Using Tarot to Write Poetry

Inspiration comes in strange forms. And often seemingly out of nowhere. While I don’t usually write in any form other than pros, the idea came to me to write a poem. But in a very specific way: using Tarot cards. Because, why not? After all, if I can use them for everything else, why not for a poem?

As soon as the idea hit, so did all possible complication I could think of:

  • How many cards should I draw?
  • Should I draw one card per stanza? Per line?
  • If I need to figure that out, then I need to figure out the form of my poem ahead of time, wouldn’t I?
  • What if I drew one card as the topic of the stanza, and then a card for each line?
  • Maybe a card for the beginning of the line and the end of the line?
  • What if the start of the stanza was the topic card reversed and the stanza was about how to right the card?
  • Etc.

And of course, how would you decide what that card has to say? After all, you’re not doing a reading. This is a poem. The cards can say so many different things based on the cards around them, the prompt or question, or simply the feel of the reading. Could I read a card in the form of a poem rather than as a reading as a whole?

K.I.S.S.
Keep It Simple, Stupid

Then I realized I was making this way too complicated.

Writing, like divination, is about feeling it out. It’s about tapping into that water aspect of ourselves, our creative, intuitive self. It’s about diving deep into our wells and oceans and seeing what we pull from the depths.

In other words, it’s about going with the flow.

So I tried it out, letting the cards tell me how many I was to draw.

I took a deep breath and sank into my body, letting my hands do what they knew to do: shuffle the cards , letting my fingers feel the directions of them. I stopped thinking, and instead simply felt. And when the time was right, I began putting cards down without too much thought.

The Process

I chose one per line, and each angled row of cards was a different stanza.

Here’s what my process looked like:

  1. I breathed in a drew a card at a time, letting the deck dictate where to put each card and when to stop.
  2. I assigned each card on word.
  3. I looked at each stanza, writing down the word per line, then spent time writing the stanza itself, incorporating the essence of the meaning of the word.
  4. I moved on to the next stanza, repeating the process until I was finished.
  5. Add up the cards in each stanza to get a theme for the stanza in the form of the Major Arcana.

While I’m not going to share what I wrote (I am certainly no poet), I wanted to share the essence of what each line revolved around, to give you an example of how you might play around with this method.

Title

Okay, so I didn’t intentionally pull a title. I happened to have a card that popped out when I was moving the deck, and thought I would stick it at the top and see if that card came into play at all.

In my opinion, it did.

It was the 8 of Swords – self-bound.

Dreamkeeper's Tarot: 8 of Swords

The 8 of Swords is a reminder that while the situation might seem difficult, you are the one who holds the ends of your ropes. You have the ability to change your perspective. You can untie yourself, remove your blindfold and obstacles, and get yourself out of the situation that feels so impossible. You have this ability.

Spoiler alert, this played nicely, given the last line of the first stanza, which focuses on resistance.

Furthermore, the 8s, in Tarot, correspond to the Major Arcana card, Strength. This is about finding the difficult parts within ourselves and approaching them with compassion. We don’t fight against them, instead confront them with understanding.

And thus, this was what my poem was about.

Stanza 1

I flipped over the first line to get the following cards:

  • XIII Death – Transformation
  • 9 of Cups – Embodiment
  • XI Justice – Truth
  • VI Lovers – Highest Choice
  • 9 of Wands – Redundant
Dreamkeeper’s Tarot: Death, 9 of Cups, Justice, Lovers, 9 of Wands

I wrote these down in my notebook, then then began to write what I thought about death in terms of transformation. For me, it is a moment of stepping into transformation, whether we intend to or not, and not being able to go back. The process has already begun.

So what choice do we have? That of examining our wants, our goals, what would make us happiest and set us on cloud 9. That’s what the 9 of Cups is about, and that is what we have to embody. If we have to transform, why not embody what we want to transform into?

And how do we know how to do that? We must look inward to find our own inner truth, our personal Justice.

When we know this, we will take the higher path, the one that will lead us to our inner growth, our divine evolution. This is the card of the lovers. This is what this line is about.

Except, perhaps, there is resistance. And what is the cause of the resistance other than ourselves? We have fought so hard, and we continue to fight. But perhaps, just maybe, if we see the battle is won, that we no longer need to be on guard, then the energy we seek, that we need for our transformation, can flow freely.

Adding Up the Cards

As I mentioned before, I add the cards to convert them to a corresponding Major Arcana. If you’re not familiar with the Tarot, this might sound very strange and kind of confusing. I’ll walk you through it:

  1. Add up the number of the cards
  2. If the number is higher than 22, add the digits together
  3. The resulting number will be a corresponding Major Arcana

The reason we take an extra step with numbers over 22 is because there are only 21 number Major Arcana cards.

The numbers we’re working with for this stanza are 13, 9, 11, 6, and 9.

13 + 9 + 11 + 6 + 9 = 48

This is a number higher than 22, so we add the two digits together: 4 + 8 = 12.

So the corresponding card is the Hanged Man. However, we can take it a step further and reduce the number down by adding the digits together again:

1 + 2 = 3
the Empress.

This guides me a little more, should I want to. I can start with the message of the Hanged Man and end the stanza with the Empress, or I can aim to elevate the poem from the Empress to the Hanged Man. I won’t go into these card meanings, but it’s just and added something fun to play around with if you’re like me and like complicated things.

Stanza 2

  • High Priestess – Intuition and Secrets
  • Ace of Swords – Inspiration
  • Empress – Nurture
  • Ace of Cups – Nourishment
  • 3 of Wands – Expansion
Dreamkeeper’s Tarot: High Priestess, Ace of Swords, Empress, Ace of Cups, 3 of Wands

How do we find what we are resisting? What we are fighting for? We call upon the wisdom and energy of the High Priestess, who helps us to navigate our intuition and our inner secrets. Settling with her will show you what you need to know.

Armed with a sword, the Ace of Swords, you can cut away what is no longer needed to make way for inspiration. The new ideas are endless. Like cutting away weeds that have overgrown and smothered what you need so desperately to grow.

The Empress then teaches you to nurture what remains. She tends to your inner strengths, to the new aspects of yourself that will aid your transformation.

What’s most important, with the Empress and High Priestess combined, you’ll learn how to care for yourself, your first true love, teaching you how to find and nurture your self-compassion, to fill your own cup.

From there, you expand. Into the world, into new forms of expression, you expand. You transform.

Adding Up the Cards

For this stanza, the numbers on the cards I’m working with are 2, 1, 3, 1, and 3.

2 + 1 + 3 + 1 +3 = 10

Since it’s below 22, I don’t need to reduce it down. This card is the Wheel of Fortune. Though, it is a two-digit card, which means I can reduce it further to 1, the Magician. Personally, I find both of these cards go superbly with the cards drawn for this stanza.

Stanza 3

  • The Star – Hopes
  • 10 of Cups – Fulfillment
  • Kind of Swords – Wisdom
Dreamkeeper’s Tarot: Star, 10 of Cups, King of Swords

The Star provides you wishes, hopes, and a direction to take aim. She promises you success, if only you’ll let her help you aim your bow into the stars.

