I grew up wearing a pentagram, and so I think about the five metaphysical elements that correspond to a lot:
I also think about the tarot a lot. You might not know this about me, but along with being a writer and writing coach, I’m also a professional tarot reader. One style of reading that has deepened my understanding of the cards has been through these elements.
As I grew into my writing practice, I saw the correlation between these same elements that I use in the tarot, and the creative process.
That’s what this week’s episode is about. I want to tell you about how you can #WooYourWriting through the lessons of the tarot, but specifically, though the five elements.
Inspiration comes in strange forms. And often seemingly out of nowhere. While I don’t usually write in any form other than pros, the idea came to me to write a poem. But in a very specific way: using Tarot cards. Because, why not? After all, if I can use them for everything else, why not for a poem?
As soon as the idea hit, so did all possible complication I could think of:
How many cards should I draw?
Should I draw one card per stanza? Per line?
If I need to figure that out, then I need to figure out the form of my poem ahead of time, wouldn’t I?
What if I drew one card as the topic of the stanza, and then a card for each line?
Maybe a card for the beginning of the line and the end of the line?
What if the start of the stanza was the topic card reversed and the stanza was about how to right the card?
And of course, how would you decide what that card has to say? After all, you’re not doing a reading. This is a poem. The cards can say so many different things based on the cards around them, the prompt or question, or simply the feel of the reading. Could I read a card in the form of a poem rather than as a reading as a whole?
K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid
Then I realized I was making this way too complicated.
Writing, like divination, is about feeling it out. It’s about tapping into that water aspect of ourselves, our creative, intuitive self. It’s about diving deep into our wells and oceans and seeing what we pull from the depths.
In other words, it’s about going with the flow.
So I tried it out, letting the cards tell me how many I was to draw.
I took a deep breath and sank into my body, letting my hands do what they knew to do: shuffle the cards , letting my fingers feel the directions of them. I stopped thinking, and instead simply felt. And when the time was right, I began putting cards down without too much thought.
I chose one per line, and each angled row of cards was a different stanza.
Here’s what my process looked like:
I breathed in a drew a card at a time, letting the deck dictate where to put each card and when to stop.
I assigned each card on word.
I looked at each stanza, writing down the word per line, then spent time writing the stanza itself, incorporating the essence of the meaning of the word.
I moved on to the next stanza, repeating the process until I was finished.
Add up the cards in each stanza to get a theme for the stanza in the form of the Major Arcana.
While I’m not going to share what I wrote (I am certainly no poet), I wanted to share the essence of what each line revolved around, to give you an example of how you might play around with this method.
Okay, so I didn’t intentionally pull a title. I happened to have a card that popped out when I was moving the deck, and thought I would stick it at the top and see if that card came into play at all.
In my opinion, it did.
It was the 8 of Swords – self-bound.
The 8 of Swords is a reminder that while the situation might seem difficult, you are the one who holds the ends of your ropes. You have the ability to change your perspective. You can untie yourself, remove your blindfold and obstacles, and get yourself out of the situation that feels so impossible. You have this ability.
Spoiler alert, this played nicely, given the last line of the first stanza, which focuses on resistance.
Furthermore, the 8s, in Tarot, correspond to the Major Arcana card, Strength. This is about finding the difficult parts within ourselves and approaching them with compassion. We don’t fight against them, instead confront them with understanding.
And thus, this was what my poem was about.
I flipped over the first line to get the following cards:
XIII Death – Transformation
9 of Cups – Embodiment
XI Justice – Truth
VI Lovers – Highest Choice
9 of Wands – Redundant
I wrote these down in my notebook, then then began to write what I thought about death in terms of transformation. For me, it is a moment of stepping into transformation, whether we intend to or not, and not being able to go back. The process has already begun.
So what choice do we have? That of examining our wants, our goals, what would make us happiest and set us on cloud 9. That’s what the 9 of Cups is about, and that is what we have to embody. If we have to transform, why not embody what we want to transform into?
And how do we know how to do that? We must look inward to find our own inner truth, our personal Justice.
When we know this, we will take the higher path, the one that will lead us to our inner growth, our divine evolution. This is the card of the lovers. This is what this line is about.
Except, perhaps, there is resistance. And what is the cause of the resistance other than ourselves? We have fought so hard, and we continue to fight. But perhaps, just maybe, if we see the battle is won, that we no longer need to be on guard, then the energy we seek, that we need for our transformation, can flow freely.
Adding Up the Cards
As I mentioned before, I add the cards to convert them to a corresponding Major Arcana. If you’re not familiar with the Tarot, this might sound very strange and kind of confusing. I’ll walk you through it:
Add up the number of the cards
If the number is higher than 22, add the digits together
The resulting number will be a corresponding Major Arcana
The reason we take an extra step with numbers over 22 is because there are only 21 number Major Arcana cards.
The numbers we’re working with for this stanza are 13, 9, 11, 6, and 9.
13 + 9 + 11 + 6 + 9 = 48
This is a number higher than 22, so we add the two digits together: 4 + 8 = 12.
So the corresponding card is the Hanged Man. However, we can take it a step further and reduce the number down by adding the digits together again:
1 + 2 = 3 the Empress.
