. I just needed to eventually work my way up to it, reminding myself that I would some day pay off my debt with my writing, but I couldn’t force those writing jobs instantly.
If, for example, your goal is to use the rapid-release publishing model to quit your job in a year and be a full-time writer, ask yourself why you need to do this within a year? Can you aim to be part time at both within that timeline?
Returning to the journal prompts, spend some time in contemplation with these questions and explore possible solutions.
Writing for Others
I am a ghostwriter along side being a writing coach. I have one client with whom I’m working on three different series. I am capable of completing a book a week for my client, and I did so for a while. But just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I should.
After four weeks of doing this, I burnt myself out and became completely overwhelmed with anything else that was going on in my life. I talked to my client, and we adjusted my timeline to 10 days per book. As a result, I take three days off from writing and still have a full seven days to complete the book, which is more than enough time for me.
If you are in overwhelm, look at what can be adjusted. Be sure to keep your deadlines, but if you can move them around so that they work better for you, then do so.
If you are writing for someone else, be communicative. I assure you that your editor/publisher would rather get a quality piece of work from you as a result of extra time than a subpar piece of work on time.
SIX Take Time Off to Prevent Writer Overwhelm
When we have a pile of things to do, it’s easy to keep working until we can’t. We have things that need to get done, and they need to get done now.
But that doesn’t help anyone. It will burn you out and it might stop your progress completely. Burnout is really just another word for writer overwhelm.
When you’re making a list of things to do and scheduling your day out, remember to schedule time for relaxing for you.
More importantly, remember to schedule days off. That’s plural, by the way.
I mentioned that when I readjusted my timeline with my client for her books, that I took three days off from writing. While it’s actually three days off from writing her books, not writing in general, I make sure the very first day off is a day off from everything.
I don’t at my phone, I don’t touch my computer, and the only time I’m allowed to look at my kindle is if I’m listening to a podcast or reading a fiction book. The only work-related things I’m allowed to do are coaching calls, and that’s because I enjoy them so much.
Make sure that you are taking the time off that you need and deserve. No one can work all the time. We all need days off, even from things that we love.
If you can’t take a full day off, just be sure to schedule breaks for yourself. Mealtimes don’t count. During this time, do something completely different that you enjoy: read a chapter of a book, go for a walk, take a nap, watch an episode of something, meditate, journal, fantasize about completing your goal.
Try to avoid scrolling on social media during this time. It might feel relaxing, but sometimes it can trigger some anxiety, sadness, depression, or make you feel like you’re slacking. Sure those uplifting posts are designed to be motivational, but if you’re making yourself take a break when you’re already stressed, motivational posts might trigger some guilt.
Do not feel guilty for needing to take time off. It’s called Self Care, and self care is essential.
This is essentially a post about self-care. Self-care is how you keep your candle lit and ever burning. You can’t do that if you’re burning it on both ends.
Your homework has four parts:
Find a guided meditation that works for you on YouTube. There are plenty out there. Find one that works for you, and spend at least 20 minutes meditating. The purpose of this is to help you be centered and clear minded for the following parts.
Go through the Journal Questions above and answer them all. Even if you’ve done something similar in the past, do it again. We are always changing, and sometimes our desires shift. This keeps us in communication with ourselves so that we can adjust our goals accordingly.
Ask yourself what tasks, if any you can delegate. Are there any friends or family who would be willing to help with any of these things?
Create a self-care plan for when you start to feel like overwhelm might be creeping up. This might be to make a list ahead of time, to schedule time for yourself to relax before you get too anxious, or it could be to take a day or a week off before it gets to be too much. Figure out what works for you and prepare yourself.
Good luck, and happy writing!
What self-care works for you? Share in the comments below to help others discover ways they can look after themselves when things get stressful.
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Developing your Main Character (MC) can sometimes be a bit of a drag. There are a plethora of spreadsheets to help you get to the nitty gritty of what you’re character is about, though they usually involve delving into what your character’s favorite color or ice cream topping is.
The Tarot can provide some insightful prompts to help you work through the deeper parts of your MC, specifically, using the Major Arcana.
Even more specifically, the first six cards: the Fool 0, the Magician I, the High Priestess II, the Empress III, the Emperor IV, and the Hierophant V.
Each of these cards can provide a different consideration regarding the Fool, who will act the part of your MC. Everything from their internalized skillset, to the parental figures in their life, to how they learned about the world.
However, before we get too into this, I want to take a moment to address the gendered language of the tarot.
Gendered Language is Outdated
Many tarot enthusiasts and historians have debated just how long the Tarot has been around, and where it originated. I am not going to get into that. However, the most concrete evidence puts it back at least a few hundred years ago.
As a result, there are a lot of aspects of the Tarot that just don’t quite fit into our modern society. Gendered language is one of those aspects.
However, thanks to authors such as Cassandra Snow and her book Queering the Tarot, as well as many other talented and insightful tarot readers and writers, tarot is evolving away from this. I want to take a brief moment to talk about how to get around gendered language in the Tarot, since some of the cards we’ll be discussing heavily rely on “gendered” energies.
Traditionally, tarot is spoken about in terms of masculine and feminine energy. These are actually representative terms for active and passive energy: masculine energy being active and feminine energy being passive.
Active energy is seen as something that is more external. Or, at least, it something that might come from within but has the ability to alter the external, or directly influence it. Air and Fire are the external, active elements in the Tarot.
Passive energy, on the other hand, is seen more internal. This is the work that is done within, from healing to nurturing, to feeling. Water and Earth are the passive elements in the Tarot.
Neither energy is above the other. Both energies are necessary, and the goal is always to seek
I mention all of this because there will be cards throughout the Tarot that deal with gendered terms such as the High Priestess, the Empress, and the Emperor. These deal with parenting figures as well, which I’ll talk more about when we get to the designated cards. But veering away from gendered language is essential, since male or male representing figures can absolutely signify the High Priestess roll, as well has embody the HP’s qualities, just as a female or female representing figure can embody the qualities of the Emperor.
