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.
I grew up wearing a pentagram, and so I think about the five metaphysical elements that correspond to a lot:
I also think about the tarot a lot. You might not know this about me, but along with being a writer and writing coach, I’m also a professional tarot reader. One style of reading that has deepened my understanding of the cards has been through these elements.
As I grew into my writing practice, I saw the correlation between these same elements that I use in the tarot, and the creative process.
That’s what this week’s episode is about. I want to tell you about how you can #WooYourWriting through the lessons of the tarot, but specifically, though the five elements.
There is a lot of guts that goes into being creative.
At least, at first there.
You have to have the courage to start, and the courage to continue on, even when things get difficult. As a result, as we’re starting out down our creative paths, it can be harder to say yes to the journey ahead, the journey unknown.
I’m here to tell you to say “Yes” to the journey.
In improve, the idea is to not only say “Yes”, but to add “and” to the equation. You might have heard of this “Yes, and” business.
I want to talk about how you, as a writer, can and should use this method.
When we have an idea and we say “Yes” to it, we are opening ourselves up to possibility. I feel like this is very akin to looking for a sign.
Law of Attraction & Saying Yes
This is often something that’s used to teach the Law of Attraction. I’ve come across it in Pam Grout’s book, E2 and have also read about it in Gabriel Bernstein’s book, Super Attractor. Neither of these individuals are the first ones to write about it.
The exorcise is to assign something to be your sign. Bernstein uses a blue butterfly. And so when she asks for a sign that she should do something, she waits to see the blue butterfly. In Grout’s book, she sets you up to train yourself to see signs by telling you to pick an unusually colored car, and see how many you would see in that day (I picked burnt orange and ended up seeing nearly 20 of them).
This could be a sign, and I don’t want to take away the magic if that’s what you’re reading this as. However, it could also be that you’re opening your mind up to noticing that particular thing by saying you’re looking for it. We do this all the time. Ever learn a new word and then you start to notice that word is used everywhere?
I don’t have any scientific backing for this, nor research. However, it seems to me that in saying that we want to see a sign, we’re telling our intuition—that is, the subconscious part of our brains that notices patterns—to make a decision for us. If we’re trying to determine whether or not something is the right course of action for us and ask for a sign, we’re essentially asking our subconscious to bring forward that which it notices if our intuition (or one could even say our Highest Self) thinks that it’s right for us.
If we don’t see the sign, it could be that maybe we don’t want the thing as much as we think we do. Or, it could be that maybe there are a few things that are blocking us (like fear and resistance) we need to work through first, and thus our subconscious is blocking us from noticing our sign.
What does this have to do with writing?
What does looking for signs have to do with writing?
When we tell ourselves that we’re looking for a sign, we’re also telling ourselves that we are open to seeing that sign. We are open to a possibility.
When we say “Yes” to something, we are opening ourselves up to new possibilities. Those possibilities might even have been there in the beginning, but because we weren’t allowing ourselves to be open to them, we weren’t seeing them.
I mentioned earlier that I looked for burnt orange cars. It wasn’t that those cars weren’t about before. It was that until I told myself I was going to look for them, I just didn’t notice them. I wasn’t open to them.
When we say “Yes”, we notice what we didn’t notice before.
Saying Yes to Ideas
As writers, we churn out ideas. We are idea machines. And it’s sometimes hard to know what ideas to say “Yes” to, and which ones we should leave alone.
There are lots of pieces of writing advice out there that say you shouldn’t start on a new idea before you finish with another, or some that say you should. I am not here to tell you what you should do in that regard.
However, what I am here to tell you is to say “Yes” to ideas in general.
Some of us are Pantsers, some of us our Outliners, and some of us are some form of mixture in between. All of these are great and work well for different people. All of us will suffer, at some point, the crossroad where we make a character zig or zag. Or perhaps, should they do neither and zonk instead?
When we come to these moments, it’s hard to decide which direction to take. Why not say “Yes” to all directions?
When I’m at this point, I will open a new document and perhaps journal out what might happen with all the options I’m looking at. I might even take it a step further, and start writing out the scenes.
I find that when I do this, the one that I like will prevail by keeping my fingers going. I won’t find a comfortable stopping spot. I’ll just keep writing.
Creative Opportunity in Adaptability
When you deviate from the original plan, this allows for creative opportunity. It allows you to see what new directions you can take your story, but it also gives you a creative challenge of trying to bring it back to the original outline. That is to say, to work it into the original outline, if there was one to begin with.
This is a lesson in adaptability, which is part of the creative process.
Creativity is, of course, the ability to create. However, there is also adaptability, which is creativity in active play in the real world.
