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Writing Through the Moon in October

The moon holds some amazing power over people. Horror stories revolve around it, and the cool blue-white glow of its light can be equally haunting as it is magical. So magical, in fact, that it’s worth of being a writing tool.

The Significance of the Moon

The moon is commonly associated with water, which is easy to see once you think about it. The moon influences the pull of the oceans which results in our tides. It’s said that crime rates go up during a full moon, because it has such an effect on people (remember, a large part of us is made up of water). People plan to travel or launch a business based on the moon. People plant and harvest their gardens according to the moon.

Esoterically, the moon corresponds to water because of it’s shadowiness, which relates to the subconscious or psychic abilities/intuition.

In my post, Writing Through the Elements, I talk about how in the Tarot, water represents the emotion, intuition, the subconscious, and creativity. With the moon relating to water, it’s easy to see that the moon relates to creativity as well.

October 2020

Tomorrow is October 1, which is not only my favorite month given that the best holiday of the year happens during this time, but this year contains a blue moon. A blue moon is when a full moon occurs twice within a month. That second full moon this year? Yeah, you guessed it, it’s on Halloween!

In light of the double full moon, I thought I would make this month about writing with the phases of the moon.

Again, water corresponds to the moon, and water represents creativity. Why not create with the ebb and flow of our biggest satellite?

Water

To connect with the moon, I feel as though we should connect with water, and see how it connects to our creativity.

Consider what water is (aside from H20):

  • Essential for life on earth
  • It can be calm and nourishing
  • It can be violent and destructive
  • The ocean is what connects the world
  • The depths of the ocean are a mystery
  • The shallows of the ocean are pleasant and what we’re used to seeing
  • Water cools us
  • Water warms us (at least, when I’m cold, the only thing that will warm me up is warm water)
  • It can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas
  • It is clear yet blue at the same time
  • A repetitive drop of water can be enough to wear away rock

Just to name a few things and get you started on what water is. What water means to us as individuals might be different. Are you afraid of water? Do you love it? Do you have to be bribed to drink a glass of water?

The ocean holds more secrets at this point than space does. Reaching into its depths teaches us new things about our world.

Reaching inward, much like reaching down into the ocean, helps us to bring to light things we didn’t know about ourselves. It’s an attempt at examining ourselves. It is here that the subconscious lives, and I believe, where creativity reaches from.

Unconscious, Intuition, Creativity

In the Tarot, the element of water, represented by the suit of cups, represents the subconscious, creativity, emotion and intuition. Thus, as a result, because the moon rules water, the moon corresponds to these elements as well.

The moon itself is a strange shadowy thing: sometimes we see it, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we see all of it, sometimes we see some of it. Sometimes the light from the moon is so bright, that you don’t need your headlights on to drive (but seriously, keep them on), and sometimes it casts a strange light that seems as though things are appearing twisted and distorted.

That’s often the way we can view the aspects of ourselves that water rules. Likewise, water itself twists and distorts things when you view them from above. For example, you can put your finger in water and it will look as though it has bent when it actually hasn’t.

Creativity, which is what we will mostly be focusing on, is the same way. We catch it from the corner of our eye and try to harness it and twist it to our wills so we can produce something. The moon, with its many phases, can influence our creative process and productivity.

This week is working on how to use it.

The Moon & Writing.

We will all have our natural rhythms. However, it’s likely that these spiralic rhythms fall in line with that of the moon or of the seasons, in some way, the same way that menstruating womxn’s bodies fall into a 28-day cycle. The moon, too, has a 28-days cycle, which is why it’s often associated with womxn.

It is said that it has passive energy. While writing can be a stressful act, it’s also somewhat of a passive act, as creativity often is. So we view the phases of the moon, we have to think of what is growing, and what is fading.

As the moon goes from new to full, the energy of the moon is increasing. This means increasing creativity, energy, pull, etc.. Conversely, when the moon is waning and going from full to moon, that energy is dispersing.

Thus, when we’re writing by the moon, we can think of it in terms of how an idea or project grows.

During the first part of the moon cycle, when going from new to full, something is growing. Thus, this is an excellent time to:

  • Develop a story idea through planning
  • Begin writing a story
  • Begin marketing/gaining a social media following

As the moon fades from full moon to new moon, it’s a great time to:

  • Rest
  • Revisit your outline
  • Go back over what you’ve already written
  • Edit

As the creative energy is drawn out of you by the growing of the moon, you can harness that energy and apply it to your story. As the energy fades, it’s good to switch gears to a more analytical aspect, or into full on rest before you start the cycle over again.

For those of you who are fast writers, this is a great way to write and edit, allowing yourself the first two weeks of the cycle to get out your draft of your book, and the second two weeks to edit, and repeat.

The Rest of October

The 1st and 31st of October are full moons. For the first full moon, I am releasing this post. Each week will be a different moon phase that I’ll write on:

  • October 1st – full moon
  • October 8th – last quarter moon
  • October 17th – new moon
  • October 24th – first quarter moon
  • October 31st – full moon

Waning Gibbous Moon

After the full moon, the moon is known as waning gibbous. This is the section of time leading to the last quarter of the moon cycle. Contrary to popular belief, the full moon is actually the middle of the cycle, and thus we are headed toward a new beginning.

Since we’re starting this toward the end, here are some things  you can do to get yourself ready for your beginning on the 17th:

1.
Make a list of habits that are holding your writing back

These could be procrastination, self-doubts, saying yes to everything but your writing, etc. Spend some time making a plan to get rid of these habits. How can you change your attitude toward your writing? How can you make sure it comes first?

This isn’t just limited to writing habits. It could be how you handle constructive criticism. It could be how you view certain genres or publishing ventures.

Take the time and really look into any ways of thinking, attitudes, or habits, and see what you can do to alter them toward something more productive.

2.
Kill Your Darlings

Between the full moon and the new moon is an excellent time to revise what you’ve written. You can use this time to shed any parts of your book that are unneeded. Be completely ruthless with this.

Remember, if you don’t want to get rid of your characters/purple prose/superb scene that unfortunately doesn’t contribute anything to the story/etc. entirely, you can always make a separate document and copy and paste them there. You never know when they might come in handy for something else.

3.
Play

Spend some time writing some flash fiction or poems around your story. Have fun with it. This will help you get in touch with your story and your characters in a different way, and it can also be a great way to gather marketing fodder. You can send this out to your mailing list, your Patreon supporters, or put it up on your website.

Wither way, this is a time to acknowledge that you’ve done the work, and to enjoy it. What better way of enjoying it than writing your own fan fic for your world?

4.
Express Gratitude

I know, this one sounds a little weird, but hear me out.

When you write, there are plenty of things to be grateful for. And when you’re grateful, it helps you to appreciate your writing even more. For example, if you’re grateful for the time you have to write, then you’ll honor that time and be more likely to stick to it.

Here’s what my gratitude list looks like:

  • I’m grateful I have a mode of creative expression
  • I’m grateful I can support myself through writing
  • I’m grateful for the understanding that looking through my characters’ eyes bring me
  • I’m grateful I have time to write every day
  • I’m grateful my partner supports my creative pursuits
  • ect.

What are you grateful for regarding your creative practice?

These are just a few ways you can use this time of the cycle in your writing practice. I challenge you to spend a month working with the moon phases to see how it affects your work and let me know how it goes at the end of October.

Homework

There are two parts to this week’s homework. The first part is to journal on the following questions. Spend some time, giving yourself at least five minutes for each question. This allows you to really explore yourself and your thoughts on each prompt.

  1. What is your relationship to water?
  2. How do you respond to your own emotions?
  3. How do you respond to other people’s emotions?
  4. What habits are holding your writing back?
  5. What attitudes might be holding you back?

The second part of your homework is to spend some time creating a gratitude list. This is good to do, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with your writing. It can help you see the beauty already existing in your life and inspire you to create more.

Once you have your gratitude list, ask yourself what your ideal writing life would be like, and write it out, looking at a day in the life of Author You, writing it out from the time your successful writer self wakes up until you go to bed.

Before going to bed, your future you writes out their gratitude list. What’s on it? Write the list as if from your future you’s perspective.

Journal on the experience of this exercise, paying attention on what you learned about yourself as a writer, and what it means to be successful as a writer.

I’ll catch up with you next week when we move on to the last and third quarter moon.

Happy writing!

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Free NaNoWriMo Prep Course!

Not only is it Autumn—who did that, by the way?—but it’s also nearly November. I know, I know, we still have October to go, but October is just a blip in the radar when you consider what comes afterward:

NaNoWriMo

I know, a lot of writers write about now start to freak out. But that’s OK. Because I actually have a solution for you.

First, for those of you who have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about…

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, put on every year. It says National, but at this point, people from all over the world are participating in it.

Every November, writers shut themselves off from the world so they can pump out at least 50,000 words in 30 days, the generally accepted minimum length of a novel.