The 10 of Cups shows your success, your brimming cup so full it fills ten of them. Your heart is content, and there is no further joy. The water flows. There is no more resistance. You have given up your stance. There is no more fighting.

Therein lies the wisdom of the King of Swords, master of his art. Master of his words. Master of his passion that is your expression, dear writer. Therein lies the wisdom.

Adding up the Cards

For this final stanza, we only have three cards to work with, and thus, three numbers: 17, 10, and 4.

17 + 10 + 4 = 41

4 + 1 = 5
the Hierophant.

One could go further and add all the stanzas up to see what the corresponding Major Arcana card would be for the whole poem. However, since I drew a title card, I don’t feel it’s necessary.

The Result

It was shocking how well it turned out. I loved the flow of it, though, again, I won’t share what I wrote. I’m not a poet, after all.

However, I loved the play with it. While I do sometimes write poetry, especially if I’m reading it (which I do get into some poetry kicks from time to time, which you might have noticed if you follow me on Instagram), I generally let it flow. However, some of my favorite poems I’ve written have been somewhat calculated as I tried to fit them into a form. Finding a form like that helped me to get creative with my words and pay attention to the rhythm. I found different an unique ways of expressing myself within the form’s parameter.

This is what I experienced while trying to write a poem this way. It also tapped into a different part of my brain, one that I certainly feel that I should be using while I’m writing. After all, in the Tarot, creativity and intuition both fall into the same element (at least, the way I read the cards they do). So why should I be surprised at how well using my intuitive part of my mind worked when applying it to my creativity?

I truly recommend giving this a go. Even if you don’t read the cards, getting a creative deck that speaks to you, that you find inspiration in, and writing down a key word that floats to mind as you look at the card can be a great way to tap into your creativity.

My Question to You

Would you be interested in a cheat sheet with a keyword for each tarot card, as well as perhaps a few “classic” poetry forms to play around with? Let me know in the comments. Also be sure to let me know if you played around with this method, or any similar method. I would love to hear all about it!

Developing Your Main Character with the Tarot (Pt 1)

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

Designing Your MC with the Fool through the Hierophant Natural Writer Podcast

Developing your Main Character (MC) can sometimes be a bit of a drag. There are a plethora of spreadsheets to help you get to the nitty gritty of what you’re character is about, though they usually involve delving into what your character’s favorite color or ice cream topping is.

The Tarot can provide some insightful prompts to help you work through the deeper parts of your MC, specifically, using the Major Arcana.

Even more specifically, the first six cards: the Fool 0, the Magician I, the High Priestess II, the Empress III, the Emperor IV, and the Hierophant V.

Each of these cards can provide a different consideration regarding the Fool, who will act the part of your MC. Everything from their internalized skillset, to the parental figures in their life, to how they learned about the world.

However, before we get too into this, I want to take a moment to address the gendered language of the tarot.

Gendered Language is Outdated

Many tarot enthusiasts and historians have debated just how long the Tarot has been around, and where it originated. I am not going to get into that. However, the most concrete evidence puts it back at least a few hundred years ago.

As a result, there are a lot of aspects of the Tarot that just don’t quite fit into our modern society. Gendered language is one of those aspects.

However, thanks to authors such as Cassandra Snow and her book Queering the Tarot, as well as many other talented and insightful tarot readers and writers, tarot is evolving away from this. I want to take a brief moment to talk about how to get around gendered language in the Tarot, since some of the cards we’ll be discussing heavily rely on “gendered” energies.

Traditionally, tarot is spoken about in terms of masculine and feminine energy. These are actually representative terms for active and passive energy: masculine energy being active and feminine energy being passive.

Active energy is seen as something that is more external. Or, at least, it something that might come from within but has the ability to alter the external, or directly influence it. Air and Fire are the external, active elements in the Tarot.

Passive energy, on the other hand, is seen more internal. This is the work that is done within, from healing to nurturing, to feeling. Water and Earth are the passive elements in the Tarot.

Neither energy is above the other. Both energies are necessary, and the goal is always to seek

I mention all of this because there will be cards throughout the Tarot that deal with gendered terms such as the High Priestess, the Empress, and the Emperor. These deal with parenting figures as well, which I’ll talk more about when we get to the designated cards. But veering away from gendered language is essential, since male or male representing figures can absolutely signify the High Priestess roll, as well has embody the HP’s qualities, just as a female or female representing figure can embody the qualities of the Emperor.

Major Arcana & Character Development

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook

There are 22 Major Arcana cards in the tarot, often starting with the Fool, which is numbered 0. This is because the Fool represents the natural protagonist of the journey through the Major Arcana.

Thus, this is where we’ll start with building your MC.

The Fool:
The Carrier of Your Story

Rider Waite Smith Fool

The traditional depiction of the Fool in the tarot, is someone who is about to walk off a cliff. Their head is tilted up into the sky, and they seem happy, and completely unaware of what is before them. They carry a stick with a bundle at the end of it over their shoulder, while a little dog barks at their feet.

The fool represents the openness to move forward into the journey. They trust what is ahead of them so much that they know that staying where they are is not an option.

Your MC is the Fool.

Whatever it is that compels your MC to go along the journey is a greater reason to trudge forward into sometimes unwanted experiences because the option to do nothing can’t stack up against the reason to carry on. Even if your character is kicking and screaming the whole way, they know that they cannot stay put.

This signifies that there is some small level of trust. Trust that no matter the danger that might lay ahead, it is worth more than not doing anything. Even if they die in the process, it is still worth more than doing nothing, even if it’s only worth more by a hair.

This indicates your MC’s values. What they hold to be a truth that is strong enough to carry them forward.

The question is, then, what does your Main Character believe in so whole-heartedly, that they can’t turn down the threshold?

The Tarot Pull

If you have a tarot deck, shuffle while you focus on what you know of your MC, if you know anything at all. Either way, put your thoughts toward what it is that they hold true.

When you’re done shuffling, flip the deck over and find the Fool card.

  • The card in front of it is what they trust
  • The card behind is what they don’t trust

Another way to look at these two cards are:

  • The card before them can be their compelling reason to move forward
  • The card behind them can be their reasoning not to act

Internal or Personal Tools Counterparts

The first few Major Arcana couple up nicely. The Magician is the active counterpart to the passive High Priestess; the Empress is the passive counter part to the active Magician.

The Fool is going to look at themselves for the skills or tools they have within them to navigate their journey.

The Magician

| The Fool |
| The High Priestess |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

Rider Waite Smith Magician

As mentioned in the description of the Fool, they carry a bag on a stick over their shoulder. The question is, what is in that bag? This is what the Fool chose to bring with them, knowing they would need whatever is in there. It is very small, so whatever is in it, is essential.

The Magician is here to reveal what is in that bag, showing and reminding us of the tools we already have at our disposal, that which we use to manifest or make happen.

The traditional depiction of the Magician is a person stood behind a table with representations of each of the suits or elements on their table: Wand for Fire, Cup for Water, Sword for Air, and Pentacle for Earth. Each of these suits or elements represents different aspects of life, and thus, different strengths our MC has to navigate through the world.