This guides me a little more, should I want to. I can start with the message of the Hanged Man and end the stanza with the Empress, or I can aim to elevate the poem from the Empress to the Hanged Man. I won’t go into these card meanings, but it’s just and added something fun to play around with if you’re like me and like complicated things.
High Priestess – Intuition and Secrets
Ace of Swords – Inspiration
Empress – Nurture
Ace of Cups – Nourishment
3 of Wands – Expansion
How do we find what we are resisting? What we are fighting for? We call upon the wisdom and energy of the High Priestess, who helps us to navigate our intuition and our inner secrets. Settling with her will show you what you need to know.
Armed with a sword, the Ace of Swords, you can cut away what is no longer needed to make way for inspiration. The new ideas are endless. Like cutting away weeds that have overgrown and smothered what you need so desperately to grow.
The Empress then teaches you to nurture what remains. She tends to your inner strengths, to the new aspects of yourself that will aid your transformation.
What’s most important, with the Empress and High Priestess combined, you’ll learn how to care for yourself, your first true love, teaching you how to find and nurture your self-compassion, to fill your own cup.
From there, you expand. Into the world, into new forms of expression, you expand. You transform.
Adding Up the Cards
For this stanza, the numbers on the cards I’m working with are 2, 1, 3, 1, and 3.
2 + 1 + 3 + 1 +3 = 10
Since it’s below 22, I don’t need to reduce it down. This card is the Wheel of Fortune. Though, it is a two-digit card, which means I can reduce it further to 1, the Magician. Personally, I find both of these cards go superbly with the cards drawn for this stanza.
The Star – Hopes
10 of Cups – Fulfillment
Kind of Swords – Wisdom
The Star provides you wishes, hopes, and a direction to take aim. She promises you success, if only you’ll let her help you aim your bow into the stars.
The 10 of Cups shows your success, your brimming cup so full it fills ten of them. Your heart is content, and there is no further joy. The water flows. There is no more resistance. You have given up your stance. There is no more fighting.
Therein lies the wisdom of the King of Swords, master of his art. Master of his words. Master of his passion that is your expression, dear writer. Therein lies the wisdom.
Adding up the Cards
For this final stanza, we only have three cards to work with, and thus, three numbers: 17, 10, and 4.
17 + 10 + 4 = 41
4 + 1 = 5 the Hierophant.
One could go further and add all the stanzas up to see what the corresponding Major Arcana card would be for the whole poem. However, since I drew a title card, I don’t feel it’s necessary.
It was shocking how well it turned out. I loved the flow of it, though, again, I won’t share what I wrote. I’m not a poet, after all.
However, I loved the play with it. While I do sometimes write poetry, especially if I’m reading it (which I do get into some poetry kicks from time to time, which you might have noticed if you follow me on Instagram), I generally let it flow. However, some of my favorite poems I’ve written have been somewhat calculated as I tried to fit them into a form. Finding a form like that helped me to get creative with my words and pay attention to the rhythm. I found different an unique ways of expressing myself within the form’s parameter.
This is what I experienced while trying to write a poem this way. It also tapped into a different part of my brain, one that I certainly feel that I should be using while I’m writing. After all, in the Tarot, creativity and intuition both fall into the same element (at least, the way I read the cards they do). So why should I be surprised at how well using my intuitive part of my mind worked when applying it to my creativity?
I truly recommend giving this a go. Even if you don’t read the cards, getting a creative deck that speaks to you, that you find inspiration in, and writing down a key word that floats to mind as you look at the card can be a great way to tap into your creativity.
My Question to You
Would you be interested in a cheat sheet with a keyword for each tarot card, as well as perhaps a few “classic” poetry forms to play around with? Let me know in the comments. Also be sure to let me know if you played around with this method, or any similar method. I would love to hear all about it!
Developing your Main Character (MC) can sometimes be a bit of a drag. There are a plethora of spreadsheets to help you get to the nitty gritty of what you’re character is about, though they usually involve delving into what your character’s favorite color or ice cream topping is.
The Tarot can provide some insightful prompts to help you work through the deeper parts of your MC, specifically, using the Major Arcana.
Even more specifically, the first six cards: the Fool 0, the Magician I, the High Priestess II, the Empress III, the Emperor IV, and the Hierophant V.
Each of these cards can provide a different consideration regarding the Fool, who will act the part of your MC. Everything from their internalized skillset, to the parental figures in their life, to how they learned about the world.
However, before we get too into this, I want to take a moment to address the gendered language of the tarot.
Gendered Language is Outdated
Many tarot enthusiasts and historians have debated just how long the Tarot has been around, and where it originated. I am not going to get into that. However, the most concrete evidence puts it back at least a few hundred years ago.
As a result, there are a lot of aspects of the Tarot that just don’t quite fit into our modern society. Gendered language is one of those aspects.
However, thanks to authors such as Cassandra Snow and her book Queering the Tarot, as well as many other talented and insightful tarot readers and writers, tarot is evolving away from this. I want to take a brief moment to talk about how to get around gendered language in the Tarot, since some of the cards we’ll be discussing heavily rely on “gendered” energies.
Traditionally, tarot is spoken about in terms of masculine and feminine energy. These are actually representative terms for active and passive energy: masculine energy being active and feminine energy being passive.
Active energy is seen as something that is more external. Or, at least, it something that might come from within but has the ability to alter the external, or directly influence it. Air and Fire are the external, active elements in the Tarot.