There are 22 Major Arcana cards in the tarot, often starting with the Fool, which is numbered 0. This is because the Fool represents the natural protagonist of the journey through the Major Arcana.
Thus, this is where we’ll start with building your MC.
The Fool: The Carrier of Your Story
The traditional depiction of the Fool in the tarot, is someone who is about to walk off a cliff. Their head is tilted up into the sky, and they seem happy, and completely unaware of what is before them. They carry a stick with a bundle at the end of it over their shoulder, while a little dog barks at their feet.
The fool represents the openness to move forward into the journey. They trust what is ahead of them so much that they know that staying where they are is not an option.
Your MC is the Fool.
Whatever it is that compels your MC to go along the journey is a greater reason to trudge forward into sometimes unwanted experiences because the option to do nothing can’t stack up against the reason to carry on. Even if your character is kicking and screaming the whole way, they know that they cannot stay put.
This signifies that there is some small level of trust. Trust that no matter the danger that might lay ahead, it is worth more than not doing anything. Even if they die in the process, it is still worth more than doing nothing, even if it’s only worth more by a hair.
This indicates your MC’s values. What they hold to be a truth that is strong enough to carry them forward.
The question is, then, what does your Main Character believe in so whole-heartedly, that they can’t turn down the threshold?
The Tarot Pull
If you have a tarot deck, shuffle while you focus on what you know of your MC, if you know anything at all. Either way, put your thoughts toward what it is that they hold true.
When you’re done shuffling, flip the deck over and find the Fool card.
The card in front of it is what they trust
The card behind is what they don’t trust
Another way to look at these two cards are:
The card before them can be their compelling reason to move forward
The card behind them can be their reasoning not to act
Internal or Personal Tools Counterparts
The first few Major Arcana couple up nicely. The Magician is the active counterpart to the passive High Priestess; the Empress is the passive counter part to the active Magician.
The Fool is going to look at themselves for the skills or tools they have within them to navigate their journey.
As mentioned in the description of the Fool, they carry a bag on a stick over their shoulder. The question is, what is in that bag? This is what the Fool chose to bring with them, knowing they would need whatever is in there. It is very small, so whatever is in it, is essential.
The Magician is here to reveal what is in that bag, showing and reminding us of the tools we already have at our disposal, that which we use to manifest or make happen.
The traditional depiction of the Magician is a person stood behind a table with representations of each of the suits or elements on their table: Wand for Fire, Cup for Water, Sword for Air, and Pentacle for Earth. Each of these suits or elements represents different aspects of life, and thus, different strengths our MC has to navigate through the world.
The Tarot Pull
As you consider what skills your MC might have, shuffle the deck. When you’re ready, draw four cards:
Card 1 represents Earth: home, the tangible world, how your MC makes money, health, etc.
Not all of these things for each element needs to be found in the one card drawn for that element. Though, if you’d like, you can pull a card for each quality of that element if you really want to get into it.
However, don’t overthink this. Each card that you draw represents a strength in that elemental realm that the Fool carries in their bag of tricks.
The High Priestess is the counterpart to the Magician. She represents what goes on internally. While the Magician shows what skills your MC uses to navigate the external world, the High Priestess reveals what skills they have to navigate their own internal world. This card will bring forth the lessons of looking within in order to find answers and guidance.
The High Priestess is a Water element, which means that while they represent the passive energy of water, they also represent creativity, emotions (how we form relationships and navigate them), love, intuition, and any magical aspects or spirituality your MC might have.
The Tarot Pull
Spend some times shuffling and focusing on the essence of the High Priestess, and the qualities that could be bestowed up on your MC in this realm.
When you’re done shuffling, find the High Priestess Card.
The card before it will be a known inner strength
The card behind it will be an unknown strength, perhaps something that can be called up on later in the plot, or developed throughout the plot
External & Close Counterparts
The Magician and the High Priestess represent what the MC somewhat develops themselves within. The Empress and the Emperor are external influences on your MC, generally in the form of a parental figure.
Neither of these figures need to be the actual parents of your MC, but rather, those who taught these qualities, or revealed these qualities.
Again, the Empress does not need to be a female-identifying figure, just as the Emperor doesn’t need to be represented by a male-identifying figure. These are just qualities of these archetypes.
The Empress represents “mothering” qualities. They are the support that a person needs in order to grow. They represent a nurturing nature.
For example, a seed needs certain things in order to come to fruition. The Empress is the tender of that seed, providing nourishing soil, water, and ensuring that it gets enough sunlight. The Empress also knows how to give that seed the space it needs to grow on its own.
This is what I mean when I say “mothering” qualities.
The Tarot Pull: Pt 1
The question is, who has been a nurturer for your MC? Who has acted in a “motherly” roll for them?
While you think about this question, shuffle and pull three cards to show how this embodiment of the Empress has helped your MC to grow in mind, body, and spirit.
Side Character Development
A note about characters other than your MC.
We all only know a piece of a person. We know what our experience is with that person, and what they choose to show us. Likewise, we often see parts of ourselves reflected back at us through other people.
When we learn what one person is to another person, we are learning about both people simultaneously.
Using the Empress character as an example, looking at how someone was a mothering figure to the MC, we’re learning not only about what this figure gave to the MC, but what the MC was willing to receive. This will influence their development, how they thin, how they feel, how they react. It will influence how they view self-care, or the care of others.
Similarly, it shows what the other character was willing to give to the MC, or not give, as the case may be. It’s also an invitation to look at what this side character might not be giving to others in their life because of what they’re giving to the MC. This can help to create a more rounded character profile.
The Tarot Pull: Pt 2
Pick your deck up again and begin considering your MC’s relationship to this nurturing figure while you shuffle. When you’re done shuffling, you’re going to pull four cards:
Card 1 represents the mothering figure themselves.
Card 2 represents how your MC responded to this mothering/nurturing/soft guidance.
Card 3 represents an important lesson learned from this figure.
Card 4 represents something challenging this figure left with your MC.
The Emperor represents active energy. Often depicted as an older man on a throne, with ram heads for the arm pieces, with colors of red prominent in the card, the Emperor represents authority and structure.