The Tarot Pull

As you consider what skills your MC might have, shuffle the deck. When you’re ready, draw four cards:

  1. Card 1 represents Earth: home, the tangible world, how your MC makes money, health, etc.
  2. Card 2 represents Air: communication, logic, thinking, truth, legal systems, education
  3. Card 3 represents Fire: desire, will, passion, sexuality, drive, career, creation
  4. Card 4 represents Water: emotion, intuition, relationships, subconscious, spirituality, magic

Not all of these things for each element needs to be found in the one card drawn for that element. Though, if you’d like, you can pull a card for each quality of that element if you really want to get into it.

However, don’t overthink this. Each card that you draw represents a strength in that elemental realm that the Fool carries in their bag of tricks.

The High Priestess

| The Fool |
| The Magician |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

Rider Waite Smith High Priestess

The High Priestess is the counterpart to the Magician. She represents what goes on internally. While the Magician shows what skills your MC uses to navigate the external world, the High Priestess reveals what skills they have to navigate their own internal world. This card will bring forth the lessons of looking within in order to find answers and guidance.

The High Priestess is a Water element, which means that while they represent the passive energy of water, they also represent creativity, emotions (how we form relationships and navigate them), love, intuition, and any magical aspects or spirituality your MC might have.

The Tarot Pull

Spend some times shuffling and focusing on the essence of the High Priestess, and the qualities that could be bestowed up on your MC in this realm.

When you’re done shuffling, find the High Priestess Card.

  • The card before it will be a known inner strength
  • The card behind it will be an unknown strength, perhaps something that can be called up on later in the plot, or developed throughout the plot

External & Close Counterparts

The Magician and the High Priestess represent what the MC somewhat develops themselves within. The Empress and the Emperor are external influences on your MC, generally in the form of a parental figure.

Neither of these figures need to be the actual parents of your MC, but rather, those who taught these qualities, or revealed these qualities.

Again, the Empress does not need to be a female-identifying figure, just as the Emperor doesn’t need to be represented by a male-identifying figure. These are just qualities of these archetypes.

The Empress

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

The Rider Waite Smith Empress

The Empress represents “mothering” qualities. They are the support that a person needs in order to grow. They represent a nurturing nature.

For example, a seed needs certain things in order to come to fruition. The Empress is the tender of that seed, providing nourishing soil, water, and ensuring that it gets enough sunlight. The Empress also knows how to give that seed the space it needs to grow on its own.

This is what I mean when I say “mothering” qualities.

The Tarot Pull: Pt 1

The question is, who has been a nurturer for your MC? Who has acted in a “motherly” roll for them?

While you think about this question, shuffle and pull three cards to show how this embodiment of the Empress has helped your MC to grow in mind, body, and spirit.

Side Character Development

A note about characters other than your MC.

We all only know a piece of a person. We know what our experience is with that person, and what they choose to show us. Likewise, we often see parts of ourselves reflected back at us through other people.

When we learn what one person is to another person, we are learning about both people simultaneously.

Using the Empress character as an example, looking at how someone was a mothering figure to the MC, we’re learning not only about what this figure gave to the MC, but what the MC was willing to receive. This will influence their development, how they thin, how they feel, how they react. It will influence how they view self-care, or the care of others.

Similarly, it shows what the other character was willing to give to the MC, or not give, as the case may be. It’s also an invitation to look at what this side character might not be giving to others in their life because of what they’re giving to the MC. This can help to create a more rounded character profile.

The Tarot Pull: Pt 2

Pick your deck up again and begin considering your MC’s relationship to this nurturing figure while you shuffle. When you’re done shuffling, you’re going to pull four cards:

  1. Card 1 represents the mothering figure themselves.
  2. Card 2 represents how your MC responded to this mothering/nurturing/soft guidance.
  3. Card 3 represents an important lesson learned from this figure.
  4. Card 4 represents something challenging this figure left with your MC.

Emperor

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Empress |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

The Rider Waite Smith Emperor

The Emperor represents active energy. Often depicted as an older man on a throne, with ram heads for the arm pieces, with colors of red prominent in the card, the Emperor represents authority and structure.

While the Empress represents internal nurturing for growth, the Emperor helps to create the structures one needs to hold themselves up. If we think of a seedling, the Empress is the water and soil while the Emperor is the thing it climbs up, or even the wind that might encourage the stalk to strengthen so it can hold itself up.

The Empress is about allowing supported space in order to grow. In contrast, the Emperor teaches to be unapologetic for the space that our character takes up, for that is their space and thus their space to govern. This is an external card, but this also is a card about how we govern ourselves.

In this light, when we are looking at the Emperor in regard to your character, we are considering who it was that taught your character how to take up space in the world. Do they take up space at all? That is, do they try to make themselves small, or are they content to exist and know their place?

The Tarot Pull

As you consider your Emperor’s qualities that were taught to your character, shuffle the cards. These four cards you pull will be similar to those of the Empress:

  1. The first card will be a card to represent this Emperor influence on your MC.
  2. The second card you pull will represent how the MC governs themselves.
  3. The third card will be a key take-away from this figure in your MC’s life.
  4. And finally, there will be a card for something challenging this figure left your MC with.

Broader External

So far, we’ve looked at the personal, and the first bare bones of community for the Fool, or your Main Character. We’ve considered what the Fool has at their disposal both internally and externally, and what the external world has done to teach their base lessons.

However, we are never done learning, and our parents, or parental influences, are not our only source of understanding of the world.

In comes the Hierophant.

The Hierophant

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| FREE Workbook |

Rider Waite Smith Hierophant

This figure is about the educational structures that help us understand the society we were born into. This can be literal schooling, a teacher, or a religious foundation which helped to shape morals.

The best way to look at this card, is to understand how it was that the MC understood how to function in the “normal” society and be “one of them,” them being a functioning societal member.

This card is sometimes called the Story Teller, which I think I like better. Someone who carries the understandings and views of the community. In those stories are lessons to be learned, morals, and a history, in some extent.

Knowing what this figure or system is in your story, to your MC will help to better understand the foundation they’ve built their understanding from regarding their community. This can shape how they act and respond to situations, how they think, and how they make their decisions based on their understanding of right and wrong.

This also sets up the MC for the following card, which is the Lovers, a card of choice. I won’t go too much into this card, since that was never the intention regarding this particular discussion. But I will say this: the Lovers is a card of choice, of being presented with an option, and deciding which path to take.

When we consider this in following the Hierophant (because each card builds off the last), then we understand this is a choice in deciding which norms and lessons we’ll leave behind, and which we will develop for ourselves. This is essentially the choice: what do we choose to believe and carry with us, and what do we reject.

Thus, when we look at the Hierophant, we are setting our MC up to solidify their code of ethics, so to speak, as well as setting them up to be presented with options later down the line, during their character arc.

The Tarot Pull

To figure this out for your MC, shuffle the cards before flipping the deck over so you can see the pictures, and find your Hierophant.

  • The card in front of the Hierophant is a teaching that your character agrees with and will carry with them.
  • The card behind it is a teaching that they aren’t sure about, that might come into question.

