6 Easy, Revealing Ways You Can Prevent & Overcome Overload

6 Ways to Cope with Writer Overwhelm Natural Writer Podcast

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

Make a to-do list to combat and prevent writer overwhelm.
This image is to povide a quick glance at how to create your to-do list

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:

  1. Create a list of everything that needs doing by the end of the week/month
  2. Organize it by what needs doing first
  3. Break down the steps for each item on the list (research, editing, writing, gathering surveys, how long a shift takes, etc.)
  4. Estimate how long each task will take to complete.
  5. Write out how much time I need for daily living (eating, sleeping, transport, exercise, etc.)
  6. Create a schedule for each day to complete each task

I found that when I did this, I realized two things:

  1. I didn’t have as much on my plate as I thought I did
  2. 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

A pen and to-do list with an item crossed off: this can be a visual affirmation that you are getting stuff done.
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

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.

Journal

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.

Journal Questions

Journal questions to help you understand your version of success so you can effectively navigate you way through writer overwhelm
  1. What does success look like to you?
  2. Where have you been successful in the past, in any area of life, and by whose standards of success? How did it feel?
  3. What does writing success look like to you? How is it measured? In money? Books printed? Books sold? Books written?
  4. What does a writing career look like to you?
  5. 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.
  6. What is your writing routine now?
  7. How do you feel after completing your wordcount or hourly writing goal? Are you relieved? Drained? Exhausted? Pleased?
  8. 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.

Mapping

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.

THREE
Meditation for Writer Overwhelm

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.

Daily Meditation

meditation can keep the mind calm before stressful situations occur, as well as keep the mind calm when writer overwhelm threatens to strike.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

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.

Guided Meditation

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.

For more meditations for writing, you can find Meditations to Overcome Writer’s Block on Audible, which is a compilation of guided meditations from a variety of writers.

Sleep Meditation

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
  • Final edits
  • Setting up your author website/social media
  • Social media management

These are just to list a few.

Professionals

Photo by Canva Studio on Pexels.com

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.

Freelancers

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:

This is just to name a few.

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.

Photo by Michaela on Pexels.com

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.

lounging on the couch and reading a book: relaxation and taking time off is essential for preventing and dealing with writer overwhelm

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.

Six ways to deal with overwhelm: Make a list, know your goals, meditate, delegate, adjust, and take a break

Your Homework

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
  3. 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?
  4. 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.


Want to dive deeper into your writing practice and pinpoint where you can improve your writing lifestyle or the blocks that need to be addressed? Fill out the form below to get your free Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook: 75+ pages of tarot and journaling prompts to get in touch with the writer in you.

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How To Celebrate and Nourish Your Writer Self

We get drained and exhausted, and this was what I did when I found myself in this position.

Celebrating and Nourishing Your Writer Self Natural Writer Podcast

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.

  1. In what area of life do I feel drained?
  2. What area of life lights me up?
  3. Fire:
    1. What is nourishing my passions?
    1. What is taking me away from my passions?
    1. What is taking away from my drive?
  4. Air:
    1. What thoughts are inspiring me?
    1. What thoughts are holding me back?
    1. What inspires me in general?
  5. Water
    1. How do I feel about the relationships in my immediate circle?
    1. What can I do to be more compassionate toward myself?
    1. How can I nourish myself more spiritually?
  6. Earth
    1. Where am I physically over-extending myself?
    1. What am I doing to support my body?
    1. How does my physical space affect me?
  7. 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.

Celebrate

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!

Where Are You Now as a Writer?

Today is a big day. Today is the first episode of the Natural Writer Podcast, and the topic is prompting you to answer the question, “Where are you as a writer?”

There is a lot I go into, and while this blog post isn’t exactly the transcript of episode, it’s the outline in blog form.

Where Are You as A Writer? Natural Writer Podcast

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 https://naturalwritercoaching.com/2021/08/01/tarot-journaling/ 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  http://www.NaturalWriterCoaching.com On Instagram: @NaturalWriterCoaching On Twitter: @WriterNatural On Facebook: NaturalWriterCoaching 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.

Using Tarot

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

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

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

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.

Fire

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

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?

  1. How are you keeping yourself accountable?
  2. How are you planning for your writing goals?
  3. 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?

  1. Does writing, as a whole inspire you? Intimidate you? Make you feel free? Constricted?
  2. Consider this and note what you feel in your body. Do you relax? Is there a tightness?
  3. How do you feel about your writing?
    1. 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?