While the Empress represents internal nurturing for growth, the Emperor helps to create the structures one needs to hold themselves up. If we think of a seedling, the Empress is the water and soil while the Emperor is the thing it climbs up, or even the wind that might encourage the stalk to strengthen so it can hold itself up.
The Empress is about allowing supported space in order to grow. In contrast, the Emperor teaches to be unapologetic for the space that our character takes up, for that is their space and thus their space to govern. This is an external card, but this also is a card about how we govern ourselves.
In this light, when we are looking at the Emperor in regard to your character, we are considering who it was that taught your character how to take up space in the world. Do they take up space at all? That is, do they try to make themselves small, or are they content to exist and know their place?
The Tarot Pull
As you consider your Emperor’s qualities that were taught to your character, shuffle the cards. These four cards you pull will be similar to those of the Empress:
The first card will be a card to represent this Emperor influence on your MC.
The second card you pull will represent how the MC governs themselves.
The third card will be a key take-away from this figure in your MC’s life.
And finally, there will be a card for something challenging this figure left your MC with.
So far, we’ve looked at the personal, and the first bare bones of community for the Fool, or your Main Character. We’ve considered what the Fool has at their disposal both internally and externally, and what the external world has done to teach their base lessons.
However, we are never done learning, and our parents, or parental influences, are not our only source of understanding of the world.
This figure is about the educational structures that help us understand the society we were born into. This can be literal schooling, a teacher, or a religious foundation which helped to shape morals.
The best way to look at this card, is to understand how it was that the MC understood how to function in the “normal” society and be “one of them,” them being a functioning societal member.
This card is sometimes called the Story Teller, which I think I like better. Someone who carries the understandings and views of the community. In those stories are lessons to be learned, morals, and a history, in some extent.
Knowing what this figure or system is in your story, to your MC will help to better understand the foundation they’ve built their understanding from regarding their community. This can shape how they act and respond to situations, how they think, and how they make their decisions based on their understanding of right and wrong.
This also sets up the MC for the following card, which is the Lovers, a card of choice. I won’t go too much into this card, since that was never the intention regarding this particular discussion. But I will say this: the Lovers is a card of choice, of being presented with an option, and deciding which path to take.
When we consider this in following the Hierophant (because each card builds off the last), then we understand this is a choice in deciding which norms and lessons we’ll leave behind, and which we will develop for ourselves. This is essentially the choice: what do we choose to believe and carry with us, and what do we reject.
Thus, when we look at the Hierophant, we are setting our MC up to solidify their code of ethics, so to speak, as well as setting them up to be presented with options later down the line, during their character arc.
The Tarot Pull
To figure this out for your MC, shuffle the cards before flipping the deck over so you can see the pictures, and find your Hierophant.
The card in front of the Hierophant is a teaching that your character agrees with and will carry with them.
The card behind it is a teaching that they aren’t sure about, that might come into question.
If you want to further develop this baseline, keep shuffling the cards, flipping the deck back over so you can’t see the faces, and pull three cards:
The first card will represent their standard education.
The second card will represent their religious lessons.
The third card will represent what their immediate community holds true.
When I talk bout the immediate community, this could be the small village your character lives in, their group of friends, their neighborhood, their ship, and so on. What is a philosophy of those who closely interact with your MC have?
If you want to delve into this more, you can ask yourself whether or not your MC agrees with this philosophy.
The Tarot is an extremely helpful tool when it comes to your writing, or any creative practice for that matter.
One of the things you can use it for is to help your own development as a writer, by looking critically at where you are right now. What is your mentality? Where is your drive? What are you missing that would make your writing practice easier?
Celtic Cross Spread for Writers
I’ve created a 75+ page workbook called The Celtic Cross Spread for Writers, which includes journal prompts to accompany each card of the Celtic Cross.
This workbook is designed to help you better understand yourself so you can focus on the needs of your writing, pinpoint where your writing blocks might be, and move forward with more confidence.
This workbook is completely free, my gift to you, dear writer.
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I recently just launched my podcast. I also just launched my first free workbook.
There was a lot more to both of these things than I thought there would be.
Of course, there’s designing the content, figuring out how I want to present it, then I have to figure out the tech and marketing side of both of these things…yet that isn’t the part that drained me.
It was the stress of it. The pressure of it.
It left me hitting a wall on Monday morning after I did my part to tell everyone about this podcast, and I felt so drained that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t have a creative or logical, or motivated bone in my body at the end of it.
Because I’ve been all work and very little introspection, I decided to participate in a daily tarot draw through August. Owl and Bones Tarot on Instagram has a set of daily questions that I decided to take part in.
In my exhaustion, I drew a few cards for the week ahead, as prompted: Energy/Let In/Keep Out/Mantra.
I drew the 4 of Cups, the Wheel of Fortune, and the Emperor. From those, I developed the following Mantra:
By moving with the flow, I open myself to fill my offered cup, unapologetically.
I gave in and flipped the fourth card anyway, to see what it had to offer: the King of Wands.
The King of Wands is a master of his craft, of the thing that lights him up. He’s also the master of Fire. This means that he knows when to fan the flames, and when they need to be tampered. He can find steadiness through his knowledge of how to balance his passions and desires.
That is the wisdom of my week ahead.
So I took the day off. I gave myself time to play.
I let the day move me and guide me and allowed myself the space to nourish myself.
While I’ve been diving head-first into building my business, I’ve left little to no time at all for my own personal enjoyments. I haven’t given myself space to be creative in the ways I feel most creative. I certainly haven’t looked after my body (seriously, I joined a gym three weeks ago and haven’t been once).
I have been in Fire and Air energy for all of July and so I took yesterday, August 2, to nourish the rest of my elements.
Since it was Lughnasadh (many pagans celebrate on the 1st, but I have always celebrated it on the 2nd), I decided to take the day and celebrate it. It’s a day of the first summer harvests, and a day of gratitude.
I went to the Co-op and bought as locally and ethically as I could, gathering vegetables, fresh herbs, edible flowers, local beers and a cider, getting myself excited to get home and bake some bread and make some stew.