If you want to further develop this baseline, keep shuffling the cards, flipping the deck back over so you can’t see the faces, and pull three cards:

  • The first card will represent their standard education.
  • The second card will represent their religious lessons.
  • The third card will represent what their immediate community holds true.

When I talk bout the immediate community, this could be the small village your character lives in, their group of friends, their neighborhood, their ship, and so on. What is a philosophy of those who closely interact with your MC have?

If you want to delve into this more, you can ask yourself whether or not your MC agrees with this philosophy.

Keep It Going

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

The Tarot is an extremely helpful tool when it comes to your writing, or any creative practice for that matter.

One of the things you can use it for is to help your own development as a writer, by looking critically at where you are right now. What is your mentality? Where is your drive? What are you missing that would make your writing practice easier?

Celtic Cross Spread for Writers

I’ve created a 75+ page workbook called The Celtic Cross Spread for Writers, which includes journal prompts to accompany each card of the Celtic Cross.

This workbook is designed to help you better understand yourself so you can focus on the needs of your writing, pinpoint where your writing blocks might be, and move forward with more confidence.

This workbook is completely free, my gift to you, dear writer.

Fill out the form below and get yours!

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Happy Writing!

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

Did you like Episode 1 of the Natural Writer Podcast? Be sure to like and subscribe. At the time of writing this, Apple hasn’t quite caught on to how excellent this podcast is, so I need your help! Be sure to subscribe to it on:

And of course, don’t forget to share the love and tell your friends!

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!

Natural Writer Podcast

Alright, friends. I’ve done it. I’ve done the thing.

This has been in the works for a long time, and now I’m doing it.

I have an imperfect podcast to launch on August 2.

That’s right. On Lammas, I am launching the Natural Writer Podcast.

Full transparency: I’m terrified. This is a really scary thing for me to be doing! I actually have recorded and re-recorded my intro episode like ten times. Finally, I decided I would just publish it.

And you know what, I STILL found an editing error!

But that is to be expected. I’m learning new editing software (I’m used to editing sound on video editing software that I no longer have access to, nor am I willing to throw down $800 to gain access to), and to top it all off, I was doing it on my phone. Editing anything on your phone can be tricky, in case you haven’t discovered that.

However, my trailer episode is about an imperfect start, and thus, I think that my imperfect trailer outlines that.

If you want to get ready for the real deal, the full-on podcast, I’ll be launching on a Tuesday, and will keep up the every-Tuesday pattern.

I’m using Anchor as my host, which has gained me access to the following podcast platforms:

I am still currently waiting for Apple to get back to me. I will update this when I find out more.

I am very excited for this, and I hope you are too. Be sure to check out my imperfect trailer and subscribe for more imperfect, informative, and hopefully entertaining episodes of the Natural Writer Podcasts.


Don’t forget, we are still open for submissions for the Nightmares When I’m Cold writing competition/anthology.

Read about submissions guidelines here, or email NightmaresWhenImCold@gmail.com with any questions you might have!

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!

Writing the Other & Our Responsibility as Writers

We as writers have a responsibility. The world is evolving, and we, as artists, have a responsibility to help our readers move forward with the world.

The art we engage with shapes our understanding of the world. When we encounter a character, whether it be in a book, on stage, through a poem, or on a screen, we are opening ourselves up to understanding that character, which works as an extension of our understanding of what it means to be human.

Literature, plays, film, art, all help us to discover, relate, and comprehend how we are evolving. The books that make it through history all portray important situational messages, problems, and commentary on the way the world is, and things that need to be addressed. They all point the way for what we need to fix in order to move forward and evolve.

We have seen this time and time again throughout history. Consider Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, commentating on the horrors of colonialism in Africa, or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which outlines the racial injustices in America, or Angels in America by Tony Kushner which revolves around the AIDs epidemic in the ‘80s. Let us not forget Animal Farm or 1984, both by George Orwell who predicted and accurately outlined the way the western world is headed. These are just a few of the classics that come to mind.

While not all of us are trying to write the next great piece that will go down in history, I assume that we want to write accurately. The world, the country, the state, the providence, the town, are not all white, straight, able-bodied individuals. Including a diverse world in your story can not only provide representation for underrepresented individuals, but it can also bring depth to your story.

Thus, we have a responsibility as writers to ensure we are giving an accurate understanding of the human experience in the eclectic and beautifully colorful world that we live in.

This is why it is so important that as we write, we work to ensure we are not causing harm where harm has already been done, and that we accurately portray our characters, systems, and worlds.

Writing the Other

Writing the Other is an organization that provides classes specifically aimed at writers who want to create characters who are different of themselves. For example, a writer who has a character who has ADHD, when the writer does not have ADHD, a character who has a physical disability, or a character of another race, gender, gender identity, etc..

Writing the other image: a squid with an image of Vonda N. McIntyre with a think bubble saying "I think, there for I write the other."

Writing the Other aims at responsible writing, teaching writers how to avoid harmful stereotypes or portrayals of their characters.

Their website has classes, seminars, weekend courses, workshops, as well as free resources to help writers get it right. Their teachers include

  • Nisi Shawl
  • K. Tempest Bradford
  • Steven Barns
  • Piper J. Drake
  • Jaymee Goh
  • Keffy R.M. Kehrli
  • Debbie Reese
  • Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
  • And so many more talented speakers and authors

From their website:

Representation is fundamental to writing great fiction. Creating characters that reflect the diversity of the world we live in is important for all writers and creators of fictional narratives. But writers often find it difficult to represent people whose gender, sexual orientation, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity is very different from their own. This can lead to fear of getting it wrong–horribly, offensively wrong–and, in the face of that, some think it’s better not to try.

The hard truth is this: Representation and Diversity are too important to ignore.

It IS possible to write characters who represent the “Other” sensitively and convincingly. Through our classes, workshops, and seminars and the resources available on this site and elsewhere creators can get a solid foundation in how to craft characters from any background, no matter how different they are from you.

Writing the Other homepage

The more we know, the more we can ensure that we are creating good in society through our art. By understanding and recognizing patterns in our view of those around us, we can learn to be better to those very people, and one of those methods is through our writing.

If you are unfamiliar with Writing the Other, I encourage you to check out their website and the work they do. Get involved with their community on Facebook, and have a read through their free available resources.

You can view their
2021 class schedule here.
You can check out their book,
Writing the Other, here


Recently, I announced the launch of a non-profit short story competition. The organization that all of our profits will go to for this project will be Writing the Other, because both Katrina Carruth and I believe so strongly in what they do, and in creating more educated and responsible writers. Specifically, we will be donating to the Sentient Squid Scholarship. Through this scholarship, writers can take part in Writing the Other teachings to help become responsible writers who contribute to bettering the world through their art.

Even if you are not interested in participating in our Nightmares When I’m Cold short story competition, I hope you’ll consider not only checking out Writing the Other’s workshops and courses, but consider donating to the scholarship to make them more accessible.

I look forward to seeing this organization grow, and to seeing more inclusive, diverse, and supportive writing in the years to come.