Passive energy, on the other hand, is seen more internal. This is the work that is done within, from healing to nurturing, to feeling. Water and Earth are the passive elements in the Tarot.
Neither energy is above the other. Both energies are necessary, and the goal is always to seek
I mention all of this because there will be cards throughout the Tarot that deal with gendered terms such as the High Priestess, the Empress, and the Emperor. These deal with parenting figures as well, which I’ll talk more about when we get to the designated cards. But veering away from gendered language is essential, since male or male representing figures can absolutely signify the High Priestess roll, as well has embody the HP’s qualities, just as a female or female representing figure can embody the qualities of the Emperor.
There are 22 Major Arcana cards in the tarot, often starting with the Fool, which is numbered 0. This is because the Fool represents the natural protagonist of the journey through the Major Arcana.
Thus, this is where we’ll start with building your MC.
The Fool: The Carrier of Your Story
The traditional depiction of the Fool in the tarot, is someone who is about to walk off a cliff. Their head is tilted up into the sky, and they seem happy, and completely unaware of what is before them. They carry a stick with a bundle at the end of it over their shoulder, while a little dog barks at their feet.
The fool represents the openness to move forward into the journey. They trust what is ahead of them so much that they know that staying where they are is not an option.
Your MC is the Fool.
Whatever it is that compels your MC to go along the journey is a greater reason to trudge forward into sometimes unwanted experiences because the option to do nothing can’t stack up against the reason to carry on. Even if your character is kicking and screaming the whole way, they know that they cannot stay put.
This signifies that there is some small level of trust. Trust that no matter the danger that might lay ahead, it is worth more than not doing anything. Even if they die in the process, it is still worth more than doing nothing, even if it’s only worth more by a hair.
This indicates your MC’s values. What they hold to be a truth that is strong enough to carry them forward.
The question is, then, what does your Main Character believe in so whole-heartedly, that they can’t turn down the threshold?
The Tarot Pull
If you have a tarot deck, shuffle while you focus on what you know of your MC, if you know anything at all. Either way, put your thoughts toward what it is that they hold true.
When you’re done shuffling, flip the deck over and find the Fool card.
The card in front of it is what they trust
The card behind is what they don’t trust
Another way to look at these two cards are:
The card before them can be their compelling reason to move forward
The card behind them can be their reasoning not to act
Internal or Personal Tools Counterparts
The first few Major Arcana couple up nicely. The Magician is the active counterpart to the passive High Priestess; the Empress is the passive counter part to the active Magician.
The Fool is going to look at themselves for the skills or tools they have within them to navigate their journey.
As mentioned in the description of the Fool, they carry a bag on a stick over their shoulder. The question is, what is in that bag? This is what the Fool chose to bring with them, knowing they would need whatever is in there. It is very small, so whatever is in it, is essential.
The Magician is here to reveal what is in that bag, showing and reminding us of the tools we already have at our disposal, that which we use to manifest or make happen.
The traditional depiction of the Magician is a person stood behind a table with representations of each of the suits or elements on their table: Wand for Fire, Cup for Water, Sword for Air, and Pentacle for Earth. Each of these suits or elements represents different aspects of life, and thus, different strengths our MC has to navigate through the world.
The Tarot Pull
As you consider what skills your MC might have, shuffle the deck. When you’re ready, draw four cards:
Card 1 represents Earth: home, the tangible world, how your MC makes money, health, etc.
Not all of these things for each element needs to be found in the one card drawn for that element. Though, if you’d like, you can pull a card for each quality of that element if you really want to get into it.
However, don’t overthink this. Each card that you draw represents a strength in that elemental realm that the Fool carries in their bag of tricks.
The High Priestess is the counterpart to the Magician. She represents what goes on internally. While the Magician shows what skills your MC uses to navigate the external world, the High Priestess reveals what skills they have to navigate their own internal world. This card will bring forth the lessons of looking within in order to find answers and guidance.
The High Priestess is a Water element, which means that while they represent the passive energy of water, they also represent creativity, emotions (how we form relationships and navigate them), love, intuition, and any magical aspects or spirituality your MC might have.
The Tarot Pull
Spend some times shuffling and focusing on the essence of the High Priestess, and the qualities that could be bestowed up on your MC in this realm.
When you’re done shuffling, find the High Priestess Card.
The card before it will be a known inner strength
The card behind it will be an unknown strength, perhaps something that can be called up on later in the plot, or developed throughout the plot
External & Close Counterparts
The Magician and the High Priestess represent what the MC somewhat develops themselves within. The Empress and the Emperor are external influences on your MC, generally in the form of a parental figure.
Neither of these figures need to be the actual parents of your MC, but rather, those who taught these qualities, or revealed these qualities.
Again, the Empress does not need to be a female-identifying figure, just as the Emperor doesn’t need to be represented by a male-identifying figure. These are just qualities of these archetypes.
The Empress represents “mothering” qualities. They are the support that a person needs in order to grow. They represent a nurturing nature.
For example, a seed needs certain things in order to come to fruition. The Empress is the tender of that seed, providing nourishing soil, water, and ensuring that it gets enough sunlight. The Empress also knows how to give that seed the space it needs to grow on its own.
This is what I mean when I say “mothering” qualities.