I spent the afternoon cleaning the house, taking care of those chores that get put to the side when you’re too busy. I did those chores not out of necessity. They absolutely could have waited. But I wanted to do them. I wanted to take part in tending the hearth of my home, of honoring my personal patron, Hestia.
Then my evening was spent on the back porch, enjoying the evening, eating my cheddar and herb bread (made with chives, Herbs de Provence, local blond ale, and fresh edible flowers) and summer vegetable stew (with added stout to give it some power), while drinking Washington local, Finnriver lavender black current cider.
Responding to Goal-Setting & Celebrations
Why am I sharing all of this with you?
Because it is so easy to burn yourself out with doing what you feel must be done. We set goals, hard goals, ambitious goals, and we are determined to make them happen. We put a lot of energy into those goals.
But how often do we give ourselves time to rest after we’ve reached our goals?
Releasing the workbook and launching the podcast were two goals of mine, but they weren’t the end goal. They were steps I felt were necessary to reach the end goal. And they were worth celebrating when I reached those goals.
Sometimes celebrating looks like going out for a drink. Sometimes it looks like giving yourself a present. Sometimes it looks like skydiving. And sometimes it looks like rest.
While baking bread and making stew might not look like rest to many, it was rest to me. It was putting down business and making time for what I love to do, and how I nourish myself.
The key question then to ask yourself is what are you doing to nourish yourself? How are you filling your cup when you’ve completed a step? How are you taking time to honor yourself?
Take a moment to ask yourself this, and answer yourself before moving on.
What It Means to Celebrate
You might have noticed that I didn’t have a dinner party. I made dinner for me. Because it was about me being able to rest.
In coaching sessions, I often ask my clients to set goals, since that’s the nature of what we’re doing, but also to determine different levels of celebration when they hit key markers. What will they do when they get their wordcount for the day? For the week? How about when they finish their first draft? Their revision? Send out their manuscript for beta reading?
Often, what they come up with are treats for themselves, which is perfectly fine. It acts as a prize to strive toward. I would be lying if I said I didn’t do the same.
However, the best rewards aren’t necessarily what we set for ourselves ahead of time. Instead, it’s checking in with yourself when you meet that marker and seeing what you need at that point. Do you need a few days to just do nothing? Do you need some fun? Do you need to dance? To eat better? To move more? Do you need to clean? Do you need to just lay in the grass and watch the wind through tree branches?
Checking in with yourself at the time of your success is a great way to reward yourself. Consider which of your elements is running low, and do what you can to find that balance before you move on to the next check point.
What this doesn’t mean is using rest as a reward. It doesn’t mean neglecting yourself and using selfcare something you can let yourself have one you do the thing.
You should always be participating in selfcare.
What this does mean is that you’re then breaking down your tasks and goals into small, bite-sized chunks, and checking in with yourself when you complete each mouthful.
What do you need after you write 2,000 words in a day?
What can fan your flames after you’ve revised your 85,000-word novel?
What do you deserve after you’ve had the bravery to send your piece out to 8 beta readers?
How to Determine What You Need
Think about how you feel after you’ve completed a small task. Think about how you feel after you’ve completed a big task.
Most of us feel pretty accomplished when we complete something, and that’s the predominant feeling. However, there are sometimes undercurrents of other things: exhaustion, anxiety about what comes next, sadness that the task is over, etc.
There are ways to nourish all of those feelings and sensations.
There is no bad response to completing a task. Feelings area always valid. They are expressing a part of yourself, and the healthiest thing you can do for those expressions is to give them a voice at the table, and ask what they are there to really communicate to you.
For example, after my podcast and workbook releases, my brain had enough. My energy was low. What those were both telling me, my Air and Fire, was that I needed to do something that wasn’t mentally taxing. I needed to do something where I was feeling rather than expressing.
A good way to see where your energy is low is to spend some time—you guessed it—journaling on where you’re feeling drained.
This is effective if you have a deck of tarot cards that you can lay out for the following questions, without turning them over. Journal on the questions, then flip the cards and see where your perception and understanding of your situation lines up with your intuition and subconscious.
In what area of life do I feel drained?
What area of life lights me up?
What is nourishing my passions?
What is taking me away from my passions?
What is taking away from my drive?
What thoughts are inspiring me?
What thoughts are holding me back?
What inspires me in general?
How do I feel about the relationships in my immediate circle?
What can I do to be more compassionate toward myself?
How can I nourish myself more spiritually?
Where am I physically over-extending myself?
What am I doing to support my body?
How does my physical space affect me?
What is the best piece of advice I can give myself?
If you do use the Tarot, pay attention to what suits come up the most, and which come up the least. That can give you a sign as to what might be in or out of balance.
Based on what you find here, you can see what you might need that would nourish you.
For example, if you find that maybe you are giving too much to your social life, then spending some alone time might be good for you. In which case, what is something fun, something that’s a treat that you can give yourself that will also nourish the part of you that needs to be replenished regarding your social life? Maybe going to see a movie on your own, a road trip on your own, or letting your friends do something for you so you don’t have to worry about it, but can still have fun.
Yes, you can absolutely celebrate your accomplishments, big or small, by treating yourself to a cupcake, a drink, a night out, a trip, and so on. These are wonderful things to be able to indulge in. But when you are taking time to honor the small steps you’ve done each day? That’s a good way to either go broke or develop some less than desirable, productive, or healthy habits.
By looking at celebration as ways to replenish what has been depleted, and enjoying the process, then you can work toward keeping up momentum and burnout.
Check in with yourself regularly, stay present within yourself, and see where your energy is starting to get low and do what you can to keep yourself topped up.
Get to Know Yourself
Want to see exactly what you need as a writer? I’ve got a free workbook just for you, using the Celtic Cross as a structure.
In this workbook, you’ll have over 75 pages of Tarot and journal prompts to see what is supporting your writing journey, and what might be hindering you.
Dive deeper into your writing habits and mindset and get this free workbook by signing up below!
In this first episode, I ask you to consider where you are as a writer. Where are you leaping off from today? Tomorrow? The next day?