Call for Submissions: Nightmares When I’m Cold

I am so excited to announce a call for submissions to Natural Writer Coaching’s first anthology. I am pairing up with Katrina Carruth, editor and writer, to compile and present this writing competition and anthology, Nightmares When I’m Cold.

This has been a goal and dream of both Katrina’s and mine for a long time. In the long bygone days of being an English and Philosophy student, I wanted to start a publication, just so I could have the opportunity to ready others’ fiction. So bringing about this idea is something I am nothing short of thrilled about.

The goal of this anthology is to showcase the creepy and chilling tales that come from your beautiful brains under the writing prompt “Nightmares When I’m Cold”.

This competition will open on July 1, 2021, and the deadline is August 15, 2021 at midnight, PST. 

Nightmares When I’m Cold
Basic Guidelines

This is what we are looking for:

  1. A horror story revolving around the prompt “Nightmares When I’m Cold”
  2. 3,000 to 6,000 words. Anything above 6,000 or below 3,000 will be discarded.
  3. Any subgenre of horror, though horror must be the main genre

Please note that just because the prompt is in the first person doesn’t mean that the story itself needs to be in the first person.

Something we strongly encourage is really pushing your creative self. Try the third-idea method, in which you throw away your first two ideas and go for the third or fourth. This can help you move past possibly thinking of something you’ve seen or read already and really get to something juicy.

What we do not want:

  1. Gratuitous violence, abuse, or sex
  2. Anything to do with rape. This is a big NO. While we know this is a book of horror, we would like to avoid needing to put Trigger Warnings at the top of any story.
  3. Anything to do with the mutilation or harm of children. This is a big NO.
  4. Gratuitous gore.

Who is eligible:

  • Adults 18+
  • Contestants from the US, Mexico, and Canada*

* One day we hope to expand this to include other countries, but for now, we are keeping this continental local.

The Prizes

While we want to put together a collection of stories that not only the authors can be proud of, but that we can be proud to showcase, we also wanted to make this a little more fun and give it a competitive edge.

Please know, all of the prizes are redeemable within 12 months of the publication date of the anthology.

Short-Listed Stories

  • All short-listed stories will have a place in the anthology, Nightmares When I’m Cold
  • Each contributing writer will receive a hard copy of the anthology itself
  • Each contributing writer will receive 30% off any of Natural Writer Coaching’s services
  • Bragging rights
  • A great gift idea for the holidays (Please see the nitty-gritty)

3rd Prize

  • The winner of the 3rd prize will receive a 20,000-word critique of a current or finished WIP
    • This involves reading the section twice while making notes on the document, and writing a detailed email involving the critique
  • A basic line edit of the 20,000 word segment
  • A 1-hour call via Zoom, Skype, or Telegram discussing the critique

Valued at $250

2nd Prize

  • A 4-pack of hour-long coaching calls
  • Each call we talk about your work in progress, difficulties you might be having, character and plot development, writing blocks, etc.
  • Calls held via Skype, Zoom, or Telegram

Valued at $325

1st Prize

  • The Full Month Coaching Package
  • 4x 1-hour sessions (weekly)
  • Limitless emails between each session to discuss your project
  • A developmental editing approach to 15000 words of your story. This will be done by the third week of the month, and feedback will be emailed to you so we have the option of discussing the feedback if you want on the fourth week.

Valued at $1235

Nightmares When I’m Cold
Submission Guidelines

As I’ve already mentioned, this is a non-profit. That means that we will be donating anything we make over the cost of production, however, there is still a cost of production to take into consideration. To help with that, there is a $10 Submission Fee per submission.

We also believe in amplifying and lifting BI&POC and LGBTQIA+ voices. As an honor system, that fee will be waved, no questions asked.

If you would like donate extra to help to cover the cost of this book, or to simply donate the cause, please contact me.

That aside, here are the rules of submitting your work:

  1. $10 submission fee per entry*
  2. The story must be between 3,000 and 6,000 words, no more, no less.
  3. A separate cover letter document must be included with your submission
  4. Your submission must not include your name anywhere on it other than the email you send us and your cover letter. This is so we can ensure that we are reading each piece blind, so we don’t favor those we know consciously or unconsciously. We want to be as fair as possible
  5. Documents must be saved as a .doc or .docx. Please no PDFs

* We are more than happy to read as many pieces as you provide, however, only one of your pieces will be selected if you make it to the shortlist.

A Note on the Cover Letter

I don’t know one writer who likes to write cover letters. So I thought I would tell you exactly what we’re looking as a guideline (though we’re far less strict on your cover letter than on your actual submission:

  • The name of your story and your name
  • A little bit about your story, and if you did choose the third-method, feel free to share what your first two ideas were (though this isn’t essential, just a fun way for us to get to know you)
  • A little about yourself as a writer
  • A little about you as you

That’s it. It’s that simple.

The Nitty-Gritty

There are a few things that should be mentioned.

  1. Our approximate timeline is as such:
    • Open for submissions July 1 – August 15, 2021
    • Announce the short-list on September 21, 2021
    • Announce 1st, 2nd, & 3rd prizes on October 31, 2021
    • Release the anthology December 1, 2021
  2. The timeline we have set is tentative. It is our aim, though we may have to push it back. We appreciate your patience.
  3. This is a non-profit. Whatever is left over from the production costs of this anthology will be donated to a charitable cause assisting BI&POC and/or LGBTQIA+ writers and/or communities, and/or the environmental causes, or a combination of all of the above. The cause will be announced closer to July 1. the Sentient Squid Scholarship made available through Writing the Other.
  4. If you are short-listed and thus included in the anthology, we will have the rights to your story for six months after publication purely for promotional purposes. After that, you may submit it wherever else you’d like. We won’t do anything with your story other than publish it in an agreeable manner in the anthology.

Ethics of Writing + Having Sensitivity Readers

Both Katrina and I have strong ideas of contributing good to the world. As a result, we have a few stances we are taking with this contest/anthology.

Marginalized Voices & Sensitivity Readers

We believe in uplifting and making space for marginalized voices, which is why we are waving submission fees for BI&POC and LGBTQIA+ folx, no questions asked. This is a trust and honor system, and we would appreciate that this is respected.

Likewise, we also acknowledge that we aren’t qualified to ensure that the content of all the stories that are selected won’t be problematic. As a result, we would like to have sensitivity readers on board with this project.

If you are a sensitivity reader and would like to be a part of this contest/anthology, please feel free to contact me via IG DM, or though the contact page. We would love to talk to you.

Donations

Anything beyond the production costs will go toward a charity or scholarship. We are dabbling in a few ideas at the minute, but one that is feeling good is to put the money toward a scholarship for underrepresented writers.

Again, if you would like to donate toward this contest/anthology to help cover the waived entry fees of marginalized writers, please get in touch! We would love to hear from you.

EDIT: Furthermore, if you would like to donate directly to Writing the Other, you can donate here. To read about why we feel so strongly about the services Writing the Other provides, check out Writing the Other & Our Responsibility as Writers here.

Your Homework

Alright, there you have it—we have a contest on our hands. At the time of the publication of this post, you have two weeks to start thinking about and writing your story.