The Tarot Pull: Pt 1
The question is, who has been a nurturer for your MC? Who has acted in a “motherly” roll for them?
While you think about this question, shuffle and pull three cards to show how this embodiment of the Empress has helped your MC to grow in mind, body, and spirit.
Side Character Development
A note about characters other than your MC.
We all only know a piece of a person. We know what our experience is with that person, and what they choose to show us. Likewise, we often see parts of ourselves reflected back at us through other people.
When we learn what one person is to another person, we are learning about both people simultaneously.
Using the Empress character as an example, looking at how someone was a mothering figure to the MC, we’re learning not only about what this figure gave to the MC, but what the MC was willing to receive. This will influence their development, how they thin, how they feel, how they react. It will influence how they view self-care, or the care of others.
Similarly, it shows what the other character was willing to give to the MC, or not give, as the case may be. It’s also an invitation to look at what this side character might not be giving to others in their life because of what they’re giving to the MC. This can help to create a more rounded character profile.
The Tarot Pull: Pt 2
Pick your deck up again and begin considering your MC’s relationship to this nurturing figure while you shuffle. When you’re done shuffling, you’re going to pull four cards:
Card 1 represents the mothering figure themselves.
Card 2 represents how your MC responded to this mothering/nurturing/soft guidance.
Card 3 represents an important lesson learned from this figure.
Card 4 represents something challenging this figure left with your MC.
The Emperor represents active energy. Often depicted as an older man on a throne, with ram heads for the arm pieces, with colors of red prominent in the card, the Emperor represents authority and structure.
While the Empress represents internal nurturing for growth, the Emperor helps to create the structures one needs to hold themselves up. If we think of a seedling, the Empress is the water and soil while the Emperor is the thing it climbs up, or even the wind that might encourage the stalk to strengthen so it can hold itself up.
The Empress is about allowing supported space in order to grow. In contrast, the Emperor teaches to be unapologetic for the space that our character takes up, for that is their space and thus their space to govern. This is an external card, but this also is a card about how we govern ourselves.
In this light, when we are looking at the Emperor in regard to your character, we are considering who it was that taught your character how to take up space in the world. Do they take up space at all? That is, do they try to make themselves small, or are they content to exist and know their place?
The Tarot Pull
As you consider your Emperor’s qualities that were taught to your character, shuffle the cards. These four cards you pull will be similar to those of the Empress:
The first card will be a card to represent this Emperor influence on your MC.
The second card you pull will represent how the MC governs themselves.
The third card will be a key take-away from this figure in your MC’s life.
And finally, there will be a card for something challenging this figure left your MC with.
So far, we’ve looked at the personal, and the first bare bones of community for the Fool, or your Main Character. We’ve considered what the Fool has at their disposal both internally and externally, and what the external world has done to teach their base lessons.
However, we are never done learning, and our parents, or parental influences, are not our only source of understanding of the world.
This figure is about the educational structures that help us understand the society we were born into. This can be literal schooling, a teacher, or a religious foundation which helped to shape morals.
The best way to look at this card, is to understand how it was that the MC understood how to function in the “normal” society and be “one of them,” them being a functioning societal member.
This card is sometimes called the Story Teller, which I think I like better. Someone who carries the understandings and views of the community. In those stories are lessons to be learned, morals, and a history, in some extent.
Knowing what this figure or system is in your story, to your MC will help to better understand the foundation they’ve built their understanding from regarding their community. This can shape how they act and respond to situations, how they think, and how they make their decisions based on their understanding of right and wrong.
This also sets up the MC for the following card, which is the Lovers, a card of choice. I won’t go too much into this card, since that was never the intention regarding this particular discussion. But I will say this: the Lovers is a card of choice, of being presented with an option, and deciding which path to take.
When we consider this in following the Hierophant (because each card builds off the last), then we understand this is a choice in deciding which norms and lessons we’ll leave behind, and which we will develop for ourselves. This is essentially the choice: what do we choose to believe and carry with us, and what do we reject.
Thus, when we look at the Hierophant, we are setting our MC up to solidify their code of ethics, so to speak, as well as setting them up to be presented with options later down the line, during their character arc.
The Tarot Pull
To figure this out for your MC, shuffle the cards before flipping the deck over so you can see the pictures, and find your Hierophant.
The card in front of the Hierophant is a teaching that your character agrees with and will carry with them.
The card behind it is a teaching that they aren’t sure about, that might come into question.
If you want to further develop this baseline, keep shuffling the cards, flipping the deck back over so you can’t see the faces, and pull three cards:
The first card will represent their standard education.
The second card will represent their religious lessons.
The third card will represent what their immediate community holds true.
When I talk bout the immediate community, this could be the small village your character lives in, their group of friends, their neighborhood, their ship, and so on. What is a philosophy of those who closely interact with your MC have?
If you want to delve into this more, you can ask yourself whether or not your MC agrees with this philosophy.
The Tarot is an extremely helpful tool when it comes to your writing, or any creative practice for that matter.
One of the things you can use it for is to help your own development as a writer, by looking critically at where you are right now. What is your mentality? Where is your drive? What are you missing that would make your writing practice easier?
Celtic Cross Spread for Writers
I’ve created a 75+ page workbook called The Celtic Cross Spread for Writers, which includes journal prompts to accompany each card of the Celtic Cross.