Fun fact: 50,000 words in 30 days is 1667 words a day.

But don’t panic—this is why I’m here.

NaNoWriMo Prep Course

If you sign up for my newsletter, right there that bar up at the top, then you will Get full access to my FREE Email NaNoWriMo Prep Course.

What does that mean? It means that each Monday, starting on September 28, you’ll get an email in your inbox (because, where else to emails go?) with tips and methods to prepare yourself for National Novel Writing Month. This is 5 whole weeks of lessons to start to train you so you can be ready to kick off NaNoWriMo.

The Lessons:

  • September 28: Output
    Many writers struggle when it comes to knowing how much and how fast to write. When I first started NaNo about 11 or 12 years ago, I thought I needed to write as much as possible every day. You could do that, or you could follow my tricks outlined on the 28th.
  • October 5: Character Development
    Even if you’re a Pantser, knowing your characters ahead of time can help you out. This doesn’t mean you need to know every bit about them, but just start to mull over some characters during this time, ready to throw into your story if you find yourself flailing (but you won’t flail: you’ve got this!)
  • October 12: Plot Prep
    I know, so many of you are Pantsers—and that’s totally cool. The only time I fly blind is when I go into NaNo. However, I’ve found that there are ways to get to know your world or your plot without actually planning your plot. And I’ll share those methods with you in week 3.
  • October 19: Writing Blocks
    We all have them at some point or another. This week is about talking what blocks us and how to work through them, and how to inspire us when we feel stuck.
  • October 26: Mindset
    This is one of the most important things for anyone going into writing, or anything they care about. Having the right mind set is going to be the thing that takes us to the finish line of any project or goal. This final week of the NaNoWriMo Prep Course is going give you some time to keep yourself in the right frame of mind.

Again, all you have to do is sign up using the box above, the box below, or if you want to go the fancy way, you can head on over to this link here.

Make sure you’re prepared to write your novel in 30 days at the start of November.

Remember, there are no retroactive lessons. That means that if you miss the first and second lesson because you signed up too late, you’ll get lessons 3, 4, and 5, but not lesson 1 and 2.

To make sure you get the whole course, sign up before September 28, 2020.!

I look forward to being in your inbox!

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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!

Where Writing Starts

“Novels begin, not on the page, but in meditation and day-dreaming—in thinking, not in writing.”

~ Joyce Carol Oates

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about how we are all writers, even when we think we’re not. Even when we don’t have the desire to write, we are constantly writing our destiny and our lives with every text we send, every plan we make, and every mark we leave on the world.

This is our unconscious writing.

Writing without an Idea

For those who are pantsers, or who mingle in the pantsing world, we hope that our unconscious mind will begin to flow when we sit down to write. We hope to bring our unconscious writing into the conscious mind so we can construct vast worlds, beautiful language, and important truths.

I once played that game with NaNoWriMo one year—It was the worst NaNo start I had ever had. My boyfriend at the time and I broke up, and I found out my grandmother was dying, and I drove 4 hours with dodgy SatNav to be there (at this point, I had only just moved back to the UK, where my mom’s half of the family lives), and then I found myself stranded in Warwick for a few days. Oh yeah, and then the U.S. presidential election results came in. It was a rough week, to say the least, and I struggled to get the words out. I closed my eyes and began typing, hoping it made sense.

Image from VisitWarwick.co.uk

Being in Warwick was surreal. I had never been in a place that still had buildings from the 15th century before. And its oddness kept my mind off everything, and my mind revolved around the story I was working on, set in a futuristic city modeled after Warwick. I took notes, I went back to my hotel and stared at the ceiling, I explored the history—anything to forget the hurt.

While I had no idea where my story was going, I meditated on it. I thought about it. I constructed my characters. I developed motivations. I was writing without even writing. I thought about writing, even though the words weren’t necessarily flowing onto the page.

Before we even put our fingertips to the keyboard, we have to have an idea of what we were going to say. The idea formulates before we even formulate the first sentence.

Writing with Air

When I talk about writing through the elements in a blog post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the element of air. The element of air is the conception of an idea. We take this idea, we find intrigue with it, and we mull it over in our minds. We watched leaves in the trees below, we watch people walking down the streets, we watch a spider weave its web, while we contemplate, stretch and mold our idea.

And when we feel like we have a good grasp of this idea then we find our way to communicate it, whether that’s telling someone else about our idea, making notes about the idea, or even beginning our story. This is all pure air energy.

When we carve out the space to think about our idea, we are practicing a form of meditation. This is a form of mindfulness, in which we focus on one thing, and that one thing is our idea.

As writers, we are always writing. We are always working on our craft, whether we’re aware of it or not. To make writing a conscious part of our lives, we need to bring that subconscious writing into the forefront and actively consider our writing.

We need to write all the time. We need to invoke air.

How do you use air energy?

Your Homework

Your homework is to keep a notepad with you and try to write down when you catch yourself thinking about writing. Notice how often you do it, and just record it for a week.

After the week, reflect on what you recorded. Do you feel like you should be thinking about writing more? Less? Do you feel that you’re doing alright?

Share your result!

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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!

Running out of Ideas

“Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while Working.”

Henri Matisse

When we start out writing, and we know that we are writers, we sometimes have the worry that there just aren’t enough ideas out there, or that, you don’t have access to the ideas that are swimming around in the ether.

I hear you. I’ve had that same fear. In fact, every time I’ve started a blog, I’ve had that fear. I’m here to tell you, the more you work on that which you are passionate about, the more inspired you become.

Blogging

I’ve had plenty of blogs—from the early days of Livejournal and OpenDiary (before the term “blog” was around), to personal blogs, to travel blogs, tarot blogs, foraging and sustainability blogs, to spiritual blogs…I could go on. And with every single of one of them, I worried that I wouldn’t have enough to say.

But as soon as I started writing, trying to brainstorm my first ten posts, more ideas would come to me.

When I started my Tarot blog, I had no idea what I wanted to say about the Tarot other than defining the cards—as if there weren’t already a thousand websites out there already doing the same. But as I began to write, I started to gain ideas.  I realized that I was putting so much into my posts that they could be divided up. When I divided them up, I found I had enough to say to further divide the posts up, and so on.

It got to the point where I was writing three posts a day—I don’t recommend that, by the way. It’s exhausting. But the point is, when I started to do the work, I gathered more and more ideas.

While my Tarot blog is somewhat neglected these days, I still have much more to say. So much so that I’ve been in the process of creating a tarot podcast with a friend of mine.

Like me, she has struggled to level with the idea that we would have enough to talk about, as neither of us wanted to go into the definitions of the cards, specifically. So, we committed to eight episodes. We decided we would make eight episodes, and if we still had ideas after that, then we would go for another eight, and so on.

As it stands, each season is about eight episodes, or will be, once they’re released, and we have enough content planned for at least three seasons. And the ideas keep on flowing.

Creative Flow

I know, that’s all well and good if you have a topic you know about, but what about for creative writing?

I have a little personal story for that, as well.

Years ago, my story was rejected from an online competition because I didn’t have an author website or any followers on my social media. At the time, the only social media I used was Facebook, and that was just to keep in touch with people. I didn’t know I needed them.

I was told by the editors that they liked my story, but a website and social media presence was essential to be published on their website.

I was annoyed to say the least, but I promised myself that would not be the reason why I didn’t get published again.

So, I invested in an author website. I had no idea what to put on there. I didn’t have anything published yet other than an article in the local newspaper, once. I didn’t want to write about writing because I worried that I wouldn’t have enough to say and the website was about showcasing my creative writing, not my non-fiction.

In the end, I decided that I would write book reviews to get readers to my website and publish flash fiction pieces. I promised myself one of each, every week.

As soon as I announced this commitment on my website, the fear took hold of me. I had no idea what I was going to write about, or even if I could write flash fiction. I’d never done it before. I’ve always been a long-form writer.

I used my Tarot cards for writing prompts, and somehow generated the first few stories. Once I got used to producing a 1200-word story every week, the ideas started to flow. I began to find inspiration everywhere. I watched an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode where Dee loses her cat in the wall, and from there I developed a horror serial that landed me a columnist position at Carpe Nocturne Magazine. I saw a jogger every day on the way out into Snowdonia, and wrote a horror serial called, The Walker.

That summer, I wrote dozens of flash fiction pieces, some that found homes in publications, and some that were drawn out into novels, or novellas. Many were thrown away, or just left up on my website (the website is no longer up, sorry!), or live in a drawer for inspiration later.

Either way, the more I wrote, and forced myself to write, the more ideas I came up with.

When you turn on the faucet, your words will flow. Your energy flows where your intention goes.

Your Homework

Challenge yourself to write one flash fiction piece a week for the next 12 weeks. It doesn’t matter if they’re any good. It doesn’t matter if you’ll show them to anyone, only that you write them.