So you have a few pieces of homework in light of this:

  1. Start thinking about your story prompted by “Nightmares when I’m cold.”
  2. Start writing your story!
  3. Share this post with friends who might be interested in entering this contest
  4. Visit Writing the Other to see how their workshops, classes, and free resources can help you and your writing.

Remember, we are open for submissions between July 1 and August 15. We will have a page for entries up by then. Please feel free to comment below with any questions, or use the contact form.

We are so excited for this contest, and hope you are too!

Happy writing!

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!

Keeping a Story-Starter Notebook: 5 Ways to Start Your Story

Everyone has their own hang ups when it comes to writing their story. Sometimes we’re inspired to write, but don’t know what to write about. Sometimes we start something but can’t get through the middle slog, or don’t know how to end it. Other times we know what we want our story to be about, but just don’t know how to start it. For this last reason, it is handy—nay, essential—to keep a Story-Starter Notebook.

Don’t forget, if you’re reading this in April of 2021, I have an Earth Month offer, only available until April 23, 2021!

What is a Story-Starter Notebook?

Very simply, a Story-Starter Notebook is just a place where you keep ideas of how to start a story. This doesn’t have to be in a notebook proper, but can be in an app on your phone, a spreadsheet on your computer, or notes in your planner. I personally use a shocking amount of space in my planners for just this purpose.

The idea is that you keep a running list of things that inspire you. What would catch your eye if you were opening a book and reading the first line? What would be a situation that would make you ask questions?

A short story of mine, “June,” about a little girl who knew that she and her mother were dragons, though no one else knew, came about from sitting under a tree watching kids play in its branches. I listened to the conversations around me, and wrote down interesting lines of dialogue. From there, the story was born.

How to Find Story-Starters

It’s all well and good to keep these things written down, but how do you find story-starters? If they were easy to find, then the plethora of writers who struggle to start their stories wouldn’t struggle to start their stories.

1. Generating Ideas

This is an assignment I often give my clients: write down any first-liners you think of and store them for a rainy day. This is just as difficult and easy as it sounds.

Write down any idea that happens to come to mind that you think sounds like a good story-starter.

Years ago, I was driving home and in my mind was arguing with someone, going over and over how I should handle a particular issue in my life. Then one line of my argument wafted to my attention. I realized that could make for a good opener. My mind then shifted from my imaginary argument to the different directions that line could take me.

Another time, while in Greece, I was a little less than sober and looked up at the cliff near the house. I noticed there was a particular pattern in the rock, and the thought, “My gin-soaked mind seems to have found the gravestones in the cliff.”

It needed some worked, but given that at the time I was working on a gothic horror, it felt like a perfect launching point for a scene. Of course, my mind was, as stated, gin-soaked. However, the next day I was able to rework it, polish it, and build on it.

These observations come up all the time. It’s just whether or not you’re present enough to witness them and take note.

2. Read Poetry

If you don’t already read poetry, chances are, you’ll hate being told to read poetry. However, there is a poem out there for everyone. Some like the floral language of the Romantic Era, others prefer something real, tangible, and directly relatable as is found in the works of Andrea Gibson, Dean Atta, Emily Juniper, or Tawnya Selene Renelle. Some want something with justice behind it, and find comfort and inspiration in Audrey Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Staceyann Chin, Maya Angelou, and June Jordan. Or, some people are just interested in the weird, and find intrigue with poets like Jim Morrison. There are so many different styles of poetry, and saying you don’t like poetry is like saying you don’t like food. It’s nourishing and necessary, and there is something out there for all taste.

While reading it, you can find lines that inspire you, and by all means, use those as story-starter prompts. You might even use one of those lines as the literal first line in a piece (if you publish, be sure ask permission and give credit to the poet!).

Collect lines that resonate with you, that spark your imagination, that get your mind buzzing with possibilities. You can return to them time and time again for inspiration.

3. Eavesdrop

Yeah, you heard me. While yes, one ought not to eavesdrop, it makes for fantastic story fodder. I hear snippets of conversation all the time that get my mind reeling with possibility and questions. Start listening in to those around you while you’re standing in line at the bank, while you’re walking in the park, or if you’re (safely) eating outside at a restaurant.

Try not to take note of full conversations, but just of statements, even if they seem somewhat boring. You can use those statements or questions or exclamations to build on. How can they start your story and lead to something remarkable?

4. Random Page

Turning to a random page in a book can also be an interesting way of starting a story. This is closely related to selecting lines from poetry, though a little different. I personally have used this in terms of bibliomancy (I’ll get to this in a minute), though moments ago was inspired to look at it in terms of writing prompts.

As I was writing this post, I was interrupted by my phone buzzing, sending me a notification of a prompt: “Grab the nearest book to you, turn to page 45. The first line is your love life.”

A few of my friend commented on this with their nearest book. One of the lines was “Among the gifted, the ability to bend magic to your will is not a weapon that makes you exceptional, much less invincible.”

I was intrigued. What love-situation could make this statement necessary to be said, and true?

Bibliomancy is the art of holding a question in your mind, picking a book at random, turning to a page at random, and selecting a sentence at random on the page to answer your question. This can equally be used for story-starting prompts, or really, any writing prompts.

5. Observing the World Around You

Another way you can start to develop your story-starters is to pay attention to the world around you. Or, if you’re safely and wisely sheltering in place, you can do this with shows that you watch, or by opening the window.

Use your five senses and take note of what you smell, what you hear, what you see, what you feel, and what you taste.

Referring to number 2, reading poetry can help you tune in to how to observing the world around you. Many poems are simply observing and writing what is less noticed and noting the significance in what is being observed. By getting used to these kinds of noticings, you’re training yourself to do the same.

What do your senses notice?

Mindfulness

Being mindful is somewhat of a buzz concept. However, being present, that is, being aware of what is going on around you, and active enough in your mentality to take note of what is going on around you is the key to finding inspiration in daily life. There are a plethora of writing prompts out there, books that give you daily inspirations, exercises, and so on

Really, all you need is to be mindful.

This is a skill that sometimes needs to be built upon. Simply being in the moment. Taking five minutes a day to notice your thoughts, your breathing, your body, your senses, all of it. This is all that being mindful means.

When you do this, then you’re also in the presence of mind to notice when those interesting conversations are heard and write them down, when you have an interesting thought in your head wander through, when you see something noteworthy, etc. Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to jot these things down on our phones, or make a voice memo. Or, you can of course go the tried-and-true method of just keeping a little notebook with you for just such occasions.

If there is anything that can be taken away from this post, mindfulness is what will help you find writing prompts and inspiration in your daily life. Make noticing and being present a habit.

Your Homework

Your homework is to start your Story-Starter Notebook, whatever that might look like. However, there is a specific exercise to get you going:

Write 25 first lines.

Set a timer for 10 minutes and get down 25 first sentences in that 10 minutes. Don’t think this. Just write them out, one after the other. Whatever comes to mind, write it down. You’ll find that after the first few, you’re just desperate to get thing down. As a result, your inner critic gives up, thus taking some of the pressure off you, and your mind begins to flow.

Don’t forget, if you’re reading this in April of 2021, I have an Earth Month offer, only available until April 23, 2021!