This workbook is designed to help you better understand yourself so you can focus on the needs of your writing, pinpoint where your writing blocks might be, and move forward with more confidence.
This workbook is completely free, my gift to you, dear writer.
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I recently just launched my podcast. I also just launched my first free workbook.
There was a lot more to both of these things than I thought there would be.
Of course, there’s designing the content, figuring out how I want to present it, then I have to figure out the tech and marketing side of both of these things…yet that isn’t the part that drained me.
It was the stress of it. The pressure of it.
It left me hitting a wall on Monday morning after I did my part to tell everyone about this podcast, and I felt so drained that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t have a creative or logical, or motivated bone in my body at the end of it.
Because I’ve been all work and very little introspection, I decided to participate in a daily tarot draw through August. Owl and Bones Tarot on Instagram has a set of daily questions that I decided to take part in.
In my exhaustion, I drew a few cards for the week ahead, as prompted: Energy/Let In/Keep Out/Mantra.
I drew the 4 of Cups, the Wheel of Fortune, and the Emperor. From those, I developed the following Mantra:
By moving with the flow, I open myself to fill my offered cup, unapologetically.
I gave in and flipped the fourth card anyway, to see what it had to offer: the King of Wands.
The King of Wands is a master of his craft, of the thing that lights him up. He’s also the master of Fire. This means that he knows when to fan the flames, and when they need to be tampered. He can find steadiness through his knowledge of how to balance his passions and desires.
That is the wisdom of my week ahead.
So I took the day off. I gave myself time to play.
I let the day move me and guide me and allowed myself the space to nourish myself.
While I’ve been diving head-first into building my business, I’ve left little to no time at all for my own personal enjoyments. I haven’t given myself space to be creative in the ways I feel most creative. I certainly haven’t looked after my body (seriously, I joined a gym three weeks ago and haven’t been once).
I have been in Fire and Air energy for all of July and so I took yesterday, August 2, to nourish the rest of my elements.
Since it was Lughnasadh (many pagans celebrate on the 1st, but I have always celebrated it on the 2nd), I decided to take the day and celebrate it. It’s a day of the first summer harvests, and a day of gratitude.
I went to the Co-op and bought as locally and ethically as I could, gathering vegetables, fresh herbs, edible flowers, local beers and a cider, getting myself excited to get home and bake some bread and make some stew.
I spent the afternoon cleaning the house, taking care of those chores that get put to the side when you’re too busy. I did those chores not out of necessity. They absolutely could have waited. But I wanted to do them. I wanted to take part in tending the hearth of my home, of honoring my personal patron, Hestia.
Then my evening was spent on the back porch, enjoying the evening, eating my cheddar and herb bread (made with chives, Herbs de Provence, local blond ale, and fresh edible flowers) and summer vegetable stew (with added stout to give it some power), while drinking Washington local, Finnriver lavender black current cider.
Responding to Goal-Setting & Celebrations
Why am I sharing all of this with you?
Because it is so easy to burn yourself out with doing what you feel must be done. We set goals, hard goals, ambitious goals, and we are determined to make them happen. We put a lot of energy into those goals.
But how often do we give ourselves time to rest after we’ve reached our goals?
Releasing the workbook and launching the podcast were two goals of mine, but they weren’t the end goal. They were steps I felt were necessary to reach the end goal. And they were worth celebrating when I reached those goals.
Sometimes celebrating looks like going out for a drink. Sometimes it looks like giving yourself a present. Sometimes it looks like skydiving. And sometimes it looks like rest.
While baking bread and making stew might not look like rest to many, it was rest to me. It was putting down business and making time for what I love to do, and how I nourish myself.
The key question then to ask yourself is what are you doing to nourish yourself? How are you filling your cup when you’ve completed a step? How are you taking time to honor yourself?
Take a moment to ask yourself this, and answer yourself before moving on.
What It Means to Celebrate
You might have noticed that I didn’t have a dinner party. I made dinner for me. Because it was about me being able to rest.
In coaching sessions, I often ask my clients to set goals, since that’s the nature of what we’re doing, but also to determine different levels of celebration when they hit key markers. What will they do when they get their wordcount for the day? For the week? How about when they finish their first draft? Their revision? Send out their manuscript for beta reading?
Often, what they come up with are treats for themselves, which is perfectly fine. It acts as a prize to strive toward. I would be lying if I said I didn’t do the same.
However, the best rewards aren’t necessarily what we set for ourselves ahead of time. Instead, it’s checking in with yourself when you meet that marker and seeing what you need at that point. Do you need a few days to just do nothing? Do you need some fun? Do you need to dance? To eat better? To move more? Do you need to clean? Do you need to just lay in the grass and watch the wind through tree branches?
Checking in with yourself at the time of your success is a great way to reward yourself. Consider which of your elements is running low, and do what you can to find that balance before you move on to the next check point.
What this doesn’t mean is using rest as a reward. It doesn’t mean neglecting yourself and using selfcare something you can let yourself have one you do the thing.
You should always be participating in selfcare.
What this does mean is that you’re then breaking down your tasks and goals into small, bite-sized chunks, and checking in with yourself when you complete each mouthful.
What do you need after you write 2,000 words in a day?
What can fan your flames after you’ve revised your 85,000-word novel?
What do you deserve after you’ve had the bravery to send your piece out to 8 beta readers?