Adaptability allows us to recognize when there is an obstacle and work with it or get around it. More often, it has to do with changing the nature of something in order to work with another thing.
This is essentially the “Yes, and” philosophy in one term. “Yes there is this obstacle, and this is how I’ll incorporate it.”
In life, this skill is essential. And thus, it is essential in your stories as well. It is essential in any planning. We need to be able to see a problem and if we can’t fix it, work with it. The first step is to acknowledge that the problem, block, or whatever is there so you can know how to move around or move with it.
When you say “Yes” to ideas, you’re exploring ways in which to be adaptable. You’re training yourself to see obstacles in a new way, and thus helping yourself to develop this thinking both in your creative life and in the real world.
Saying Yes to Detachment
Part of saying “Yes” to ideas, is saying “Yes” to detachment. After all, if we have a well-structured and planned outline, and as we’re writing, a new idea comes along which will take us from that outline, then we need to be able to have the openness and curiosity to explore that idea. This might divorce us from that initial plan.
Thus, we need to move through our work with a level of detachment.
This isn’t just in our practical writing. This is in everything.
When I first learned what ghostwriting was when I was in high school, I couldn’t understand why someone would want to write something for someone else only to not get any credit from it.
It wasn’t until I found myself in the position of ghostwriting—something I had to say “Yes” to in order to start doing in the first place—that I was able to truly experience detachment. Because I was writing someone else’s outline and someone else’s plot, I wasn’t as attached to the outcome. It was like filling in a coloring book. I might have the artistic liberty of how I filled it in, but essentially, the drawing itself wasn’t mine, and thus, I didn’t mind if I didn’t get the credit for it. I was just filling in the word count.
After writing over 40 books in this way, I learned to apply this detachment in my own writing, at least, when I need to meet a deadline.
I could write out an outline, and then see it as a drawing in a coloring book. I was just filling in the lines. In doing this, I was able to work through my project quickly and efficiently. This helps to get words on the page in a timely manner. I don’t worry about formatting or if it sounds good, I just get it out of my head and onto the computer.
It isn’t until I get to the editing stage, when I need to make everything look prettier and to my liking, that I attach myself again.
Lessons in Detachment
There will be plenty of times when you deviate from your outline, or when you find you have to abandon a character or plot. Essentially, when you have to “kill your darlings.” And that’s just part of the process.
Loving what you create and being attached to what you create are two different things. Though it’s, of course, not to say that they don’t go hand in hand. Loving something is allowing it to grow and evolve without trying to make it fit into the box you want it to be in.
When we can let go of what something “should” be, then we are letting go of the attachment of expectations. I assure you, things get easier, then.
Furthermore, when we practice detachment, we can detach from the outcome of something. When we do that, then we are focused on the moment of creating it, which can eliminate a lot of the pressure we put on ourselves. And when it comes time to submitting our work, it saves a lot of stress and obsessive email refreshing as well.
You also don’t have to commit to a new direction you’ve tried with your work. You can always go back. You can write it in a different file and save it for another project (saying “Yes” to projects is something we’ll get into in just a minute). You can practice detachment with the things you try just as much as you can practice detachment with the outlines you create.
Again, detachment doesn’t mean that you care. It means that you’re willing to give what you’re working on the space it needs in order to grow and find its own way. To help with this lesson, you can consider what the Empress in the Tarot has to teach us.
Detachment allows us to move more fluidly through life and through our creativity. When we don’t obstruct the flow, then we open ourselves up to more possibilities and avenues. The dripping tap of creativity opens to a flow, which then begins to erode the dam. Let the water flow.
Saying Yes to Intuition
As mentioned in the Possibilities section, your intuition is the part of you that notices patterns. This is a part of you that, in my mind, connects your subconscious to your conscious. It’s like the speaker between the two. When we say “Yes” to intuition, we’re saying that we trust what we’ve subtly picked up.
When we have an idea, or a nudge to take a story in a different direction, there are two things at play:
Your creative mind just having fun
Your intuition is telling you that there is an inherent need in your story.
An Inherent Need
Many writers study story structure so they can bring what they already know works to the forefront of their conscious.
I know, that’s a big claim. But I’m not stating anything new here. This is essentially what Joseph Campbell pointed out in his vast explanation of global stories: there is a structure that generally works and is adhered to, found during many different ages and all over the world. This is the Hero’s Journey (this of course isn’t the only story structure. Listen to my podcast episode about The Heroine’s Journeyhere).