  1. Does it hit you from nowhere?
  2. Do you cultivate it?
  3. What relaxes you and puts you in the flow with your art?
  4. What emotions do you tap into when you write?
    1. 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?

  1. By what physical method do you write?
    • Type writer?
    • By hand?
    • Computer?
    • Dictation?
  2. Are you making money from your writing?
  3. How are you nourishing your brain?

I want to take a second to explain the last question.

The things that we put in our body affects our minds. Everyone is different, therefore different minds need different things. I also want to take a second to honor that this can be a privileged thing to consider as well.

I am not going on a kick about what you should or shouldn’t consume. What I am asking is for you to pay attention to how certain things affect how you think and act.

For example: during lockdown last year, I, like so many, began baking. I started to find that when I was eating the delicious things I baked, I was getting cranky. Same with when I had sugar in my coffee. So I stopped with the sugar-rich treats and drastically cut back on the sugar in my coffee.

Recently, since I get up at 5 in the morning, I have noticed that I have some pretty gnarly caffeine crashes around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I realized it was because I was drinking bucket loads of coffee and then hitting my wall. So I stopped and replaced coffee with chicory root for a while, and then with plain old water.

I noticed how what I was consuming was affecting my mind and productivity, and I made the changes I felt I had the capacity and capability to make.

Where Are You As A Writer?

Consider everything you’ve journaled about here. What have you discovered? Are you pleased with it? Do you see areas you want to change?

If you’re open to sharing, post in the comments below! I’ll be you’ll find you’re not alone.

Natural Writer Podcast

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Happy Listening and Happy Writing!


Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook

In this podcast, I mention the Celtic Cross Workbook.

At the time of recording, I didn’t know when it would be released. However! I do now!

It is a completely free, 75+ pages of tarot and journal prompts using the Celtic Cross to help you delve into where you are as a writer, what is supporting you, and what is holding you back from becoming what you want to be.

Check it out for Free by completing the form below!

Tarot for Writers: What Does it Mean to Journal on a Tarot Card?

I talk a lot about Tarot. And one of my favorite practices is to tell people to journal. The combination of that often results in telling people to journal on a Tarot card.

What does that mean?

The Importance of Journaling

There are many gurus, teachers, therapists, and writers out there who will tell you that journaling is essential and important to keeping a healthy mind. Yet it’s easy to get hung up on what that means.

For many of us, when we were in school, we would be given writing prompts to get us to think about what we had learned. “What was the significance of living eternally in Tuck Everlasting?” “Would you want to live forever? Why or why not?”

I used to hate them. Truly.

Now I love them. I love the idea of delving into what I think about something. This is essentially what journal prompts serve to do. They invite a person to collect their thoughts and put them onto paper, or into audio.

The Benefits of Journaling

One way that journaling is effective is that it’s like putting your thoughts into a funnel. You have everything floating around in your head, but as soon as you have to put them into words, your brain has to organize them. It’s like untangling a knot into something manageable.

While this is an excellent reason to journal, the best understanding of the importance and therapeutic method of journaling has come from Julia Cameron in her book, The Right to Write.

She writes that journaling is allowing you the space to witness yourself. Often times we need to be witnessed, but so much of what we feel or what we think is shrouded in fear or shame. We’re afraid of what people will think of us if they knew we had x thought, or y belief, or felt a particular way.

When we journal, we are giving ourselves space to express what’s inside of us, and we are bearing our own witness.

I think this is truly beautiful, and essential for everyone to experience.

Journaling on a Tarot Card

So what does it mean to journal on a Tarot card?

This is a great practice when you’re learning to do Tarot or to read an oracle deck, and there are many ways to do this. There is no one right way. However, here are some offerings.

Note: I should mention, these are exercises designed mostly for Rider-Waite-Colman-Smith- and/or Thoth-based decks. While some of these exercises can be used for Tarot de Marseille decks, they don’t translate as easily. Oracle decks can also be used in this manner as well.

1. Describe What You See

Even if you know all the card meanings, describing what you see in a card can help you get to what you need to know about a card. It shows you what’s catching your eye first. Pay attention to that, and examine what that image, color, number, symbol, glyph, etc. might mean to you.

When you write this out, or record it out loud, you’re giving yourself the space to explore a card beyond the keyword meanings you might have memorized.

If you’re new to getting to know the Tarot, this is an opportunity for you to discover more about the picture in front of you.