Depending on who you ask, a flash fiction piece can be as little as 300 words, or as many as 1500 words. I’m the kind of person who laughs at word-count maximums and overshoots, so I tried to keep my flash fiction pieces around 1000 words. But do whatever speaks to you.

Keep an idea notebook with you so you can write down anything that can be used as a flash fiction base. You’ll be surprised how quickly you fill that notebook up.

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Writing Through the Elements

While I’ve already talked a little bit about Tarot in writing, I thought I would look at another esoteric approach to the creative topic: writing through the Elements.

As you may already know, I’m very interested in the tarot. So much so that I have a whole tarot blog, sell professional tarot readings, and incorporate tarot in my writing. This post, however, is not about this. What it is about are the suits in tarot, or, more accurately, their elements.

When I talk about elements, I’m specifically referring to the four western elements: air, fire, water, earth (and if the order of those elements hurt your eyeballs (because it would hurt mine), don’t worry, I have them ordered like this for a reason).

Each of these Elements correspond to a different Tarot suit, and it was actually through the Tarot that I gained the most understanding of the Elements. Since I write using the Tarot, I write using the Elements, and I have some insight that I would like to pass along to you.

Let me give you a little introduction to each of the Four Elements.

Air:
Concept, Communication, Thinking, Education, Law

The element of Air in the Tarot is the Swords, and is likely the most important steppingstone for the writer. Air represents thoughts and communication.

Consider how Air is our outward breath on which our words are carried. Consider how ideas and inspiration are fleeting, as if being carried away or being dissolved by the wind.

When we’re in our plotting and planning mode, when we’re thinking about character development, when we’re editing and revising, that is when Air is at play. Air is the logic that gets us started. It’s the idea that germinates within us, which we then communicate through our writing.

In the Lenormond (which isn’t the tarot, but an oracle deck designed in the 18th century by Madam Lenormond), the card, Birds, represents community and gossip. Birds twitter (Tweet) to one another, letting each other know that they’re there, and thus they can represent people speaking. Likewise, birds also have hollow bone and (most) travel through the air.

Every time you sit down to write, you are bringing forth the element of Air. You are thinking and you are communicating.

However, the thing about Air is that it is all logic and the expression of it. For this reason, it also corresponds to education and the law, as both are meant to be non-biased, but simply facts in front of you. Because air is simply facts in front of you, you need to look to the other elements.

Fire:
Creation (Process), Passion, Drive, Will

Fire, which I personally love, represents activity, creation, and passion. This is essential when you’re writing. That passion is what will bring forth that idea. It’s the drive behind you. It is the burning in your belly that demands action from you lest the fire consume you alive.

It’s what makes us write.

In the Tarot, Fire is represented by the suit of Wands. Wands are that magical tool that zaps magic and makes things happen at will. Fire represents the Will and the action to bring forth that Will.

Consider all the analogies we have with this element:

  • The spark of inspiration
  • Fanning the flame
  • Burning desire
  • Heat of passion

All of these apply to our art.

Without Fire, we have an idea, but we don’t have the energy to pull through that idea. Fire is our inspiration, the thing that gets us excited. It can be the thing that gets you to starting your idea, and is the flame that needs to be fanned in order to get the idea into fruition.

Water:
Creativity, Emotion, Intuition, Subconscious

The element of Water is a big on, in my mind. There are some elements that mingle with Air, depending on who you talk to, but here are my associations: emotion, creativity, intuition, and the subconscious. In the Tarot, Cups represents Water, for they hold liquid, they are the container of that creativity. With a container, we can see how much or how little Water we have.

There is a lot to unpack there.

When we think of Water, it is the lifeforce that it in all of it. We need it to survive. And thus, we need our art. Art is our form of expression, whatever medium we choose—whether it’s dance, painting, sculpting, speaking, writing, singing—it’s how we communicate who we are and how we feel. When our forms of expression are stifled, then we have problems.

Consider the concept of Toxic Masculinity, or the idea of what a man “should” be. One of the biggest tropes of this is that men don’t cry. This erodes a person when they can’t fully express themselves. The emotion is there, the expression is there, and it has to come out. The result can be very unhealthy actions such as self-harm, addiction, or outward verbal or even physical abuse. Anger and bitterness can be the result.

We all have the element of Water in us, literally and metaphorically. We are made up of Water in our cells and tissues, and we need it to survive. If we want to stay healthy, then we need to work with Water.

There is a lot I want to say regarding Water and creativity, but I’ll leave it for another post. For now, consider how you interact with water. Consider the affects of the moon on people—the idea that people “get weird” on a full moon may have to do with it’s pull on Water and the Water within us.

Consider the many variations of Water, how malleable it is, how it can be a gas, a liquid, or a solid. Consider the difference between a puddle and the deepest parts of the ocean. Consider a placid lake, or fifty-foot swells. Consider the corrosive power of a repetitive drop of water, and the carving power of the water that shaped the Grand Canyon.

While you’re in your flow, in your creative element, you mold and shape worlds, people, and situations. You take the idea and passion you have, and you apply creativity and emotion. Water is life, and that is what you bring to your writing when you apply emotion to your idea and passion.

Earth:
Creation, Manifestation, Health, Money, Physical World

Earlier I mentioned that there would be some people who wouldn’t like the arrangement of the list I gave: Air, Fire, Water, Earth. If you’re anything like me, Earth comes first. However, when we’re talking about the creative process, Earth comes last.

The element of Earth represents physical matters. In the Tarot, it represents everything that we need for our physical survival in the everyday (mundane) world: food, health, shelter, money. When it comes to creativity, Earth is the fruit that is born of the combination of the rest of the elements. It is the idea you had in the beginning made manifest in the shared world we all live in. When you are working with Earth, then you have something you can show those around you. It’s your completed manuscript draft, it’s the sketch of your painting, it’s the notation of a song. It’s the product you created.

It’s that simple.

In the Tarot, Earth is represented by the suit of Coins, or Pentacles. The Pentacles are represented by a upright, five-pointed star in a circle. Each point represents a different element while the fifth point represents Spirit, or our individuality. The circle of the Pentacle represents how they’re all connected. This is essential to understanding the Earth element.

When Pentacles are present, they are saying that Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit have all come together to work in the physical world. Only when these things come together can something be created and exist in the shared reality.

Consider getting a Psychology degree, for example. You go to school to learn about Psychology (Air is education), you work diligently through the requirements (Fire is drive), you believe in what you are learning (Water), and you develop your own personal take on what you’re learning (Spirit is individuality). When you get to the point where you are putting all of these things to practice in your career, then you’re bringing those elements into the shared world, which is Earth. However, if any one of these things is left out, you won’t find success in your profession.

Earth marks the end of the cycle. But all ends are just beginnings, as I’ll explain when I talk about how Earth and Air interact.

The Progression of the Elements

There is a natural progression through the elements, in case you hadn’t caught on. I wanted to spend a little bit of time talking about how they work together, flowing from one into the other to create the cycle. This is also where I want to talk about balance. With everything, there is a balance that must be achieved in order for it to work. Just like when you start a marathon, you know you need to keep your breathing just right so you don’t make yourself dizzy or deprive yourself of air; you need to keep your pace steady so you conserve your energy for the long-haul; you don’t drink too much water so you don’t cramp or make yourself sick, but you drink enough that you muscles are nourished; and so on. Everything must be in balance.

Air & Fire Infusion

When we have an idea, we need inspiration to get it started. The word Inspiration to me is carried on the breath, but backed by fire. It’s like a hot air balloon—it’s air that carries us up, but it’s fire that gets that air moving and gives us lift-off.

When we think about the nature of Fire, and what it needs, we begin to understand how it can effectively work with Air.

Fire starts as a spark. We blow gently on it (applying Air) to turn it into a flame. With controlled air, we feed the flame until it’s burning steadily. If we apply the right amount of air, we can turn it into a raging torrent. If we apply too much too soon, we extinguish the flame.

Fire consumes Air. Have you ever been inspired but had no idea what to do with that inspiration? You know you want to write, or paint, or create, but you’re fresh out of ideas? That creativity dwindles into nothingness, because it has no ideas to feed on.

This is why it is so important to keep an idea journal. When you have any idea at all, whether you like it or you don’t, write it down. Make sure that when those creative surges come, you have plenty of Air to feed that Fire.

This is how you create a balance between Air and Fire.

Fire & Water in Harmony

You might have noticed that fire and water both have variations of the word “create” in them. I want to point out the distinction. Fire has to do with creation in the sense of the creative process. It is an active word energy, and specifically talks about the process of bringing something to fruition. Water has to do with creativity. It’s like the bead of magic that swirls through you and your work, surprising you as you go.