There is something that we recognize makes a good story. When a plot doesn’t hit certain marks, the consumer is left with uncertainty and dissatisfaction. For example, the Deus ex Machina ending will almost always leave an audience unhappy. This is because story structure needs to set up the ending in the beginning. It needs to come full circle, or complete a character arch.
Unless we study story structure, we might not know this specifically. However, when we see it, we know that it just doesn’t work.
Gail Carriger goes into this a little bit in her book, The Heroine’s Journey, when she talks about combining a hero’s arch with the Heroine’s Journey, or vise versa.
When your intuition is guiding you in a different direction, it might be that the plot that’s outlined doesn’t quite hit the story structure mark, and your subconscious is letting you know what’s up.
Practicing listening to and trusting your intuition will help with this.
When we’re saying “Yes”, there are different aspects of ourselves that we are saying “Yes” to: our minds, our creativity, the world around us, the expansive possibilities of the universe. Sometimes saying “Yes” can be difficult.
But there is a little bit of a hack that I’ve learned: each of these areas corresponds to a different element that corresponds to the Tarot: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit.
As a result, I’ve developed a course that will help you to tap into those elements to enhance and support your creativity and creative projects.
In each lesson you’ll learn
Trust and Surrender with Spirit
Igniting your passion and opening to possibilities with Fire
Generating and capturing ideas with Air
Connecting to your intuition and creativity with Water
And moving creativity through your body and grounding creativity with Earth
All of these lessons have been specially designed for your own self-study and with a woo-spin. It’s my goal to help you develop the tools you’ll need for any of your creative endeavors through connecting you with your own spirituality.
All of the lessons come with:
A video talking you through each of the elements and how they connect to your creativity
A workbook containing
Over a dozen journal prompts
A segment on the corresponding Tarot cards and the lessons they teach
Book recommendations for continued exploration and learning
A spell, meditation, or ritual to help you connect your creativity and that element
The Elemental Writer Course is designed to take place over the span of five weeks, allowing a week for each lesson. However, you can work through it at your own pace.
The goal of this course is to open you to possibilities and ideas, help you develop a love for your art with out blocking yourself with attachment, and to help you develop your intuition to guide you through your creative journey.
This course will be live January 1st at full price. However, early bird pricing will exist beforehand! Fill out the form below to keep up to date and be alerted when the course is open this 29% discount!
In the meantime, what have you said “Yes” to this year? What do you plan on saying “Yes” to in 2022?
It's been a minute since I've released an episode, and this episode is more than a new release: I've got something pretty special to announce.
I talk about Nightmares When I'm Cold, as well as what the self-publishing process has been like for me.
pre-order Nightmares When I'm Cold here:
A. A. Medina | Fabled Beast Design
Twitter: @UglyByProxy | @BeastFabled
Katrina Carruth: Editor, Beta reader, and writer:
Stephanie Eerkes-Keylock: artist
I have to apologize–in the episode, I misspelled her last name. There is a -k at the end of Keylock.
The Surgical Deviant: model and tarot deck creator
I mentioned in the episode that they're creating a Silent Hill Tarot deck. Be sure to follow them on Instagram and Twitch for updates!
Writing the Other
Sentient Squid Scholarship
Want to get in touch about coaching? Have a question? Just want to say hi? Email me at email@example.com
It arrived in my hands this morning and I nearly cried—I was so overjoyed with the way this turned out.
The cover is just beautiful. The image that Jordan Langen created from her photoshoot with our model, the Surgical Deviant, came out beautifully on front and back in a matte finish.
Inside are four horror stories from KM Kasiner, Hana Jabr, Breanna Teramoto, and Rachel L. Carlyle to bring various horrifying perspectives and takes to the writing prompt, “Nightmares when I’m cold.”
Each of the stories has a pen and ink illustration by Stephanie Eerkes-Keylock, an introduction, and a piece from the author about their story and where the idea came from. I love this last part because it allows the reader to understand and see how the writer’s mind works and where they gained their inspiration. For writers, I feel this is infinitely interesting.
We used Adrian Medina of Fabled Beast Design for our formatting, and I would highly recommend their services to anyone. While the writers tantalize the imagination, Adrien laid out a feast for the eyes. Honestly, I am so grateful for their services.
A chilling collection of stories that prove nightmares dwell far beyond the realm 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.
Each story is not only rich in its own right, but is framed with an introduction from the editors, the author’s insight to their works, as well as a beautiful pen and ink plate by Stephanie Eerkes-Keylock. Nightmares When I’m Cold showcases the whole context of each story and its creation, bringing forward a full experience.
Both the ebook and the paperback are available through Amazon. You can click the button below to get your copy!
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!
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