2. Describe What You Feel

Writing the emotions or thoughts that come up immediately when you look at a card can help you get to the heart and energy behind a card. If you flip over the 3 of Cups and you feel panicked, then there’s a chance that you should pay attention to how you feel about social situations. If you turn over the 10 of Swords and feel relieved, then the chances are you should examine how you can move out of your particular situation and go toward that new dawn on the horizon.

Write out how you feel, and then ask yourself why you feel the way you do. Ask yourself “why?” several times, or “what can I learn from this?” several times before you move on. This is how you get in deep to your psyche.

3. Define the Card

Write out your definition of the card. If you know the card, or even if you don’t know the card, write out what it means to you. What is the image telling you? What story can you get from the picture in front of you?

Now, how does that story or definition relate to the position of the card, and to your life right now? Write it all out. Allow yourself to organize your thoughts in this way, and see what unfolds before you.

Ways to Journal

There is no right way to journal. Whether you’re doing it for a writing project, for school, or to get to know the tarot, there is no one way that is correct. What is correct is what works for you and serves you the best.

There are some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t judge yourself for what you express through journaling. You are making space for yourself. You are allowing yourself a safe place to explore and examine ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Don’t think too hard. Try to let it flow
  • Have compassion for yourself.

Here are some ways to journal

Longhand

While of course you can type out your journal entries, writing by hand, or by some measure other than pressing buttons, helps you to connect better with your thoughts and with the exercise.

When you write longhand, you can write your journal entry like you’re talking to someone, in pros, in poem form, however you want so long as the pen is moving or the voice keeps speaking, until you’re done.

Audio

Personally, I suffer from a hand injury a few years ago. When I write too much, my wrist and hand ache and it’s useless for a while. This is just one reason why someone might not be able to, or might not want to journal by hand.

Creating an audio recording is a helpful way to get around this. So long as you can find a space to yourself and can access some form of recording perhaps on your phone, on your computer, or into an old Home Alone Voice Recorder, then you’re good.

I do want to note that while yes, you can absolutely dictate your journaling to the computer, I wouldn’t recommend dictation as your writing practice. The reason I say this is that when you dictate, you need to tell the computer or dictation software to put in commas, periods, line breaks, etc. This can interrupt the flow of thought, and might create a barrier to achieve what you’re looking to achieve through your journaling.

Bullet Journaling

Bullet Journaling is a combination of art and journaling. It allows you to think and mull and gnaw on your thoughts while you doodle and color, and then bullet point your key thoughts.

Furthermore, not everyone can express themselves fully through writing. Words aren’t their medium, and there is nothing wrong with that. Using bullet journaling allows for the journaler to use color, lines, and images to give a broader range of expression.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what any of the images mean to anyone else, only the person expressing themselves. The journal is for you and only you.

Combining Tarot & Journaling

It’s no secret that I see the Tarot as an excellent tool for writers. Learning to journal on a Tarot card is a great way to help a writer sink into the scene in a card and use it to help them write their story.

For example, a two-card reading process I like to use is Situation & Problem. The first card acts as the situation I’m starting from, then the card that crosses it is the Problem. From there, I begin writing.

If I turn over the 5 of Wands, then my situation could be competition. If my second card is the Lovers, then the Problem is either a choice that has to be made, or perhaps a competing love interest, depending on where I want to go with this this card.

When I journal on the situation, and what the card looks like, the colors expressed, what the images mean to me, I’m starting my brain along the path of how I could apply this to a story. This is my jumping off point for my story, whether it’s a piece of flash fiction, a novel, or a short story.

Likewise, when I begin to journal on the Lovers and what it means to me or how I might apply it in terms of the first card, then I’m beginning to develop a plot. I’m exploring how what I know, what I feel, what I see in this prompt can be the thing to interrupt the first card.

This is just one way out of hundreds that I can benefit from journaling around or about a Tarot card.

Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook

If you want to take a truly deep dive into your writing practice and discover more about yourself as a writer, I have something just for you:

The Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook

This workbook has over 65 pages of journaling exercises to help you plunge into the depths of what makes you, you, of what your writing habits are, what is supporting you, and what is holding you back.

Through using the classic Celtic Cross Tarot spread, I walk you through

  • Getting real with your current situation
  • Begin looking at your writing life through the lens of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water
  • What’s getting in your way
  • Uncovering your biases that might be holding you back
  • Looking at what’s supporting or hindering you internally and externally
  • How to develop your actionable steps to make necessary changes
  • And more

The best part about this workbook? It’s completely free.