Happy Writing!

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Your Inner Writing Seasons

Happy Spring Equinox, Writers. And for those of you in the southern hemisphere, happy Autumn Equinox.

While I acknowledge that there are two beautiful changing of the seasons happening in two different parts of the world, I want to focus on the Spring.

When spring arrives, we are transitioning from the winter into the lighter, warmer months. Things are coming into bloom, and animals are waking up.

I feel the seasons strongly. I certainly am dormant in the winter, and awaken as the days lengthen. The sun and I are good friend in that way.

And yes, this has everything to do with writing.

A really great intimation revolves around the turning of the seasons, stating that nothing blooms all year round, and thus, we shouldn’t be expected to, either.

When it comes to writing, we all find our rhythm and groove. We go through cycles, sometimes in a phase of motivation and productivity, and other times of feeling completely drained. This is all perfectly find and natural. The earth turns through different seasons, and life goes dormant for a while. Likewise, the moon waxes and wanes, sometimes appearing in full darkness, and other times in full dark.

This is the way things are.

We live in a time where constant productivity is valued, encouraged, and even shamed if we’re not allowed to achieve that. As a result, we have people burning themselves out, and unable to focus on their passion and art, even though that might be the thing that lights them up.

Giving yourself permission to determine what your seasons are, what your internal cycle are, and when you’re at you’re brightest and when you need to rest can make or break your writing rhythm.

Some of you might be sensing a bit of a contradiction. After all, have I not been one to encourage practicing writing every single day?

And I still do.

Writing does not have to be perfection, nor does it have to be quality. It doesn’t even have to be on one project. It just has to be writing, the act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard every day. This is also why I encourage journaling. It is still writing, which is still exercising that muscle. Even if it’s just a couple sentences a day that you plan to delete the following day, or throw away, it’s still something.

However, the key is that you learn to attune your writing habits to your own personal seasons. And your own personal season do not need to match the Earth’s seasons in your area. You find what work for you. Again, though, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to return to spring.

For those of you who are like me who rise and fall with the seasons and the sun, spring can be nourishing. Astrologically, we’ve just passed into Aries, which is the first sign of the Zodiac. It’s a sign of being present and being seen. It’s often compared to a newborn. A baby comes into this world and makes no apology for the space it takes up, or for the attention it demands or the needs that it has.

And this is the energy of Aries.

Aries and spring are new to the year, and flowers blossom and unapologetically take up space. Consider the weed that begin popping up everywhere, for example (I love weeds,  by the way). They know when it’s their time and they go for it.

As the earth rotates and orbit, the spring can bring fresh ideas, fresh energy, and new eyes. Use this time if you resonate with it. Spend time asking yourself if you need to move on to a new project, or if you need to look at an old or continued project with fresh, new eyes.

What doe you need to bring this energy into your creativity?

Your Homework

Spend some times evaluating your own personal seasons. Look back over the last year, or last few years (since we all know 2020 was like no other year), and ask yourself when you’ve been most energetic, or felt more challenge to keep up the pace you were on. What does that tell you about that time of year?

If you don’t know, I encourage you to get a planner or even your journal, and begin paying attention to your energy levels. You can look at it in terms of weather (are you more or less energetic when it’s cloudy out? Are you more introverted or extroverted? Etc.), the moon phase, the season, or even go so far as the planetary positions.

The other thing I want you to try to do is challenge yourself to start something new this week. It doesn’t have to be a big project, but start a short story, or a piece of flash fiction, or challenge yourself to write something you don’t normally write, which could be poetry or a YA piece. But do something new.

As you look over your new piece, be unapologetic about it. That means that you respect that it is something you created and can build from. It is neither good nor bad, it simply is, and it has potential, even if it’s just something you used as a tool to learn from. It is the foundation of something from which you can build.

Happy Writing, happy Spring, and happy New Beginnings!

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New Moon in Libra: Planning Balanced Writing

We are still in the 3-day energy of the New Moon in Libra. Here’s what it can mean for your writing.

This post comes a day late, but we can still harness the new moon energy in our writing! It’s said that there’s a three-day window: the day before, the day of, and the day after. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, the new moon is a time of beginning projects and setting goals and intentions. The idea behind this is that as the moon “grows,” as does the fulfillment of your intentions.

Libra represents balance and logic and stability. This new moon in Libra is excellent for creating an outline. In the Tarot, Libra rules the Justice Card, a card purely depicted as Air energy: logic and communication.

New Moon in Libra & Your Writing 

As I mentioned before, the logic of Libra and the intention-setting energy of the new moon indicate this an excellent time for outlining your novel. Likewise, it can be a great time to create a plan of action for your writing process. This is almost as important as having an outline for your plot:

Planning your writing process means:

1. Knowing What Environment Supports Your Creativity Best.

We all have different spaces where we write best, whether it’s a coffee shop, in the stillness of our room, our office space with dubstep blasting, or in the quiet of a library, or the freshness of a park. Having a list of places you can go and be while you write will be handy for when one of those places isn’t available or an option.

It’s important to note, too, that you can create your own optimal writing environment by working on programing your mind to write when you want it to. This does take time, patience, practice, and discipline, but I can be done. This is helpful if, for example, you’re a coffee-shop writer, and the area you live in is in lockdown.

2. Knowing the Time of Day that You Write Best

I am a staunch morning writer. No matter what time I get up, whether it’s 4 in the morning or 9, I hit 3 or 4 o’ clock and I hit my slump. After that it’s like pulling teeth to continue writing.

However, I do not speak for all writers. There are plenty of writers who don’t hit their creative groove until 1 in the morning. Knowing the best time for your writing will help you organize your schedule to accommodate.

3. Knowing How You Experience Exhaustion

Knowing what exhaustion feels like so you can be aware of upcoming burn out is essential. We are all going to hit the wall while we’re running, and we are all going to get knocked down. Until we know what it feels like to approach that wall, or approach burn out, we’re going to run into it a few times.

This is especially true when we’re determined to get through a project, it’s easy to push ourselves to the absolute max. This is the active energy that society and western culture encourages: keep working until you drop. For so many people, “I’m so busy” is a positive mantra. It means that we’re productive, and that, for many, can equate to our worth.

However, writing a book is a balance between active and passive energy. In the tarot, this energy is often called masculine and feminine energy, however, this isn’t the most inclusive terminology, and raises a whole mess of problems. Instead, we active energy (associated with fire and air) and passive energy (associated with water and earth).

When we’re writing or working on any form of creative work, we are harnessing and balancing active and passive energy. The passive energy is the creativity itself. It’s making space for that voice to come up and through you, to connect to that interesting part of yourself that sees the world a little differently, and has a dire urge to express it. The active energy is the creation itself—painting, writing, dancing, singing.

To write is to find balance (libra) between the two.

4. Knowing What Measure to Take to Prevent Burn Out

This means knowing yourself enough to know what you need to rest and recover in a healthy way. The best way you can prevent burnout is to know yourself and know what’s approaching and how to cut it off at the pass.

For me, personally, I know that burnout happens when I don’t practice certain things, like daily meditation, journaling, drinking enough water, and exercise. I know it’s approaching when I take on too many things and I don’t communicate my needs and limits.