How to Determine What You Need
Think about how you feel after you’ve completed a small task. Think about how you feel after you’ve completed a big task.
Most of us feel pretty accomplished when we complete something, and that’s the predominant feeling. However, there are sometimes undercurrents of other things: exhaustion, anxiety about what comes next, sadness that the task is over, etc.
There are ways to nourish all of those feelings and sensations.
There is no bad response to completing a task. Feelings area always valid. They are expressing a part of yourself, and the healthiest thing you can do for those expressions is to give them a voice at the table, and ask what they are there to really communicate to you.
For example, after my podcast and workbook releases, my brain had enough. My energy was low. What those were both telling me, my Air and Fire, was that I needed to do something that wasn’t mentally taxing. I needed to do something where I was feeling rather than expressing.
A good way to see where your energy is low is to spend some time—you guessed it—journaling on where you’re feeling drained.
This is effective if you have a deck of tarot cards that you can lay out for the following questions, without turning them over. Journal on the questions, then flip the cards and see where your perception and understanding of your situation lines up with your intuition and subconscious.
In what area of life do I feel drained?
What area of life lights me up?
What is nourishing my passions?
What is taking me away from my passions?
What is taking away from my drive?
What thoughts are inspiring me?
What thoughts are holding me back?
What inspires me in general?
How do I feel about the relationships in my immediate circle?
What can I do to be more compassionate toward myself?
How can I nourish myself more spiritually?
Where am I physically over-extending myself?
What am I doing to support my body?
How does my physical space affect me?
What is the best piece of advice I can give myself?
If you do use the Tarot, pay attention to what suits come up the most, and which come up the least. That can give you a sign as to what might be in or out of balance.
Based on what you find here, you can see what you might need that would nourish you.
For example, if you find that maybe you are giving too much to your social life, then spending some alone time might be good for you. In which case, what is something fun, something that’s a treat that you can give yourself that will also nourish the part of you that needs to be replenished regarding your social life? Maybe going to see a movie on your own, a road trip on your own, or letting your friends do something for you so you don’t have to worry about it, but can still have fun.
Yes, you can absolutely celebrate your accomplishments, big or small, by treating yourself to a cupcake, a drink, a night out, a trip, and so on. These are wonderful things to be able to indulge in. But when you are taking time to honor the small steps you’ve done each day? That’s a good way to either go broke or develop some less than desirable, productive, or healthy habits.
By looking at celebration as ways to replenish what has been depleted, and enjoying the process, then you can work toward keeping up momentum and burnout.
Check in with yourself regularly, stay present within yourself, and see where your energy is starting to get low and do what you can to keep yourself topped up.
Get to Know Yourself
Want to see exactly what you need as a writer? I’ve got a free workbook just for you, using the Celtic Cross as a structure.
In this workbook, you’ll have over 75 pages of Tarot and journal prompts to see what is supporting your writing journey, and what might be hindering you.
Dive deeper into your writing habits and mindset and get this free workbook by signing up below!
In this first episode, I ask you to consider where you are as a writer. Where are you leaping off from today? Tomorrow? The next day?
This episode explores
Where you are as a writer
The use of Tarot as a writer
The use of Earth, Air, Fire & Water as a writer
I mention the Celtic Cross for Writers Workbook, and while during the time of the recording I didn't know if I would have that workbook ready, I can now say that it is ready and available! Get your copy here or by visiting
In this workbook I'll walk you through how to use the Celtic Cross to discover yourself as a writer with copious journal prompts and using the Tarot. This workbook has over 50 pages of information, prompts and insight to up-level your writing mindset.
You can find me at
On Instagram: @NaturalWriterCoaching
On Twitter: @WriterNatural
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Or email any questions or thoughts at Nicola@NaturalWriterCoaching.com or through the Contact Me page of my website.
Happy writing, friends!
Why Do We Need to Know Where We Are?
Knowing where you are as a writer means that you know the starting point from which you’re jumping off.
You might be just starting your writing journey, or maybe you’re a prolific short story writer, yet just beginning your first novel. Or perhaps you’re a self-published novelist, well into your 11th book, and needing some extra umph to keep you going.
We are all at different points in our writing. And yet, we’re all at the same place: the first day.
I know, this is going to sound cheesy, but it’s true. We are all at the first day of the rest of our writing journey.
The good, and obnoxious news is that tomorrow is also our first day.
So where are we starting from today? Where will we be starting from tomorrow? And the next day? And next week? Next month?
You get where I’m going with this.
Knowing where you are right now can help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, what’s holding you back, and what’s supporting you.
I suggest you have yourself a pen an paper for this blog post or this podcast, because I’m going to be asking you some questions to get you going.
Throughout this podcast, I’ll be referring to the Tarot. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll also know that I’m a big fan of using the Tarot in writing.
For this particular episode and post, I’m considering the lens of the first position of the Celtic Cross: The heart of the matter, or where you are as a writer.
In a Celtic Cross reading, this position represents the sum of all the energies working around you and within you to put you in the current position you’re in right now, or the real issue that is prompting the reading at all.
For many writers, it’s writers block. But that’s not just what the main issue is. It’s what’s masking the issue. So let’s take a second a look at writer’s block.