In the Tarot, Fire and Water are brought together in the 14th Major Arcana, Temperance. She is seen as mixing two things together that seemingly shouldn’t be mixed, yet bringing harmony as a result. She does it with such patience and mindfulness, that it brings something beautiful and harmonious into the world. In the Thoth Tarot, this card isn’t called Temperance. It’s called Art. The two mysterious opposites being brought together are Fire and Water. When you have a spark of creativity, you have Fire and Water. When you have passion you have emotion. When you have drive, you’re working from a place of your intuition and subconscious, both of the latter are Water, which we didn’t go too much into in this post.  

In the natural world, Fire and Water interact in interesting ways. When you apply heat to water, the molecules shake up and the water begins to boil. Apply more heat and you have steam, which is what you want when it comes to your writing (the perfect mix of Air, Water, and Fire). But if you apply too much, then there is no more water because it all evaporates.

If you have too much Water and apply it to the Fire, then you’re dousing the Fire. You lose your passion. It seems backwards, doesn’t it? Too much creativity (Water) hindering creation (Fire).

I once tried to write a 500-word piece of flash fiction where every non-article and non-preposition started with the same letter. My goal was to write 26 of these, one for each letter of the alphabet. I had to get creative with it, so much so that I burnt myself out doing it. I couldn’t complete the project. I didn’t even get through the first piece. My creativity suffocated my creation. Too much Water on the Fire killed it.

You want to remember to use your Fire to keep your Water at a nice simmer, and remember to take the time to replenish your Water as you go along so it doesn’t dry up. And you want to make sure you aren’t suffocating your flames with too much creativity.

Water & Earth Shaping

Water is the what shapes the physical. Likewise, the physical shapes water. What happens in the real world changes how we feel about things and how we view the world. For example, if you and tend to your garden, it will grow and produce fruit. If you love it too much, you might not even want to make a cut of it, leaving trees unpruned, beds unthinned, or even fruit unpicked, because you simply want it to be.

Our love for something can nurture growth, just like it can erode it. This is especially true when it comes to our creativity.

When we have our creation, or a draft of it (Earth), we need to nurture (Water) it into maturation. This is looking at it and understanding that some parts will have to be trimmed back, that you might have to redirect the growth, or even remove parts altogether. This is the balance. It is knowing when to “kill your darlings.”

However, when we have too much love for what we’ve created, we might not be able to see where it is that needs to be altered.

In the Tarot, I always see the Queen of Cups as the ultimate card to represent Water. She is seen as caring and nurturing, in touch with her emotions, and a very mothering figure. The reversal of her is “smother love.” Pouring too much Water on a garden will drown it.

Water is powerful and can be eroding. When we put too much heart into something, then it can erode the outcome. Consider how water carved the Grand Canyon.

Likewise, the drive to manifest a draft of a finished product might tempt you to bypass your creativity and emotions. You might just want to get the thing done. Thus, Earth can serve as a block. You might have a finished product, but it will fall flat.

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.

Robert Frost

When Earth and Water collide, they have the opportunity to work in harmony with one another. Allow Earth to guide your Water, and allow the presence of Water in your Earth.

Earth & Air Seaming

As I mentioned before, Earth marks the end of the cycle. But it doesn’t mean that you’re done. I also mentioned, when I talked about Air, that it represents the first idea and outlining (both of which are the beginning of the writing process) and editing. Air is also the beginning and the end.

What does this mean?

When you have a tangible product in your hands, it might just be a first draft. Then, you start the process over again, this time with editing in mind, until you have your next draft, and so on until you have your physical product.

Earth can sometimes be immovable. Consider a wall that breaks the wind. This can sometimes be the barrier we face when we’ve finished a draft and aren’t willing to begin the editing process. I know plenty of people who get stuck in editing because they just don’t want to do it.

Adjusting your mindset so that you see your draft as something that’s malleable and workable will help make the shift from Earth back to Air. Consider saplings that bow in the wind. They’re Earth, and they’re in their early stages of life. With each pass of the year, they get stronger, and bow less in the wind because they’re stronger and more solid. Your first draft should allow easy editing—by that, I mean there should be ample material to edit. But with each pass of the creative cycle, your MS gets more and more solid, until there are only leaves reacting to the wind, just tweaks here and there that aren’t necessary to make.

The key is knowing when to stop editing.

I had a teacher who once told us that there was no such thing as a final draft. We, as writers and artists, will always find something we want to change. The final harmony between Air and Earth is having the wisdom to know when to stop the cycle on a particular piece, to know when it is completed.

Your Homework

The instructions for this homework assignment are basic, though be prepared, the work itself is not.

  1. What is an idea for a piece that you’ve had but haven’t acted on? If you don’t have one, spend some time coming up with an idea.
  2. Work through the elements to see how you can use them to move you through your first draft.

Here is a recap of the elemental associations for you:

  • Air – ideas, concepts, education, outlining, editing, communication
  • Fire – passion, creation, drive
  • Water – emotion, creativity, intuition, subconscious
  • Earth – manifesting, completion, health, solidifying, that which is physical
  • Bonus: Spirit – you
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September Natural Writer Journaling Prompts

After an impossibly long 9 months of 2020, September is finally here. And with September comes #NaturalWriterJournaling prompts.

As promised in my introduction post, I have 30 single-word journaling prompts for you, one for each day of the month. I want to challenge you each day to crack into a word, and look at it from every perspective. As a result, I have the following questions/prompts to spark your thinking with each of the daily words:

  1. Define the word in your own terms
  2. Generate as many synonyms as possible surrounding this word.
    Feel free to expand your definition based on the words you generate.
  3. How is this word used culturally vs. socially?
    For example, the word “man” literally means an individual identifying as a grown male. However, culturally we use the term “man” to mean “mankind/evolved humans.” Socially we might mean it be “the man” as in those in control of the system, or “man” as a casual generic term of direction at the start of a sentence, usually to make a point of notation. For example, “Man, the band last night was amazing!” Similarly used as “dude,” “oh boy,” “Oh my god,” etc.
  4. What are the historical uses of the word?
    There are so many examples of words changing definition over time—most recently, the word “literally” which now is also known to mean “figuratively” (ironically).
  5. How do you feel about this word/how does this word influence you?
    That is, what emotions or memories does this word bring up for you?
  6. How can it be used spiritually and/or metaphorically?
    I say “spiritually” to mean that which applies to the non-physical and outside general daily conceptual use.
  7. What are the creative different ways this word can be used?
  8. If you feel inspired, use this word as a creative writing prompt.

Have fun with these words and get creative! We are wordsmiths! Words and their definitions are what we use to build worlds, break hearts, and restore harmony.

Here are the 30 words of September:

1. Light bulb11. Power21. Diamond
2. Peanut12. Branch22. Dark
3. Integrity13. Coin23. Prolific
4. Word14. Elastic24. Green
5. Spark15. Survival25. Azure
6. Freedom16. Red26. Feel
7. Time17. Justice27. Loyal
8. Unit18. Rising28. Art
9. Heart19. Dependent29. Gate-Keeper
10. Ice20. Grow30. Belonging

While you go through these words, don’t be afraid to break out a dictionary (or several! Look at the difference between British dictionaries and American dictionaries), rhyming dictionaries, and thesauruses (I do strongly recommend WordHippo, which can be fun to play around with). Sometimes finding words that are similar to other words can help you to create a deeper understanding of it.

The key take-away? Have fun! Play with these words, and also, see what it unlocks within you.

Also, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram: @NaturalWriterCoaching for daily posts with the 1-words prompts and reminders of the journaling questions.

Happy writing!

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September 2020 Journal Prompts Announcement

Journaling is an important part of the writing process. It’s how we empty our minds of what might be distracting us, and how we work through our blocks. It can also act as a way for us to generate ideas and work through them for new projects.

For September, I have created a daily writing prompt list for your journal. Each day there will be a different word for you to mull over and write about. However, this is more than just looking at this as a writing prompt.

Words are what we use. They are our medium. They are how we build words, create characters, project emotion into the reader. Words are what create and destroy projects, people, and civilizations. Words are powerful. We wield a mighty sword.

Thus, I want to bring forward some words each day to contemplate. Some are mundane and some might be obviously powerful. But all of them will have positive and negative sides. For these words, I’m also providing a set of questions for you to journal on revolving around the word. The questions won’t change, but are a challenge to really crack open the word and dig deep into it.

I want to really get your thoughts going regarding each daily word. So there will be a few questions to get your mind going.