This episode explores
Where you are as a writer
The use of Tarot as a writer
The use of Earth, Air, Fire & Water as a writer
I mention the Celtic Cross for Writers Workbook, and while during the time of the recording I didn't know if I would have that workbook ready, I can now say that it is ready and available! Get your copy here or by visiting
In this workbook I'll walk you through how to use the Celtic Cross to discover yourself as a writer with copious journal prompts and using the Tarot. This workbook has over 50 pages of information, prompts and insight to up-level your writing mindset.
You can find me at
On Instagram: @NaturalWriterCoaching
On Twitter: @WriterNatural
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Or email any questions or thoughts at Nicola@NaturalWriterCoaching.com or through the Contact Me page of my website.
Happy writing, friends!
Why Do We Need to Know Where We Are?
Knowing where you are as a writer means that you know the starting point from which you’re jumping off.
You might be just starting your writing journey, or maybe you’re a prolific short story writer, yet just beginning your first novel. Or perhaps you’re a self-published novelist, well into your 11th book, and needing some extra umph to keep you going.
We are all at different points in our writing. And yet, we’re all at the same place: the first day.
I know, this is going to sound cheesy, but it’s true. We are all at the first day of the rest of our writing journey.
The good, and obnoxious news is that tomorrow is also our first day.
So where are we starting from today? Where will we be starting from tomorrow? And the next day? And next week? Next month?
You get where I’m going with this.
Knowing where you are right now can help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, what’s holding you back, and what’s supporting you.
I suggest you have yourself a pen an paper for this blog post or this podcast, because I’m going to be asking you some questions to get you going.
Throughout this podcast, I’ll be referring to the Tarot. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll also know that I’m a big fan of using the Tarot in writing.
For this particular episode and post, I’m considering the lens of the first position of the Celtic Cross: The heart of the matter, or where you are as a writer.
In a Celtic Cross reading, this position represents the sum of all the energies working around you and within you to put you in the current position you’re in right now, or the real issue that is prompting the reading at all.
For many writers, it’s writers block. But that’s not just what the main issue is. It’s what’s masking the issue. So let’s take a second a look at writer’s block.
Writer’s block is rarely simply not knowing what to write. More often than not, it’s the result of something deeper getting in the way, whether it’s a belief, a fear, or the excuses we tell ourselves (though those are also the result of beliefs and/or fears).
If we take a little bit of a bird walk, I’ll talk a little bit about the ego.
The ego, at least, how I’m defining the ego, is the self, or rather, the protector of the self. It is like the shell of the nut that is what defines us.
The aim of the ego is to protect the self. However, what it means to protect something is to keep it just as it is. Which leads to no growth.
In order to grow, we need to initiate a change. Where there is change, there is the unknown. Where there is the unknown, there is potentially danger to the self, which is what the ego wants to protect the self from. As a result, we have fear.
This is very simplified. I know that. Just keep bird walking with me.
This fear is what is causing our writer’s block, when it does manage to crop up. It’s the voice in the bac of our heads questioning whether our writing will be well received, if we as writers will be well received, or if there’s any point in writing at all. These are just a few fears that I commonly talk to writers about. There are plenty more out there.
As a result, we find excuses for why we can’t write, why we shouldn’t write, and so on. This is why we would rather deep clean the bathroom which suddenly urgently needs doing when we sit down at the computer to get some work done. We may not have our writing done, but damnit, our bathrooms are spotless!
Using the tarot, and looking ourselves as writers through the lens of the tarot or even through this position in the Celtic Cross, can help us identify what might be holding us back in our writing practice. Likewise, it can show us what’s supporting us.
The First Step: Journal It out
The first thing I’m going to ask you to do is journal out where you are as a writer. What does it mean for you to be a writer? What does your writing practice look like? What are you doing right now to embody the title of writer? What are your goals? Your fears? Who’s your biggest cheerleader, and influence? Who intimidates you?
Write everything you can about where you are right now.
Don’t think about it too much.
The often famed method of Morning Pages, put forth by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, is about journaling without boundaries. Let your thoughts flow onto the page for at least three whole A4 pages, front and back, without pausing to wonder what to write.
When you find yourself running out of what to write, write “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write…” until your pen begins to know what to write.
Adopt this mentality while you do this exercise. Don’t think. Just journal.
After You’ve Scrawled It All…
After you’ve spent some time journaling, get a highlighter and read through what you’ve written. Pay attention to what stands out to you and mark it. Make notes, highlight, underline, do what you have to do, but mark what you’ve written that stands out as important to you.
Pull these points aside and journal on them further if you need to. Really dig into these tid-bits of information you’ve gleaned from your journaling. Why do they stick out to you?
Getting Back to Tarot
A tool that Tarot utilizes is the categorizing of different aspects of life via the four suits: Coins/Pentacles, Swords, Wands, and Cups. Each suit is represented by an element: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, respectively.
I promise this will relate to writing and where you are as a writer, just bear with me.
Here’s how the elements represent different aspects of life:
Earth represents the physical realm, all that is tangible. You can think of the things that we need to physically survive and move around in this world, such as food, shelter, physical health, the earth itself, money, etc.
Earth energy is passive energy. It is slow moving, and it digs deep and holds on. Think of terms like “grounding” or “rooting.” These directly relate to Earth aspects.
Air represents our thoughts and how we communicate. It also represents education, the law, justice, and anything to do with logic. It is part of our inspiration, something I’ll delve more into when we move on to Fire.
Air also represents cycles. When we consider the breath, how it moves in and out of us, like a cycle, or the swirling of wind, we can understand how it can represent the phases we move through.
Air is active energy. Our thoughts are quick, how we speak is usually quite quick as well. Thoughts and tongues can be sharp, which is part of the reason why they are represented by the Swords in the Tarot.
This is my favorite element, though it could be because I’m a fire sign, and have a lot of fire in my astrological chart.
Fire represents passion and creation. It is our inspiration, our drive, our Will. It’s what motivates us to get up and go and to take action.