Writer’s block is rarely simply not knowing what to write. More often than not, it’s the result of something deeper getting in the way, whether it’s a belief, a fear, or the excuses we tell ourselves (though those are also the result of beliefs and/or fears).
If we take a little bit of a bird walk, I’ll talk a little bit about the ego.
The ego, at least, how I’m defining the ego, is the self, or rather, the protector of the self. It is like the shell of the nut that is what defines us.
The aim of the ego is to protect the self. However, what it means to protect something is to keep it just as it is. Which leads to no growth.
In order to grow, we need to initiate a change. Where there is change, there is the unknown. Where there is the unknown, there is potentially danger to the self, which is what the ego wants to protect the self from. As a result, we have fear.
This is very simplified. I know that. Just keep bird walking with me.
This fear is what is causing our writer’s block, when it does manage to crop up. It’s the voice in the bac of our heads questioning whether our writing will be well received, if we as writers will be well received, or if there’s any point in writing at all. These are just a few fears that I commonly talk to writers about. There are plenty more out there.
As a result, we find excuses for why we can’t write, why we shouldn’t write, and so on. This is why we would rather deep clean the bathroom which suddenly urgently needs doing when we sit down at the computer to get some work done. We may not have our writing done, but damnit, our bathrooms are spotless!
Using the tarot, and looking ourselves as writers through the lens of the tarot or even through this position in the Celtic Cross, can help us identify what might be holding us back in our writing practice. Likewise, it can show us what’s supporting us.
The First Step: Journal It out
The first thing I’m going to ask you to do is journal out where you are as a writer. What does it mean for you to be a writer? What does your writing practice look like? What are you doing right now to embody the title of writer? What are your goals? Your fears? Who’s your biggest cheerleader, and influence? Who intimidates you?
Write everything you can about where you are right now.
Don’t think about it too much.
The often famed method of Morning Pages, put forth by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, is about journaling without boundaries. Let your thoughts flow onto the page for at least three whole A4 pages, front and back, without pausing to wonder what to write.
When you find yourself running out of what to write, write “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write…” until your pen begins to know what to write.
Adopt this mentality while you do this exercise. Don’t think. Just journal.
After You’ve Scrawled It All…
After you’ve spent some time journaling, get a highlighter and read through what you’ve written. Pay attention to what stands out to you and mark it. Make notes, highlight, underline, do what you have to do, but mark what you’ve written that stands out as important to you.
Pull these points aside and journal on them further if you need to. Really dig into these tid-bits of information you’ve gleaned from your journaling. Why do they stick out to you?
Getting Back to Tarot
A tool that Tarot utilizes is the categorizing of different aspects of life via the four suits: Coins/Pentacles, Swords, Wands, and Cups. Each suit is represented by an element: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, respectively.
I promise this will relate to writing and where you are as a writer, just bear with me.
Here’s how the elements represent different aspects of life:
Earth represents the physical realm, all that is tangible. You can think of the things that we need to physically survive and move around in this world, such as food, shelter, physical health, the earth itself, money, etc.
Earth energy is passive energy. It is slow moving, and it digs deep and holds on. Think of terms like “grounding” or “rooting.” These directly relate to Earth aspects.
Air represents our thoughts and how we communicate. It also represents education, the law, justice, and anything to do with logic. It is part of our inspiration, something I’ll delve more into when we move on to Fire.
Air also represents cycles. When we consider the breath, how it moves in and out of us, like a cycle, or the swirling of wind, we can understand how it can represent the phases we move through.
Air is active energy. Our thoughts are quick, how we speak is usually quite quick as well. Thoughts and tongues can be sharp, which is part of the reason why they are represented by the Swords in the Tarot.
This is my favorite element, though it could be because I’m a fire sign, and have a lot of fire in my astrological chart.
Fire represents passion and creation. It is our inspiration, our drive, our Will. It’s what motivates us to get up and go and to take action.
I mentioned that Air is also inspiration. The spark is the instant of Need to Do, of Compulsion to express that key part of the Self. It’s that flicker of excitement. Air is what fans that spark and brings it to a flame. It’s what plans and forms the spark into an action.
Fire, too, is active energy. It is far more instantaneous than Air, and far more demanding than air.
Water is a passive energy, like Earth. Though the concept behind Water is the idea of sinking down. As a result, this means that it corresponds to our emotions, to our subconscious, our intuition, and our spirituality. It’s how we connect in our relationships, whether they be friendly, romantic, familial, or otherwise.
It is creativity.
Considering these elements and areas of your life while going over your journaling can help you divide specific areas you might find are supporting you or restricting you. You might find that there are areas that are smothering your spark, or devouring your Air, for example. These things bleed into your creative practice. Getting to know the different areas of life can help you pinpoint where you are right now.
The Second Step: Some Guiding Questions
The second step is more of a helpful way to get you to consider the elements in your life. Here are some guiding questions you can further use as journal prompts.
Air: What is your practice?
How are you keeping yourself accountable?
How are you planning for your writing goals?
How are you implementing the steps of your plan?
I want to take a moment to say that it’s okay if you don’t have a plan. You don’t have to have a plan. However, Air is the element of logic, and is great when you start looking at your editing.
However, there are some elements of planning that you’ll need in your writing life. For example, the goals you set for your current WIP, or your writing career. The education you plan to explore when it comes to marketing, to story structure, to publishing also doubly fall under Air, since it’s both education and planning. Knowing copywrite laws are essential when it comes to creating your works (laws fall under Air, as does Justice).