  1. Define the word in your own terms
  2. Generate as many synonyms as possible surrounding this word.
    Feel free to expand your definition based on the words you generate.
  3. How is this word used culturally vs. socially?
    For example, the word “man” literally means an individual identifying as a grown male. However, culturally we use the term “man” to mean “mankind/evolved humans.” Socially we might mean it be “the man” as in those in control of the system, or “man” as a casual generic term of direction at the start of a sentence, usually to make a point of notation. For example, “Man, the band last night was amazing!” Similarly used as “dude,” “oh boy,” “Oh my god,” etc.
  4. What are the historical uses of the word?
    For example, historically “making love” would mean to say sweet things to another, in a form of showing love. Today, it’s a lighter, sweeter term of an emotionally-entangled sex.
  5. How do you feel about this word?
    That is, what emotions or memories does this word bring up for you?
  6. How can it be used spiritually and/or metaphorically?
    I say “spiritually” to mean that which applies to the non-physical and outside general daily conceptual use.
  7. What are the creative different ways this word can be used?
    There is a wonderful Bad Lip Reading video called “SEAGULLS! (Stop It Now)” of Yoda and Luke Skywalker, where Yoda is singing about being attacked by Seagulls (look it up, it is hilarious). One of the lines is “One day I was walking, and I found this big log. Then I rolled the log over and underneath was a tiny little stick. And I was like ‘that log had a child!’”
  8. If you feel inspired, use this word as a creative writing prompt.

Of course, you don’t have to answer all of these questions. However, the idea is that it generates you to think about these words differently and use them as an anchor of personal development, of diving deep into the self, as well as getting creative with how we use language in our writing.

The words will be posted each day on my Instagram Account, @NaturalWriterCoaching, and I’ll post the full chart with the month’s words on here as well. This is 30 days’ worth of journaling for you. I’m excited. I hope you are too!

Happy Writing!

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Setting & Releasing Writing Goals: Considering the Writing Journey

I’m a strong advocate of setting goals and really feeling into those goals. That is, looking into what it will be like to reach those goals, and capturing that experience and holding onto it. However, that’s only part of it.

In When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chödrön takes on Buddhist philosophies and teachings for how to handle difficult situations from a place of compassion and love. One of the things she covers, though not specifically, is looking at the outcome of things.

When we are trained in the art of peace, we are not given any promises that, because of our noble intentions, everything will be okay. In fact, there are no promises of fruition at all. Instead, we are encouraged to simply look deeply at joy and sorrow, at laughing and crying, at hoping to fearing, at all that lives and dies. We learn that what truly heals is gratitude and tenderness.

When Things Fall Apart, p. 129

I wanted to share this quote because I believe it expresses perfectly how we should approach our writing and our writing goals—or any goals for that matter.

Let me break it down.

We Are Not Given Any Promises that Everything Will Be Okay

“When we are trained in the art of peace, we are not given any promises that, because of our noble intentions, everything will be okay.”

Let’s consider the first part of the quote.

Setting the Goal

“When we are trained…” Training implies that there is a goal to be reached. In the context of the quote, the goal is peace. When we set out to write, our goal is to finish the piece that we’re working on. It might even go further than that: our goal is to publish, is to be famous, to earn a living, to have a franchise, to just distribute to family, etc.

Consider every time you’ve set a goal. What have you attached to achieving that goal emotionally? Is it pride? A sense of accomplishment? What does that sense of accomplishment feel like? Is it joy? Happiness?

I won’t tell you not to attach any feeling to your goals because that’s going to be what helps you to achieve them. However, I do want to point out a flaw in doing so.

Attaching a feeling to your goals creates the statement, “I will be/feel _________ when I _______.”

The fundamental problem with that is that it implies that you can’t have that feeling until you achieve this goal. Furthermore, what does that mean if you don’t achieve the goal at all?

If we only work toward something because we want the outcome and won’t feel x until we have that outcome, then we may not aim high enough. We might only go for the safe bets which could rob us of our potential. Consider all the authors who submitted dozens if not hundreds of times to be rejected each time. Imagine if they gave up. We wouldn’t have Stephen King.

“In fact, there are no promises of fruition at all.”

This is why one of the most important things I do when I work with writers is ask them how they can bring the feeling that they associate with the completion of their goal into their every-day writing practice.

This leads me to the second part of the quote.

We Are Encouraged to Simply Look Deeply

“Instead, we are encouraged to simply look deeply at joy and sorrow, at laughing and crying, at hoping to fearing, at all that lives and dies.”

To put it simply, the best way for us to consider the end goal’s feelings and bring it to the present is to look at the journey of writing itself.

There are many writers out there who are writing to make a buck—and it can be done, with a lot of time and energy spent. These authors are committed to the process of producing books quickly. The quicker they produce books, the faster the sell, and the more money they make. Their goal is attached to the money.

However, not all of these authors have a love for what they do. In fact, they’re likely to hire out ghostwriters like me to do the job for them. They don’t love the process. As a result, they might experience burn-out.

You don’t have to be a rapid-release author to experience writer burn-out, either. It all has to do with where you put your intention and where you put your energy.

If you can remember what it is that you love about writing, what you love about your project, then you’ll enjoy the entire process. You’ll be writing for the love it rather than for the outcome. This takes the pressure off of you, and when the pressure is off, you’re more likely to reach your goal.

Gratitude & Tenderness

“We learn that what truly heals is gratitude and tenderness.”

I interpret “healing” in this context to mean the outcome-oriented mind. Not to say that it’s broken so much as it’s only partially complete. It knows what it wants, it knows how it wants to feel, but it’s forgetting the part where it needs to feel that way through the journey.

Grateful to be a Part of the Journey

Being grateful to be a part of the journey and regularly recognizing that is a truly beautiful step to take. I personally practice daily gratitude, writing a page of things I am grateful for every day. I highly recommend it. However, if that’s not your thing (I get it. It took me a long time to get to practicing gratitude in this way), being thankful that you have the ability to spend time on what you love, and recognizing that ability every day is enough.

This gratitude can help you to cherish where you are now and the moments you spend trying to get words to the page, trying to edit and re-work your piece so it makes sense, or even drafting those query letters.

So many people in the world have a dream to do what they love. And so few actually take the time to work toward actually making it happen. I’ve read statistics (though not verified) that say 80% of people say they want to write a book. Only 1% of that 80% actually complete a book. Something like that, anyway. If that statistic is right, that means that only 1 person out of every 125 people who say they want to write a book ever actually finishes one.

Approaching Tenderness

How does one go about approaching tenderness?

There is a dark comedy British show called Uncle. The main character, Andy is quitting smoking and all forms of drugs and alcohol, and when people start to get on his nerves, he yells “I said I’m feeling tender today!”

Being tender is being sensitive, though not in a negative way. It’s being open to what is being revealed internally and externally. It’s acknowledging feelings that arise and sitting with them. It’s noticing bursts of energy. It’s also being aware of the feelings of those around you.

I personally am not a fan of the term “sensitive,” and like I mentioned, when I hear “tender,” all I can think of is Andy telling that he’s feeling tender before launching himself at someone. This doesn’t exactly instill a feeling of tranquility.

However, I choose to approach writing and my projects with curiosity.

Practicing Non-Attachment & Releasing Through Curiosity

The best way that I’ve found to approach goals is by practicing non-attachment through curiosity. You know what you’re working toward. You know what you want to achieve, but you do so through curiosity.

Now, this is complete curiosity. This does start with the aim to answer a question, but with complete openness to what might be discovered. For example, the question might be what would happen if you tried to write a book, or it might be the question you hope to explore in the content of your piece.

When we take the approach of achieving our goal through curiosity, we must ensure that we aren’t driving toward a specific answer.

Releasing Parallels in the Law of Attraction

This is a common practice in the Law of Attraction: you set your intention which is more of a feeling or status rather than a specific number or object (contrary to what the teachings of the Secret might say), and you approach it with openness. You don’t know how you’re going to achieve it, but you open yourself up to the journey that will take you there. If, for example, your goal is financial freedom, you don’t set a ridged path to it and stick to it no matter what. I personally hoped to get to financial freedom through tarot, and instead it was through writing coaching and ghost writing that I found my independence. My flexibility to finding my way to financial independence is what got me to where I am today, not sticking to a rigid schedule and plan that burnt me out after six months (true story).

I kept the goal, I opened myself up to possibility, and through that, I found a tribe of tarot-centered writers who were looking for coaching. The same month, I found people looking for ghost writers for their series. In ten months, I went from barely finding enough work to cover the bills to being completely financially independent by being open to my options, keeping the goal in mind, and following what felt good at the time.

Curiosity in Writing

Keeping your curiosity in your writing practice will keep you interested in what you do. The goal is there, but you don’t know what’s around the corner when it comes to your actual writing because you’re not looking at the next step, you’re looking at what’s happening now, right in front of you.

True curiosity is what leads to discoveries.

Consider science. Consider the contemplation of theories for the sake of knowledge versus the attempt to try and discover a specific thing. When a lab is funded to find out x, then all of their experiments are designed to find x. However, when a lab is set on seeing what possibilities are to be found in the realm of exploring the element y, then they are open to possibilities. It widens the scope, and in the process, they might also find out x.

Okay, I know that’s not quite how science goes, but you get the picture.

Your writing is the same way. Whether you’re setting an outline or pantsing it, keeping yourself open to curiosity will make the process more fun, and you might discover a new path that you hadn’t anticipated.