Fill out the form below to get your workbook and begin learning how Tarot and your journaling practice can serve you as a writer!

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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Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

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!

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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December 16 Journal Prompt: Inspirational Flaw

What Flaws Does Your Inspirational Person Have?

In a continuation of our look at how to develop a character, and thus how to generate writing prompts, we will build off the journal prompt from yesterday.

Now that you’ve taken the time to learn and write a little bit about the person who inspires you in your life and some of their characteristics, your journal prompt today will be to look at their flaws.

Spend time to really think about flaws. They aren’t always obvious. Sometimes people’s talents can contribute to their greatest downfalls. My example yesterday was Jim Morrison from the Doors. He was a massively gifted individual in my eyes, but part of his gift led to his demise. He was open minded and talented and produced the style of art that he did as a result of the mass quantities of drugs he ingested. More than once he spiraled out of control, and when he was 27, he died in a bathtub in Paris when his heart gave out.

Flaws aren’t just health defects. They’re problems with character. Flaws are some of the best things you can give a character. No one is perfect. Period. Everyone has a flaw. When your characters do too, it makes them more realistic and relatable for the reader. When your reader can connect to your characters, they’ll be more drawn into your story.

Most importantly, where there are flaws, there is room for growth. Perhaps your inspiring person has commitment issues. Maybe they become overly attached. Perhaps they’re overly generous with their money to the point where they can barely make ends meet each month. Maybe they are a chronic promise-breaker.

Spend some time thinking about the person who inspires you and look at what you know of them and see what their flaws are. If you don’t know enough about them, guess. Spend some time brainstorming and supposing what a logical character flaw is that they might have.

After you’ve done this, free write about how this makes your inspirational person more interesting, or how they influence what you think about that person. Do you feel better about them? Do you feel worse about them? Why? Give yourself at least ten minutes to write about this, and really dig deep I not what might be good relatable flaws, or what might potentially put readers off.

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December 15 Journal Prompt: Who’s Awesome?

The first part of the month was focusing on getting to know yourself. The last part of the month was getting ready by setting some goals. Now we’re going to look at how to generate ideas for writing.

Today is going to consider things in your own life that might work toward building your characters. You do need to make sure you do today’s journal prompt because the next few will stem from this one.

Journal Prompt

Who, in person or otherwise, inspires you?
Why?

This questions is important because you can examine the characteristics you find appealing. Likewise, you can take some time to research the person (if it’s someone famous and you don’t already know much about them), and look into the complexity of their character. You can pick apart what their flaws are and see how they contribute to the inspiring aspect of this person.

For example, I used to know a woman who suffered from extreme anxiety. She was a single mother, and she knew some intense hardship in her life, most of which all happened at once. But despite everything, she managed to create her own business and make a living off it enough that she was able to support her and her son, lease her own car, and have luxuries she couldn’t afford when I first met her. And her business had to do with her art. Then one day she saw something she didn’t think was right, something she thought the city should be doing something about. When she couldn’t find a solution, she went back to school so she could prevent it from happening again. She’s one of the strongest, most amazing people I know.

There are so many traits about her that I could use in my writing to make an inspiring character, or a redeeming character.

Likewise, I absolutely adore Jim Morrison from the Doors. Love their music, love his poetry, and I think he’s a fascinating individual. He had a lot of problems, which makes him all the more interesting to me. There are aspects of him that I could combine with my first example and make a very interesting and complex character.

So today’s journal prompt is to think about an inspirational person you know, even better if it’s two of them, and to list every characteristic of them you know about them.

If you have more than one character, then your next task, or bonus task, is to see how you can combine the characteristics you’ve listed into one person.

December Offer

January is a time of starting fresh, of setting up good habits to begin the new you.

Through December, to get excited and ready for January, I’m offering a Free 1-hour session in addition to any monthly package or the 6-month package.

This means that if you sign up for either of the monthly packages, you’ll get 5 sessions instead of four. This includes any of the additional bonuses included in the package. For example, if you sign up for the 6-month package, you will get an additional week of partial manuscript reading and critique.

This offer is only if you sign up for my packages through the month of December.Don’t miss out starting your 2020 new year write.

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December 13 Journal Prompt: Know Your Fears

What Is Your Fear Around Writing?

There are two more posts specifically about goal setting, and one of them I’d like to talk to you a little bit about fear.