You can read more about burnout in a blog post here or by clicking the button below:

5. Knowing How to Care for Yourself When Burnout Strikes

The first thing you need to remember to do is remind yourself that it’s okay that burnout happens. And everything is going to be there if you stop and give yourself permission to rest. That’s the hardest challenge—to convince yourself it’s alright to recover. But you can’t effectively do your work if you don’t have any energy. Open communication is one of the best tools you have.

When you do hit that wall, spend some time reflecting when you can. Ask yourself

  • if you can recall the warning signs leading up to burn out
  • when would have been a productive time to give yourself permission to rest before you hit the wall

Most importantly, forgive yourself for hitting the wall. When we hit a wall, we fall backwards. We might even stay down for a little while, and that’s okay. You need to make sure you’re okay and that you haven’t damaged anything. The force of hitting that wall might have broken your nose or given you a concussion. It’s okay to spend time recovering. Give yourself that permission.

6. Making a Plan for Setting Boundaries Surrounding Your Writing Time

There are a lot of people who don’t understand what it means to be a writer. They think you can just sit down and write whenever you want. But it is essential that you create a sacred, off-limits time to write, which can be difficult.

When you create a plan ahead of time of how to communicate the importance of this time with your friends and family, then it becomes a little easier. With time, they’ll understand, or at least, get into the know that you are not available to move your writing time around.

You are allowed to set boundaries for your creative time. And they will learn to respect it, though it will be a process. You don’t need to make excuses, just set the boundaries.

7. Creating Balance

As mentioned, this new moon in libra is about balance. We’ve talked a lot about setting boundaries and protecting your writing time and creativity as well as yourself during the creative process. But the other thing that needs to be balanced is your time with your loved ones.

Your community, family, and social network play an important role in your mental health. Making sure you still have time, whether it’s a day on the weekend or a couple hours in the evening for some quality time with those you care about can not only keep you motivated along your writing, but help to recharge your batters.

If, for example, you want a career as a writer, then you need to know how to balance work and personal life. It gets tricky when your work is from home, especially if you don’t have a designated office. Starting to understand this balance now, before your income relies on it, will be essential and more than helpful later down the line.

Balance is the Key

balance macro ocean pebbles
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Balance is the key when you’re planning your outline, or when you’re making a writing process plan. If you have too much plot, then your characters get washed out. If you have too much world buildings, then your plot becomes obscured.

If you have too much work, you hit that metaphorical wall, which has been known to halt a project or two.

The above list is by no means exhaustive. They are just some of the things to keep in mind as you set your writing intentions. This is essential to think about if you’re planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

Support Through NaNoWriMo

Having support during National Novel Writing Month, or any other time during a massive writing project can the difference to seeing you to the end or a project or the project halting altogether for many writers.

For so many people, 2020 has just been one punch to the gut after another, and they just need a win. As a result, there are a lot of writers who are putting pressure on this year’s NaNoWriMo to be their one win for the year. If they can just finish their novel during this time, then at least something good will have come out of this year.

That’s why the doors to the Intensive Writing Program are open for the first time, though only until October 23.

The Intensive Writing Program, or Package, includes one-on-one support with me as your writing coach, with weekly hour-and-a-half-long coaching calls to help you work through blocks, to hone your writing routine, to overcome obstacles, to talk through your plot/characters/setting, as well as anything else you need to get you through finishing your book.

The entire time you’re writing, I’ll read 12,000 words of your WIP a week, keeping me up to speed on your novel so when we have our coaching calls, I know exactly where you’re at so we can discuss it thoroughly.

Once December hits, that’s when the real fun begins. We spend time discussing a revision plan, looking at holes in the plot, things that might need to be rearranged for the ending to make sense, how to breathe your villain to life—whatever it is your book needs to work. Again, the whole time I will be reading what you write/rearrange/revise. Because I’ll have read it while you write it, you’ll spend less time having to re-read and take notes before your begin revision. I’ll have already done it.

The final two weeks of December will be dedicated to two more rounds of edits, which will go faster than you think, given that I’ll be line editing each time I read through your work in December.

There are only five openings for this program, and the doors are closing October 23rd. If you want to learn more about it, click here or use the button below to reserve your placement. If you have any questions, fill out the form below the button (titled Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me), and I’ll be happy to answer whatever I can.

Happy Writing!

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Writing with the New Moon

There is usually a lot of fuss around the Full Moon, and what it can do for people. Especially when you think about Halloween, and the spookiness that accompanies it.

However, a moonless night, a night in which no light outside of the stars, is cast down upon the earth, has a far more ominous feel, doesn’t it?

More often than not, in stories, it is the dark moon, or the New Moon, which assists a character. They use its darkness to shield them when they need, allowing them to escape, to sneak, to go undetected. The Full Moon, however, shines light onto the world, often obscuring what’s there, or creating darker shadows where unseen things may lurk.

This week we are looking at the New Moon, and how it can assist us as creatives.

What is the New Moon?

The New Moon happens when the earth blocks the light from the sun, thus casting a shadow onto the moon, making it look nearly invisible, dark, or not there at all.

From an energetic perspective, the New Moon represent something like a clean slate. After the moon has shrunk from the Full Moon down into nothingness, it begins to grow again (the process called “waxing”), and that is where the real excitement of the moon lays.

How to Use the New Moon

This clean slate is often used as a measure of setting intention. This is a time when you set your goals and make a plan for the upcoming cycle. The idea is that, symbolically, as the moon grows, your goals and intentions grow closer to you.

What does this mean in terms of writing?

It’s a great time to start a book.

For many of you reading this as it’s posted, it’s October, and we’re gearing up for November’s National Novel Writing Month. Thus, this New Moon is an excellent time to plan your novel and set the intention of being prepared for NaNoWriMo so that as soon as Halloween transitions into November, you’re ready to go. You have a plan of action to make sure you follow through to the end of the month and to the end of your book.

This is a time to gather your strength as a writer, to gather your tools, your gumption, your creative drive, your characters and your plot. This is a time to summon that which you need to help you get closer to your goal.

The New Moon is a time for planning, outlining, and getting ready to start your novel.

Your Homework

As I write this, tomorrow is the New Moon. Take this time to make a plan for NaNoWriMo, or make a plan for your novel, and gather your resources in preparation.

Make a list of your writing goals for the rest of the year, or for the rest of the moon cycle. Now make a list of how you can achieve each goal.

What is the plan for your novel? Do you know your plot? Your MC? Your antagonist? The world you’re writing about?

And most importantly, do you have someone who can keep you on track the entire time, who can work with you to help you achieve those goals, and beyond?

Right now, for a limited time, the doors to the Intensive Writing Program are open only to 5 people. These doors close on October 23, 2020, and I don’t know when or if they will open again. This is a program designed to give you 13 hours of 1:1 coaching, unlimited access to support through email, and your novel read as you write it so you can have someone there to work with you through revision, editing, and editing again in December.

Interested? Click here or on the button below to learn about how you can get in on this program and make the writing goals you set this New Moon come to fruition.

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!