Setting and Releasing Goals

So what is the take away from all of this? Goals are important, however, they aren’t the end-all and be-all. There is more than just setting the goal and sticking to it. You need to be able to release the goal as well. You know what you’re aiming for, but when you release the goal, you’re releasing your expectation of the outcome. When you do that, then

  • you enjoy the process more
  • you open your writing to more creativity
  • you open yourself up to more enjoyment
  • and most importantly, you open yourself up to growth.

Your Homework

Your homework has two parts to it: the first part is journaling-related (because inner growth comes from inner exploration!) and the second part is to start a new project. I’ll get to that in a minute though.

Journaling Questions

Spend some time writing about the goals you set and how they make you feel. Danielle LaPorte, in her book, Desire Mapping, which is all about setting and achieving goals, writes about how she absolutely hates goals. She doesn’t do well with them because they feel like pressure to her. I, personally, most of the time, am the opposite. I do well with goals.

The first thing I want you to do is explore your goals and how you feel about them.

  • Do you have too many?
  • Are they too intense?
  • Do they inspire you?
  • Do they make you feel restricted?

After you’ve spent some time with these questions, consider and journal on the following questions:

  1. What do I expect from my writing?
  2. What do I love about the process of writing?
  3. What do I love about what I’m working on right now?
  4. What emotions do I have attached to my goals?
  5. How can I bring those emotions forward so I can experience them now?

Once you have a good understanding of this, then I want you to move on to the second part of your homework assignment.

A New Project

Develop a new project. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be to write a series of ten poems, to write a piece of flash fiction or a short story. Or it can be your next epic fantasies series of eight books. Whatever you like.

However, I want you to approach it in this order:

  1. What do you want to achieve with this new project? (to finish it? To answer a question? To publish it? Etc.)
  2. Once you have your goal, release it. You know what it is. Don’t spend any more time focusing on it.
  3. Look at your project with complete curiosity. Ask yourself how you can remain curious through the entire process. How can you turn this project into an experiment of discovery?
  4. As you work on this project, notice yourself and how you interact with it. Is it different than usual? Is it the same? How do you feel?
  5. If you start to feel doubt or anxious about the project, sit for a moment and express gratitude that you have the time, energy, and space to work on that which you love.

If you don’t finish the project, that’s okay. This is a project of exploration and discovery. It’s to learn about you, how you interact with goals, how you interact with your writing, and how you best grow within yourself.

Let me know how this experiment goes in the comments.

Happy Writing.

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Dismantling Writing Blocks: Sitting with Discomfort and Going to Battle with Fear

I’m going to start out by getting a little personal with you here.

Yesterday, I suffered the first anxiety attack—full blown at my worst—since I can remember. I know I’ve had one at some point this year, but I literally can’t remember when it was.

The warning signs that it was coming were there. But I ignored them. I felt like I had made a lot of progress and that I didn’t need to heed my warning signs. I was beyond my anxiety attacks. Ha!

Upon reflection, I realized that I did have the power to stop myself from getting as bad as it did. I do want to note that this is for me, that I personally felt that I had this ability. I’m by no means saying anyone else works this way or suggesting the people have the power to handle their anxiety in this way. Everyone is different.

However, when I saw the warning signs, I ignored them. Why did I ignore them? The ridiculous answer was because of fear.

I know my anxious self. I’m familiar with her. I know what she thinks and what she does, and for me, anxious Nicola has a strange freedom to feel things wildly and take no responsibility for what happens when I do feel wildly because it’s out of my control. It’s familiar.

But the work I’ve been doing has been teaching me to take control over myself, as well as take responsibility for my reactions. There is a point of no return for me, when I can’t control what happens, not yet anyway, but I can control if and how I get to that point. Yesterday I let fear take the reins, and relinquished control.

But I learned a lot from that experience. And one of the main things I learned is what I want to share with you:

Sitting with Discomfort and Fear is the Greatest Teacher You Can Have

Fear

There are all these really catching coaching acronyms for what FEAR stands for, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about what fear is to me, and my understanding of it. Knowing this has helped me through hurtles in my writing, in managing my anxiety, in having difficult conversations, and in starting my business.

To understand fear is to understand the ego. When I’m talking about this, I’m talking about metaphysical teachings. I don’t know enough about psychology to say what the professionals are stating about this. However, this is the information I glean from minds such as Eckhart Tolle.

The Ego

The ego is that which preserves as sense of self. It is “I.” When we make a statement which is followed by the verb form “am,” then we are making a statement about the self, which is the ego. Examples:

  • I am a writer
  • I am successful
  • I am a woman
  • I am introverted
  • I am a gardener
  • etc.

So on and so forth. These are all how we are identifying ourselves. Each time we use “am” statements, we’re affirming our form to the ego. The ego’s job is to preserve that form, and often time it can do so in damaging ways.

For example, I know a guy whose whole identity revolves around how big and tough he is. Thus, whenever he describes anyone other than himself, he’ll do so using negative descriptions, such as “the tubby guy,” or “that little fella,” or “the spotty guy.” By using these negative descriptions, he’s making him look better in comparison.

Likewise, the ego can work against you. You are the one who has created the description of yourself. And whatever that description is, the ego is going to help you to protect. If you don’t think highly of yourself, and your “am” statements are along the lines of being useless, pathetic, selfish—pick your poison, then your ego is going to work to protect that.

And to do so, the ego uses fear.

Fear

Fear is a very handy tool. It’s what we use to protect ourselves. Fear alerts us to threats and tells us that we need to act on it, whether it’s the flight or flight or freeze response. Fear tells us that we are under threat.

Because the ego wants to preserve itself, it will deploy fear when there is something that threatens to change the definition of Self.

A common fear that writers have is to identify themselves as a writer. That’s why I often tell people that they need to spend time looking in the mirror and telling themselves that they are a writer. The next step is to tell other people that they are a writer. Not that they want to be a writer, or that they’re an aspiring writer, but that they are a writer. Fear of ridicule will often deter people from doing this, but once a writer fully embraces that writing is who they are, not what they want to be, then the ridicule doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if they make money writing or not. What matters is that they put pen to paper and conjure their ideas and words. That’s what makes them a writer. Not what other people think.

So, how do we understand and deal with fear? I’ll get to that. First, I’d like to share a story I read.

The Warrior and the Monster

After I had my anxiety attack, I picked up a book that I’d been reading on and off over the last couple of weeks. And lo and behold, I read exactly what I needed to read. Funny how that works out!

The book is When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. In the 6th chapter, she writes about the concept of Refrain, which I’ll get to in a little bit. Toward the end of the chapter, she shares a wonderful story about a warrior and a monster.

A warrior must go up against a monster. She’s terrified. She’s quaking in her boots. She doesn’t even know what the damn thing looks like (Okay, I might be adding some extra detail here), but she knows that she must face it.

When she finds the monster, it turns and she’s started to see that the monster is in face Fear.

She asks, “Fear, may we engage in battle?”

Fear responds, “Thank you for respecting me enough to ask. Yes, we may engage in battle.”

The warrior feels a little more comfortable now at the nicety. She goes on to ask, “How can I defeat you?”

Fear, feeling more relaxed in knowing that the warrior respects it, responds with, “Well, I’ll tell you my tactic. I speak very loudly and very fast. I get close in your face as I do so. This will rattle you and unnerve you, which will make you to succumb to anything I ask of you. However, that is where my power is. If you do not do as I ask, then I have no power at all. If you can resist me, if you can refrain from doing what I tell you, then I have no power.”

Sitting with Discomfort

Fear is rarely true terror. Fear generally manifests itself as discomfort. Sitting with discomfort is one of the best learning tools you have at your disposal. This is also a practice that I only learned since the most recent Black Lives Matter movement.

One of the things many BIPOC folx were asking white folx to do was to notice their discomfort when it comes to topics of race, and to sit with it. Don’t react to it, don’t do anything other than sit with it. It’s alright to be uncomfortable. There is nothing that’s going to get you from being uncomfortable. When you sit with it, you learn from it and you grow from it.

My very weak example of sitting with my discomfort comes from wanting to publicly support BLM. As my business is very new, I was afraid of upsetting people by involving my political views. My views are very strictly, Black Lives Matter. Indigenous Lives Matter. Brown Lives Matter. Trans Lives Matter.

When I sat with the discomfort, I realized that the people who were likely to ostracize me for these views weren’t my audience. So why was I wanting to impress them? Why was I wanting to try and retain their attention? With this realization, I was able to come out and try to be more vocal and supportive of these matters. Whether or not I went about it in the right way is an entirely different issue, but the point is that this was how I overcame this discomfort.

To learn more about sitting with discomfort in the scope of racial discussions, I highly suggest that you check out Ar-Tic.Org as a starting place.