When you boil it down, fear is behind what stops us. We’re afraid of investing, we’re afraid of success, we’re afraid of failure. We’re afraid of being wrong, we’re afraid of being right.

All of this boils down to change. If we have a fear in any of these areas, it’s because we have an idea of what is or should be, and whatever it is that you’re afraid of runs the risk of change.

I listen to a lot of tarot podcasts (if you didn’t know, my dovetail into coaching was via my tarot website and the writing prompts I was posting there), and Lindsey Mack had a wonderful episode recently on the 10 of Swords, which is generally viewed as a difficult card. In the episode she spoke a lot about fear, and what it is in the brain.

Your brain is trying to create a safe route for us, but we can only do it if we can predict what’s going to come. When we have a fear of change, it’s because the change is something that is unknown. The outcome is unknown. And as a result, we fear it because we can’t predict and prepare for it on a deeper level.

If you look at Eckhart Tole and what he has to say on the matter, fear is a result of your ego trying to preserve itself. Similarly to the idea of unpredictability, the ego is trying to maintain its sense of identity. Anything can threaten that sense of self, especially change of status. As a result, we have fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, and myriad of other difficult emotions.

I cannot recommend his book, A New Earth enough. The first chapter can be a bit dry, but once you get into the meat of it, it’s amazing.

What’s this Got to Do with Writing or the New Year?

When we are setting our writing goals for the New Year, we need to address and confront some of these fears that we might have around success.

Some common writer fears are:

  • Fear of success
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear to start
  • Fear of not finishing
  • Fear of not writing well enough
  • Fear of people reading their work

I won’t get into these too much. However, the end result in many of these is a change in the understanding of yourself. What if you write a book? Then you’ll now be the person who writes books, and with that comes some form of responsibility.

What if you’re successful? What if you fail? Both of these involve changes to the sense of self. If you’re successful, then your identity now involves “writer,” and it can mean keeping up a social media presence, going through the motions of publishing, repping your work, etc. If you fail though, then it could mean a change in how people perceive you.

Whatever your fear regarding your writing is, it has the potential to hold you back in some way.

It can manifest in

  • Writer’s block
  • Stagnation
  • Boredom of a project
  • Inability to stay focused on just one project
  • Constantly working on your piece but never actually getting anywhere with it

Again, these are just a few ways you can see fear interrupt your writing.

When you’re making goals for the New Year, you want to look into what goals you aren’t setting but would like to set. You want to look at the goals you are setting and see how fear is playing a role in how you set yourself up for success this year.

Journal Prompt

This is going to be another two-part journal prompt. It is essential that you really dive deep to get to understand what’s in you, what might be blocking you, and what might be supporting you. Your joy is what’s going to carry you through to find success. Your fear is going to be what holds you back.

Step 1: Your Relationship with Fear

The first part of this is to look at your relationship to fear. This might involve a few days’ worth of reflecting. During this exercise, think about the things that have held you back because you were on some level afraid. Think about the things that infuriated you, and ask how they might have been in response to an underlying fear.

Look at this in relation to your writing, but also in life. Sometimes our fears in life can be symptomatic in our writing as well. For example, if we’re stressed out in life  because we’ve taken on too much, our writing can suffer, even if we make time for it.

Step 1.2: Your Writing

Now look at your writing. Really look at it. Look at all the times you thought “I should be writing,” but didn’t. Think about the times you wrote but wanted to keep it a complete secret. Think about the manuscripts you have, completed, doing nothing.

Ask yourself why all these things are the case, and examine the fear around each situation.

Step 2: Your 2020 Goals

Now that you have some understanding about your fears, ask yourself how they’re going to influence your goals. Are they going to hinder them in some way or will your 2020 goals remain unaffected?

If you think they’ll be a problem, work overcoming that fear into your goals for 2020, into your habits for January.

If you need any help coming up with ways to break through that fear, I’m only a quick message away!

December Offer

January is a time of starting fresh, of setting up good habits to begin the new you.

Through December, to get excited and ready for January, I’m offering a Free 1-hour session in addition to any monthly package or the 6-month package.

This means that if you sign up for either of the monthly packages, you’ll get 5 sessions instead of four. This includes any of the additional bonuses included in the package. For example, if you sign up for the 6-month package, you will get an additional week of partial manuscript reading and critique.

This offer is only if you sign up for my packages through the month of December.Don’t miss out starting your 2020 new year write.

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Fill out the form below to talk to me about your piece. This is about getting to know you and your work, and deciding if we make a good pair to get you through your project.

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