I mentioned that Air is also inspiration. The spark is the instant of Need to Do, of Compulsion to express that key part of the Self. It’s that flicker of excitement. Air is what fans that spark and brings it to a flame. It’s what plans and forms the spark into an action.
Fire, too, is active energy. It is far more instantaneous than Air, and far more demanding than air.
Water is a passive energy, like Earth. Though the concept behind Water is the idea of sinking down. As a result, this means that it corresponds to our emotions, to our subconscious, our intuition, and our spirituality. It’s how we connect in our relationships, whether they be friendly, romantic, familial, or otherwise.
It is creativity.
Considering these elements and areas of your life while going over your journaling can help you divide specific areas you might find are supporting you or restricting you. You might find that there are areas that are smothering your spark, or devouring your Air, for example. These things bleed into your creative practice. Getting to know the different areas of life can help you pinpoint where you are right now.
The Second Step: Some Guiding Questions
The second step is more of a helpful way to get you to consider the elements in your life. Here are some guiding questions you can further use as journal prompts.
Air: What is your practice?
How are you keeping yourself accountable?
How are you planning for your writing goals?
How are you implementing the steps of your plan?
I want to take a moment to say that it’s okay if you don’t have a plan. You don’t have to have a plan. However, Air is the element of logic, and is great when you start looking at your editing.
However, there are some elements of planning that you’ll need in your writing life. For example, the goals you set for your current WIP, or your writing career. The education you plan to explore when it comes to marketing, to story structure, to publishing also doubly fall under Air, since it’s both education and planning. Knowing copywrite laws are essential when it comes to creating your works (laws fall under Air, as does Justice).
There is a lot here, and the risk of too much Air is over-planning, and smothering your inspiration as a result. Ask yourself where the line is for you regarding too much planning, or needing to plan more.
Fire: How Do You Feel About Writing in General?
Does writing, as a whole inspire you? Intimidate you? Make you feel free? Constricted?
Consider this and note what you feel in your body. Do you relax? Is there a tightness?
How do you feel about your writing?
Same questions – Does it inspire you? Excite you? Free? Constricted?
Fire can often be that act of creation, but creation must come from something. For example, consider the creation of another being. There are things that must happen:
There must be passion, or desire (both Fire)
Two elements come together to make that creation happen
So ask yourself what is that passion for you about writing? What is compelling you to write? Or consider writing? Or tell your story?
Examining what smothers that spark is also important, and should be considered.
What kills stomps out that potential for you?
What stops a piece from coming to fruition?
Water: Where Does Your Creativity Come From?
Does it hit you from nowhere?
Do you cultivate it?
What relaxes you and puts you in the flow with your art?
What emotions do you tap into when you write?
What do you avoid?
There is no doubt that writing is a creative process, and writing is fluid and flowing, just like Water. Hence, the creativity. Water forms itself to what it must be in order to fit in with what is required.
You might have noticed that I’ve mentioned both creativity and creation separately, and I want to take a moment to distinguish between the two.
Creation is the result of action being taken upon a passion
Creative, or creativity is the personal flair in which something is created.
Creation is fire
Creativity is water
In the tarot, there is a card named Temperance, which is often represented by Fire and Water. Marriam-Webster defines Temperance as “Moderation in action, thought, or feeling.”
In Thoth-Based tarot decks, the Temperance card is called Art instead. I love this. The idea that Fire and Water are coming together to create Art. This is creation and creativity coming together in harmony, the internal flow of Water, balanced with the drive of Fire, to create Art.
Earth: How is Your Writing Showing up in Your Physical World?
By what physical method do you write?
Are you making money from your writing?
How are you nourishing your brain?
I want to take a second to explain the last question.
The things that we put in our body affects our minds. Everyone is different, therefore different minds need different things. I also want to take a second to honor that this can be a privileged thing to consider as well.
I am not going on a kick about what you should or shouldn’t consume. What I am asking is for you to pay attention to how certain things affect how you think and act.
For example: during lockdown last year, I, like so many, began baking. I started to find that when I was eating the delicious things I baked, I was getting cranky. Same with when I had sugar in my coffee. So I stopped with the sugar-rich treats and drastically cut back on the sugar in my coffee.
Recently, since I get up at 5 in the morning, I have noticed that I have some pretty gnarly caffeine crashes around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I realized it was because I was drinking bucket loads of coffee and then hitting my wall. So I stopped and replaced coffee with chicory root for a while, and then with plain old water.
I noticed how what I was consuming was affecting my mind and productivity, and I made the changes I felt I had the capacity and capability to make.
Where Are You As A Writer?
Consider everything you’ve journaled about here. What have you discovered? Are you pleased with it? Do you see areas you want to change?
If you’re open to sharing, post in the comments below! I’ll be you’ll find you’re not alone.
Natural Writer Podcast
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Happy Listening and Happy Writing!
Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook
In this podcast, I mention the Celtic Cross Workbook.
At the time of recording, I didn’t know when it would be released. However! I do now!
It is a completely free, 75+ pages of tarot and journal prompts using the Celtic Cross to help you delve into where you are as a writer, what is supporting you, and what is holding you back from becoming what you want to be.
Check it out for Free by completing the form below!
I talk a lot about Tarot. And one of my favorite practices is to tell people to journal. The combination of that often results in telling people to journal on a Tarot card.
What does that mean?
The Importance of Journaling
There are many gurus, teachers, therapists, and writers out there who will tell you that journaling is essential and important to keeping a healthy mind. Yet it’s easy to get hung up on what that means.
For many of us, when we were in school, we would be given writing prompts to get us to think about what we had learned. “What was the significance of living eternally in Tuck Everlasting?” “Would you want to live forever? Why or why not?”
I used to hate them. Truly.
Now I love them. I love the idea of delving into what I think about something. This is essentially what journal prompts serve to do. They invite a person to collect their thoughts and put them onto paper, or into audio.
The Benefits of Journaling
One way that journaling is effective is that it’s like putting your thoughts into a funnel. You have everything floating around in your head, but as soon as you have to put them into words, your brain has to organize them. It’s like untangling a knot into something manageable.