The Warrior’s Discomfort

Consider the warrior’s discomfort that she had to sit with in order to get the information from her opponent on how to win the battle. First, she had to get through the fear of even staying with Fear enough to talk to it. She had to ramp up the courage to even have respect for Fear in the first place.

She had to be willing to stay still and sit with Fear enough to have a discussion with it to see what it would teach her. Pema Chödrön calls this Refrain.

Refrain

The act of refraining is to notice when the ego is feeling threatened, thus acknowledging the fear, and from there refraining to react to the fear, or do what the fear is demanding of you. Except, Chödrön doesn’t specifically call it fear at first. She talks about discomfort.

Discomfort

What is discomfort? It’s when you’re in a process of transition. It’s the precursor to fear. I’m not talking about physical discomfort, but emotional and mental discomfort. This is when you hear an idea and you don’t know why but it makes you uncomfortable. It can take many different forms from depression to annoyed to general moodiness.

For me, my anxiety attack came essentially from the discomfort of boredom. That was what set it off in a very vague, generalized way.

What happened was I sat down to work yesterday morning with my pint of water, promising myself I would have two of those before I was allowed my next cup of coffee. Then, of course, I knocked the water over, all over my laptop. It soaked it.

I wasn’t really worried because a) it’s a really cheap laptop and I wouldn’t mind the excuse to buy a better one, and b) because it’s a cheap laptop there isn’t enough memory to hold any of my files, so they’re all on an external hard drive (which I recently upgrade to a water-resistant one). However, it meant that I couldn’t work. Not until I let my computer dry out. While I didn’t mind the idea of getting a new one (and secretly hoped I needed to), I couldn’t justify getting a new one if I didn’t actually need to.

So, my only job was to wait out my computer.

Likewise, my partner had a day off. He was busy researching on his own computer (it doesn’t have a working keyboard, he types everything by clicking the on-screen keyboard with his mouse. I cannot write a novel like that, so using that was out of the question). So I sat, the nice day going on outside the house, my partner completely involved in his research, and me just scrolling through Instagram.

I was bored, and through this virus we had been really good about not going out unnecessarily. I had reached my limit.

I started thinking about how both my partner and I had a day off together for once, and we should be using it, and how if I wasn’t then I was just wasting my life away. And oh my god, I’m nearly 34 and I’m not doing anything with my days off. In fact, I’m not married, I’m not settling down and having a kid, and I’m nowhere near owning a home and maybe I should move back to the States and be closer to my parents because they’re getting older and really I should be spending as much time with my one remaining grandparent as I can and—so on and so forth.

I was uncomfortable because I was bored. So my fear kicked in and I became anxious.

Full disclosure: I’m in a time of transition right now. We are moving from our home in North Yorkshire. We were supposed to have left in April, but because of the virus, we weren’t able to. Because we’re moving to another country and we have dogs and thus we’re driving, we’ve been having to wait for borders throughout Europe to open so we can get to our destination. We’ve essentially been in limbo for the past four months. I’ve been fine for the most part because I’ve been avoiding the discomfort and fear through working my ghost writing jobs, coaching, and doing my own inner work.

I have been bypassing my discomfort.

As a result, when I didn’t have anything to do, rather than sitting with my discomfort, I let anxiety take hold.

Had I sat with my discomfort, I would have realized that my issue is that we’re in limbo. We’re neither where we need to be nor are we where we’re supposed to be going. We are in between. And I’m literally not doing anything about it. We could be getting the house ready to move, we could be getting the dogs’ passports ready, I could have been setting up blog posts and newsletters to publish while we move so I don’t have to worry about it, but I haven’t been doing any of it.

My discomfort was guilt at my boredom. If I had sat with my discomfort instead of finding a way not to deal with it, I would have heard that guilt and done something about it. Getting ready to move is a massive change, and it threatens the ego. It’s moving into the unknown. Like I said, we’re moving to a different country. We can research it all we want (which is my partner’s way of dealing with the transition), but we don’t really know what it’s like until we get there. What’s more, this whole year has been one big un-known adventure.

And the unknown threatens the ego. Thus, there is fear.

Refrain and Respecting The Fear

Discomfort is trying to tell you something. Fear is trying to scare you back into the norm. When we refrain from reacting to the discomfort, when we refrain from trying to avoid the discomfort, then there is something that is being taught. We can learn and grow through it.

I have heard advice from gurus and coaches (I’m wanting to say I specifically heard this on Danielle LaPorte’s podcast, though I could be wrong) to treat your different voices as people. Bring them all to the table and listen to them. This means bringing your discomfort to the table as a voice, letting your fear have a seat and have a voice, letting your excitement have a voice, let your analytical self have a voice, and so on. Invite all of these voices to the table and give them attention and respect they deserve as if they were people in a meeting.

In doing so, you’re giving each voice a space to talk and express its opinion. You listen as an outside observer. They do not have the end say in what you decide on. You do. However, you can listen to all the voices, hear the discussion and show respect in order to hear them out. They might all have a valuable opinion. And they all might have advice for how you can grow.

It wasn’t until I began to try to sit with my discomfort that I saw the merit in this advice.

What does this have to do with your writing? That part is in your Home Work.

Your Homework

The next time you find yourself feeling resistance to write, sit with it. Feel it out. Don’t do anything while you sit with it other than make yourself comfortable, and let yourself feel it. Is it a physical sensation? Does it make you feel jittery? What do you do when you’re uncomfortable? Do you pull at your fingers or ears? Do you message your hands? Tap your foot?

Once you notice what you do when you’re uncomfortable, spend some time journaling about the experience. Write about what you feel and do. Then spend some time thinking about what you are learning about yourself and discomfort. I don’t mean what your discomfort is telling you, but rather what you’re learning about the way you react to the discomfort.

The next time you feel discomfort, try to refrain from doing these things you do to avoid feeling it. Try not to message  your hands or tap your feet. It will likely feel restrained, but try to breathe out the frustration. Letting out a full breath until there is nothing left in your lungs is a really good way of getting out that urge to move.

From there, sit with your discomfort. Ask it where it’s coming from. Ask what’s being threatened.

Take out your journal again, and try to interact with the discomfort, like it is a friend who is trying to tell you a secret but doesn’t know how. You can create a dialogue, you can just write out what comes, you can record yourself talking if you’d like. But see what you can learn from just sitting with your discomfort.

Finally, the next time you feel the discomfort, you will hopefully know where it’s coming from, and you can address it, which hopefully will allow you to sit down and write. If not, repeat the exercises until you can fully understand and respect your discomfort and fear enough to sooth it.

Happy writing.

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Finding Your Steam: Writing Alchemy as an Act of Self-Love

What is writing?

There are so many ways to answer this question. That’s probably because there are so many ways to write, ranging from creative non-fiction to technical writing that reads like stereo instructions (is it me, or have stereo instructions actually gotten easier to read over the decades?).

However, for me, it’s a way to get in touch with water.

What the hell does that mean?

Okay, so I have a focus and love of Tarot. I’ve been a writer longer than I’ve been a tarot reader, but I’ve still been a Tarot reader for nearly half of my entire life, so at this point, I think with a slightly more esoteric twist.

In the Tarot, there are four suits that represent four elements: earth, air, fire and water.

To me, writing is a culmination of fire and water.

What?

I’ll back up.

Writing Water

Water is represented by the suit of cups in the tarot, and within the individual, it represents love, emotion, intuition, the subconscious and creativity.

When I write, I feel as though I’m diving into my imagination, swimming in my subconscious, and picking out ideas to bring to the surface. It’s a form of therapy. Why do you think so many writers put themselves into their writing? They’re understanding themselves.

I am plunging the chalice into my wells and pulling out the water from within. Writing, for me, is an act of self-love.

But self-love is hard for a lot of people. There is a lot of negativity in the world that helps people find a way to find flaws within themselves. Sometimes those flaws can be overwhelming, so much so that we forget that we have some amazing and beautiful qualities. As a result, that well of creativity gets covered, and it takes us a while to find it again and figure out how to remove the cover.

Writing Fire

I mentioned earlier that writing was a culmination of water and fire. That sounds very contradictory, but that’s also alchemy, baby.

Let’s start off easy: what is fire a representation of?

Fire is passion. It is the spark that ignites us and inspires us. It’s the yearning that burns within us to complete and achieve. It’s our get-up-and-go.

When you have a story idea that you get excited about, that’s fire energy at work. It is what springs you to life and says, “heck yes I’m going to write an epic space opera in one night!”

Fire can get out of control sometimes, which is why it is so important for water to be present.

Fire and Water

You have to find the balance between fire and water when you’re working on something as enriching as art. If you have too much fire, it can rage out of control and you can burn yourself out. But if you don’t have enough fire, or you have too much water, then the spark only weakly ignites, at best, before going out.

What happened when we, as a human species, got the right amount of fire and water? Steam punk! Okay, not quite steam punk, but steam engines. Those allowed us to have machinery which enhanced our farming, gravel, and transportation of goods.