While this is an excellent reason to journal, the best understanding of the importance and therapeutic method of journaling has come from Julia Cameron in her book, The Right to Write.
She writes that journaling is allowing you the space to witness yourself. Often times we need to be witnessed, but so much of what we feel or what we think is shrouded in fear or shame. We’re afraid of what people will think of us if they knew we had x thought, or y belief, or felt a particular way.
When we journal, we are giving ourselves space to express what’s inside of us, and we are bearing our own witness.
I think this is truly beautiful, and essential for everyone to experience.
Journaling on a Tarot Card
So what does it mean to journal on a Tarot card?
This is a great practice when you’re learning to do Tarot or to read an oracle deck, and there are many ways to do this. There is no one right way. However, here are some offerings.
Note: I should mention, these are exercises designed mostly for Rider-Waite-Colman-Smith- and/or Thoth-based decks. While some of these exercises can be used for Tarot de Marseille decks, they don’t translate as easily. Oracle decks can also be used in this manner as well.
1. Describe What You See
Even if you know all the card meanings, describing what you see in a card can help you get to what you need to know about a card. It shows you what’s catching your eye first. Pay attention to that, and examine what that image, color, number, symbol, glyph, etc. might mean to you.
When you write this out, or record it out loud, you’re giving yourself the space to explore a card beyond the keyword meanings you might have memorized.
If you’re new to getting to know the Tarot, this is an opportunity for you to discover more about the picture in front of you.
2. Describe What You Feel
Writing the emotions or thoughts that come up immediately when you look at a card can help you get to the heart and energy behind a card. If you flip over the 3 of Cups and you feel panicked, then there’s a chance that you should pay attention to how you feel about social situations. If you turn over the 10 of Swords and feel relieved, then the chances are you should examine how you can move out of your particular situation and go toward that new dawn on the horizon.
Write out how you feel, and then ask yourself why you feel the way you do. Ask yourself “why?” several times, or “what can I learn from this?” several times before you move on. This is how you get in deep to your psyche.
3. Define the Card
Write out your definition of the card. If you know the card, or even if you don’t know the card, write out what it means to you. What is the image telling you? What story can you get from the picture in front of you?
Now, how does that story or definition relate to the position of the card, and to your life right now? Write it all out. Allow yourself to organize your thoughts in this way, and see what unfolds before you.
Ways to Journal
There is no right way to journal. Whether you’re doing it for a writing project, for school, or to get to know the tarot, there is no one way that is correct. What is correct is what works for you and serves you the best.
There are some things to keep in mind:
Don’t judge yourself for what you express through journaling. You are making space for yourself. You are allowing yourself a safe place to explore and examine ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Don’t think too hard. Try to let it flow
Have compassion for yourself.
Here are some ways to journal
While of course you can type out your journal entries, writing by hand, or by some measure other than pressing buttons, helps you to connect better with your thoughts and with the exercise.
When you write longhand, you can write your journal entry like you’re talking to someone, in pros, in poem form, however you want so long as the pen is moving or the voice keeps speaking, until you’re done.
Personally, I suffer from a hand injury a few years ago. When I write too much, my wrist and hand ache and it’s useless for a while. This is just one reason why someone might not be able to, or might not want to journal by hand.
Creating an audio recording is a helpful way to get around this. So long as you can find a space to yourself and can access some form of recording perhaps on your phone, on your computer, or into an old Home Alone Voice Recorder, then you’re good.
I do want to note that while yes, you can absolutely dictate your journaling to the computer, I wouldn’t recommend dictation as your writing practice. The reason I say this is that when you dictate, you need to tell the computer or dictation software to put in commas, periods, line breaks, etc. This can interrupt the flow of thought, and might create a barrier to achieve what you’re looking to achieve through your journaling.
Bullet Journaling is a combination of art and journaling. It allows you to think and mull and gnaw on your thoughts while you doodle and color, and then bullet point your key thoughts.
Furthermore, not everyone can express themselves fully through writing. Words aren’t their medium, and there is nothing wrong with that. Using bullet journaling allows for the journaler to use color, lines, and images to give a broader range of expression.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what any of the images mean to anyone else, only the person expressing themselves. The journal is for you and only you.
Combining Tarot & Journaling
It’s no secret that I see the Tarot as an excellent tool for writers. Learning to journal on a Tarot card is a great way to help a writer sink into the scene in a card and use it to help them write their story.
For example, a two-card reading process I like to use is Situation & Problem. The first card acts as the situation I’m starting from, then the card that crosses it is the Problem. From there, I begin writing.
If I turn over the 5 of Wands, then my situation could be competition. If my second card is the Lovers, then the Problem is either a choice that has to be made, or perhaps a competing love interest, depending on where I want to go with this this card.
When I journal on the situation, and what the card looks like, the colors expressed, what the images mean to me, I’m starting my brain along the path of how I could apply this to a story. This is my jumping off point for my story, whether it’s a piece of flash fiction, a novel, or a short story.
Likewise, when I begin to journal on the Lovers and what it means to me or how I might apply it in terms of the first card, then I’m beginning to develop a plot. I’m exploring how what I know, what I feel, what I see in this prompt can be the thing to interrupt the first card.
This is just one way out of hundreds that I can benefit from journaling around or about a Tarot card.
Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook
If you want to take a truly deep dive into your writing practice and discover more about yourself as a writer, I have something just for you:
The Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook
This workbook has over 65 pages of journaling exercises to help you plunge into the depths of what makes you, you, of what your writing habits are, what is supporting you, and what is holding you back.
Through using the classic Celtic Cross Tarot spread, I walk you through
Getting real with your current situation
Begin looking at your writing life through the lens of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water
What’s getting in your way
Uncovering your biases that might be holding you back
Looking at what’s supporting or hindering you internally and externally
How to develop your actionable steps to make necessary changes
The best part about this workbook? It’s completely free.
Fill out the form below to get your workbook and begin learning how Tarot and your journaling practice can serve you as a writer!
This is a 45-card affirmation deck designed to give writers and creatives tools to help them keep their mental wellness intact and stay within a mindset that allows them to complete their project.
When I saw this Kickstarter campaign, I immediately backed it. I am so thrilled to see something like this out in the world, and I really hope that it comes to fruition.
This deck is comprised of five themes to target different aspects:
I am not a person who generally goes for oracle decks or for affirmation decks, however as soon as I saw this, I knew it was an instant fit and a tool that so many writers need.
“Creatable Spaces is a mindset deck for writers designed to help you navigate the ups and downs of creative life. Whether you’re diving into your first novel or polishing up your fiftieth screenplay, this 45-card deck of affirmations will help you:
Your Voice Matters. So do the stories you’re longing to tell. That’s why I designed Creatable Spaces.”
Do yourself a favor and back this deck. While it’ll take a while before it arrives, it will be the delated winter gift you forgot you gave to yourself, and the writer in you will be thrilled.
I have zero, none, zip, nadda, no affiliation with this deck or with the creator of this deck, nor with Kickstarter. I am sharing this truly because I feel passionate and excited about what this project is and how it can help writers.
Happy Writing, friends!
Don’t forget! We are still accepting submissions for the Nightmares When I’m Cold writing competition and anthology. You can submit your story here or by clicking the button below. All proceeds from the competition go to supporting the Sentient Squid Scholarship provided by Writing the Other.
Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!
Full transparency: I’m terrified. This is a really scary thing for me to be doing! I actually have recorded and re-recorded my intro episode like ten times. Finally, I decided I would just publish it.
And you know what, I STILL found an editing error!
But that is to be expected. I’m learning new editing software (I’m used to editing sound on video editing software that I no longer have access to, nor am I willing to throw down $800 to gain access to), and to top it all off, I was doing it on my phone. Editing anything on your phone can be tricky, in case you haven’t discovered that.
However, my trailer episode is about an imperfect start, and thus, I think that my imperfect trailer outlines that.
If you want to get ready for the real deal, the full-on podcast, I’ll be launching on a Tuesday, and will keep up the every-Tuesday pattern.
I’m using Anchor as my host, which has gained me access to the following podcast platforms:
I am still currently waiting for Apple to get back to me. I will update this when I find out more.
I am very excited for this, and I hope you are too. Be sure to check out my imperfect trailer and subscribe for more imperfect, informative, and hopefully entertaining episodes of the Natural Writer Podcasts.
Don’t forget, we are still open for submissions for the Nightmares When I’m Cold writing competition/anthology.
Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!
We as writers have a responsibility. The world is evolving, and we, as artists, have a responsibility to help our readers move forward with the world.
The art we engage with shapes our understanding of the world. When we encounter a character, whether it be in a book, on stage, through a poem, or on a screen, we are opening ourselves up to understanding that character, which works as an extension of our understanding of what it means to be human.
Literature, plays, film, art, all help us to discover, relate, and comprehend how we are evolving. The books that make it through history all portray important situational messages, problems, and commentary on the way the world is, and things that need to be addressed. They all point the way for what we need to fix in order to move forward and evolve.
We have seen this time and time again throughout history. Consider Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, commentating on the horrors of colonialism in Africa, or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which outlines the racial injustices in America, or Angels in America by Tony Kushner which revolves around the AIDs epidemic in the ‘80s. Let us not forget Animal Farm or 1984, both by George Orwell who predicted and accurately outlined the way the western world is headed. These are just a few of the classics that come to mind.
While not all of us are trying to write the next great piece that will go down in history, I assume that we want to write accurately. The world, the country, the state, the providence, the town, are not all white, straight, able-bodied individuals. Including a diverse world in your story can not only provide representation for underrepresented individuals, but it can also bring depth to your story.
Thus, we have a responsibility as writers to ensure we are giving an accurate understanding of the human experience in the eclectic and beautifully colorful world that we live in.
This is why it is so important that as we write, we work to ensure we are not causing harm where harm has already been done, and that we accurately portray our characters, systems, and worlds.
Writing the Other
Writing the Other is an organization that provides classes specifically aimed at writers who want to create characters who are different of themselves. For example, a writer who has a character who has ADHD, when the writer does not have ADHD, a character who has a physical disability, or a character of another race, gender, gender identity, etc..
Writing the Other aims at responsible writing, teaching writers how to avoid harmful stereotypes or portrayals of their characters.
Their website has classes, seminars, weekend courses, workshops, as well as free resources to help writers get it right. Their teachers include
K. Tempest Bradford
Piper J. Drake
Keffy R.M. Kehrli
And so many more talented speakers and authors
From their website:
Representation is fundamental to writing great fiction. Creating characters that reflect the diversity of the world we live in is important for all writers and creators of fictional narratives. But writers often find it difficult to represent people whose gender, sexual orientation, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity is very different from their own. This can lead to fear of getting it wrong–horribly, offensively wrong–and, in the face of that, some think it’s better not to try.
The hard truth is this: Representation and Diversity are too important to ignore.
It IS possible to write characters who represent the “Other” sensitively and convincingly. Through our classes, workshops, and seminars and the resources available on this site and elsewhere creators can get a solid foundation in how to craft characters from any background, no matter how different they are from you.
The more we know, the more we can ensure that we are creating good in society through our art. By understanding and recognizing patterns in our view of those around us, we can learn to be better to those very people, and one of those methods is through our writing.
If you are unfamiliar with Writing the Other, I encourage you to check out their website and the work they do. Get involved with their community on Facebook, and have a read through their free available resources.
Recently, I announced the launch of a non-profit short story competition. The organization that all of our profits will go to for this project will be Writing the Other, because both Katrina Carruth and I believe so strongly in what they do, and in creating more educated and responsible writers. Specifically, we will be donating to the Sentient Squid Scholarship. Through this scholarship, writers can take part in Writing the Other teachings to help become responsible writers who contribute to bettering the world through their art.
Even if you are not interested in participating in our Nightmares When I’m Cold short story competition, I hope you’ll consider not only checking out Writing the Other’s workshops and courses, but consider donating to the scholarship to make them more accessible.