You need to develop your own steam engine within you. You need to balance your passion and creativity.

How to Find Your Steam

I’m going to give you a somewhat of a cop-out answer to this: know yourself. When you know yourself, then you know your limits, you know what makes you light up, and you know what suffocates your flame. You know what’s boarding up your well.

Here are some methods I have found helpful to get to know myself. They are not universal, they will not work for everyone, but I implore you to try them. And if you have, or if you have other methods, share them in the comments below to help us all learn.

1.
Daily Journaling

Most writers do practice daily journaling anyway, but when you focus on yourself there is a lot to be learned. As you write, you feel more and more comfortable peeling the way layers of yourself. This is why I often provide journaling questions.

If you don’t journal, or if you do but you don’t really delve into yourself, start by asking yourself these questions each day, and trying to spend at least 5 minutes of continuous writing on them.

  1. What is my ultimate goal within myself this year?
  2. What do I need to accomplish within myself to achieve this goal?
  3. What is holding me back?
  4. How do I feel about this?
  5. What can I do about what’s holding me back?

A Note on Goals Within the Self

In this context, the above questions are more geared toward goal-setting. However, I would like to make this distinction: when we’re talking about goals within the self, we aren’t talking about career goals, writing goals, family goals, or anything external. What we’re talking about is internal goals such as being more forgiving, being kinder to yourself, self-love, trusting yourself, being more decisive, creating barriers, being more honest with yourself or with others, etc.

Think of your goal for the year as your character arch that you want to work toward.

2.
Practicing Stillness

Stillness means different things to different people. For some it’s meditation, for others it’s mindfulness.

The benefits of stillness is that it’s a practice to center your mind on the moment, on a single thing, or, when you get really good at it, on nothingness.

This can help to reduce anxiety, and when anxiety is reduced, clarity of mind emerges, and there are a various number of physiological responses to anxiety that subside.

Challenging yourself to spend one minute in stillness a day for a month can help you mellow out your fire so you don’t burn out. As you get better at it and more comfortable, you can increase the time you spend in stillness, which will help you to better hear your intuition and sense where your well is to draw from.

How to Practice Stillness

I want to offer some basic tips on how to practice stillness just to get you going if you’re new to this. Because you’re only starting out for one minute, you can literally do this anywhere: in the car before you go into work, or in your car after work, in the bathroom (preferably for privacy, not for multitasking), when you wake up and are laying in bed, before you go to sleep (actually, I find it helps me go to sleep), and so on.

Here are a couple of ways to start:

1. Focus on the Breath

You can start by just paying attention to your breathing. It’s helpful if you get a count going on. Personally, I like to breath in to the count of four, hold on for the count of four, exhale for the count of four, pause to the count of four, then repeat.

As you get better at it, you can extend your exhale to the count of eight to make sure all your air is expelled from your lungs. I find that when I draw in air, I do so much deeper than when I exhale. By counting to eight on the exhale, I’m getting rid of everything I drew in.

2. Ocean Waves

An extension of focusing on the breath is to imagine that your breathing is mimicking ocean waves. Sometimes the counting gets to me, but I have a love of the water (and this helps us to connect with the water of our inner wells). Thus, imagining inhaling being the gathering of the wave and my exhale as the crashing of the wave brings to mind a peaceful scene that I can focus on.

If you’re sometime who is easily distracted by sounds, this can be a good way to try to block sound out by focusing on the sound of your breathing.

3. Visualizing

There are several ways of doing this, so find something that works well for you. I personally have a couple of methods that I alternate between depending on my mood.

i. White Light

Visualize a ball of white light over your head. With each breath you take, it grows brighter and brighter. Now, lower the ball over your body, letting it touch every part of you. Wherever the light goes, you relax.

Let the ball cover you from head to toe, imagining it just below your feet when it’s finished. Breathe into it again, seeing it get brighter with each breath.

Now, bring it back up your body, repeating the process until it’s over your head again, letting its light relax your body. Once it’s above your head, hold it there for as long as you’re comfortable.

ii. Roots

Visualizing roots growing into the ground is an excellent way to still yourself. I find this is especially effective if I’m getting anxious. It’s a way of getting myself out of my head and planting myself to the spot, or grounding.

This visualization is very simple, and when you get good at it, you can do it while you’re walking. Simply visualize roots extending from the souls of your feet into the earth. See the roots wrap around rocks, dip into underground pools of water, and extend into the pit of the earth.

You are steady, connected, and the energy of the earth’s core is feeding you and energizing you.

iii. Beam of Light

Similar to visualizing roots, you visualize a beam of light coming from above and entering you through the top of your head. It comes down through your core, through your heart, and down into the soles of your feet.

Some might define this as divine light, universal energy, source, or simply just energy. Whatever you’re most comfortable with. Focusing and visualizing on this light can help you tune your mind to one thing and stay with it as long as you need.

iv. A Combination

During my daily stillness practice, I use a combination of all of these techniques. I visualize the white light relaxing my body, the beam of light coming down and joining with the sphere before moving down through my chakras and into the soles of my feet, where it extends into roots in the ground.

3.
Knowing Your Body

Knowing your body means not forgetting about your body.

We aren’t just our minds, our passions, or our creativity. We are physical beings making our way through a physical world. However, we are heavily influenced by our minds and our emotions. We are a connection of mind, body, and spirit.

In the Western World, it’s accepted that our minds reside in our brains. There are some traditions around the world which believe the mind resides elsewhere, such as the heart or the liver. What can be agreed upon is that the mind resides somewhere in the body. The body is the vehicle which must keep healthy in order for the mind to function optimally.

Thus, knowing your body can help your mind and your emotions, and thus help your creativity and drive.

For me, I know that when I’m starting to delve into a funk, it’s likely that I’m not physically moving enough, or that I’m vitamin deficient, or dehydrated. Thus, my daily practice includes not only walking the dogs, but dancing for at least ten minutes, doing some form of exercise for at least thirty minutes (yoga, walking, stretching—anything as long as it’s movement beyond sitting), and taking vitamins and supplements.

I am by no means saying this is what you should do. I am not a licensed medical professional. I’m saying this is what I do that works for me. Just because it works for me doesn’t mean that it will work for you.

Thus, you need to know your body. You need to know what foods your body responds well to. You need to know how much water you need in a day for your brain to work optimally. You need to know where the line is that defines too much sleep or not enough sleep. You need to know what movement makes you feel good and lights you up.

Dr. Andrew Weil suggests keeping a notebook with you to track every feeling in your body all day, from the unknown ache to the slight cough. This will help you understand what’s normal for your body, and how your body reacts to certain things.

Water is a huge part of our bodies, and it’s no wonder that a hydrated being can help one to be more connected to the element of water.

If you take only one thing away from this post, let it be to drink water. Lots of it throughout the day.

4.
Write

One of the best ways to know where your steam comes from is to write. While you’re writing, pay attention to how you feel. What is making you feel excited? What’s making you feel burnt out? What is draining you and making you feel like writing is a chore rather than a joy?

When you pay attention to these things, then you can see what may need adjusting, and thus you can try and find the happy medium to create your steam.

Your Homework

Of course, your homework is to try all of this out. See what works for you. Spend at least a month with any or all of these practices.

However, I have a few journal prompts for you in the meantime.

Thoth tarot: Art
  1. What does Water mean to you? Literally, spiritually, creatively, symbolically? Why? Spend some time really delving into what water is, and riff on anything related. What about analogies to wells, oceans, rivers, lakes, cups, chalices, rain, storms, etc.? How does this increase your understanding of water? How does this understanding influence you?
  2. What does Fire mean to you? Literally, spiritually, creatively, symbolically? Why?
    Spend some time delving into what fire is, and riff on anything related. What about analogies to sparks, inspiration, fire, man, infernos, forest fires, kitchen stoves, wood fires, heat, warmth, lava, burning, passion, etc.? How does this increase your understanding of fire? How does this understanding influence you?
  3. What is a balance of fire and water to you? Within you? Outside of you? What can you do to work toward this balance?
  4. How do you feel applying this concept to your writing? To your writing practice? How has it affected, if at all, your understanding toward your relationship with writing?

Finally, I implore you to look into the tarot card, Temperance. She is often depicted as mixing from two jugs or cups. Spend some time researching what she represents, what the card means, and from many stand points.

I am by no means saying you need to believe in the tarot or even incorporate it into your life. However, it is an art form, and each card provides insight to certain aspects of life. Temperance, along with the Queen of Wands and the Knight of Cups are examples of fire and water coming together, the latter two might represent imbalances between the two elements in some instances.

If you want to delve further into the tarot to better understand the elements, I suggest looking into the Ace of Cups and the Ace of Wands, The High Priestess and the Magician.

Here are a list of resources to get you started:

How does this card represent the balance of creativity and passion to you? Does it at all?

Happy Writing

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