There is a lot here, and the risk of too much Air is over-planning, and smothering your inspiration as a result. Ask yourself where the line is for you regarding too much planning, or needing to plan more.
Fire: How Do You Feel About Writing in General?
Does writing, as a whole inspire you? Intimidate you? Make you feel free? Constricted?
Consider this and note what you feel in your body. Do you relax? Is there a tightness?
How do you feel about your writing?
Same questions – Does it inspire you? Excite you? Free? Constricted?
Fire can often be that act of creation, but creation must come from something. For example, consider the creation of another being. There are things that must happen:
There must be passion, or desire (both Fire)
Two elements come together to make that creation happen
So ask yourself what is that passion for you about writing? What is compelling you to write? Or consider writing? Or tell your story?
Examining what smothers that spark is also important, and should be considered.
What kills stomps out that potential for you?
What stops a piece from coming to fruition?
Water: Where Does Your Creativity Come From?
Does it hit you from nowhere?
Do you cultivate it?
What relaxes you and puts you in the flow with your art?
What emotions do you tap into when you write?
What do you avoid?
There is no doubt that writing is a creative process, and writing is fluid and flowing, just like Water. Hence, the creativity. Water forms itself to what it must be in order to fit in with what is required.
You might have noticed that I’ve mentioned both creativity and creation separately, and I want to take a moment to distinguish between the two.
Creation is the result of action being taken upon a passion
Creative, or creativity is the personal flair in which something is created.
Creation is fire
Creativity is water
In the tarot, there is a card named Temperance, which is often represented by Fire and Water. Marriam-Webster defines Temperance as “Moderation in action, thought, or feeling.”
In Thoth-Based tarot decks, the Temperance card is called Art instead. I love this. The idea that Fire and Water are coming together to create Art. This is creation and creativity coming together in harmony, the internal flow of Water, balanced with the drive of Fire, to create Art.
Earth: How is Your Writing Showing up in Your Physical World?
By what physical method do you write?
Are you making money from your writing?
How are you nourishing your brain?
I want to take a second to explain the last question.
The things that we put in our body affects our minds. Everyone is different, therefore different minds need different things. I also want to take a second to honor that this can be a privileged thing to consider as well.
I am not going on a kick about what you should or shouldn’t consume. What I am asking is for you to pay attention to how certain things affect how you think and act.
For example: during lockdown last year, I, like so many, began baking. I started to find that when I was eating the delicious things I baked, I was getting cranky. Same with when I had sugar in my coffee. So I stopped with the sugar-rich treats and drastically cut back on the sugar in my coffee.
Recently, since I get up at 5 in the morning, I have noticed that I have some pretty gnarly caffeine crashes around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I realized it was because I was drinking bucket loads of coffee and then hitting my wall. So I stopped and replaced coffee with chicory root for a while, and then with plain old water.
I noticed how what I was consuming was affecting my mind and productivity, and I made the changes I felt I had the capacity and capability to make.
Where Are You As A Writer?
Consider everything you’ve journaled about here. What have you discovered? Are you pleased with it? Do you see areas you want to change?
If you’re open to sharing, post in the comments below! I’ll be you’ll find you’re not alone.
Natural Writer Podcast
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Happy Listening and Happy Writing!
Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook
In this podcast, I mention the Celtic Cross Workbook.
At the time of recording, I didn’t know when it would be released. However! I do now!
It is a completely free, 75+ pages of tarot and journal prompts using the Celtic Cross to help you delve into where you are as a writer, what is supporting you, and what is holding you back from becoming what you want to be.
Check it out for Free by completing the form below!
I talk a lot about Tarot. And one of my favorite practices is to tell people to journal. The combination of that often results in telling people to journal on a Tarot card.
What does that mean?
The Importance of Journaling
There are many gurus, teachers, therapists, and writers out there who will tell you that journaling is essential and important to keeping a healthy mind. Yet it’s easy to get hung up on what that means.
For many of us, when we were in school, we would be given writing prompts to get us to think about what we had learned. “What was the significance of living eternally in Tuck Everlasting?” “Would you want to live forever? Why or why not?”
I used to hate them. Truly.
Now I love them. I love the idea of delving into what I think about something. This is essentially what journal prompts serve to do. They invite a person to collect their thoughts and put them onto paper, or into audio.
The Benefits of Journaling
One way that journaling is effective is that it’s like putting your thoughts into a funnel. You have everything floating around in your head, but as soon as you have to put them into words, your brain has to organize them. It’s like untangling a knot into something manageable.
While this is an excellent reason to journal, the best understanding of the importance and therapeutic method of journaling has come from Julia Cameron in her book, The Right to Write.
She writes that journaling is allowing you the space to witness yourself. Often times we need to be witnessed, but so much of what we feel or what we think is shrouded in fear or shame. We’re afraid of what people will think of us if they knew we had x thought, or y belief, or felt a particular way.
When we journal, we are giving ourselves space to express what’s inside of us, and we are bearing our own witness.
I think this is truly beautiful, and essential for everyone to experience.
Journaling on a Tarot Card
So what does it mean to journal on a Tarot card?
This is a great practice when you’re learning to do Tarot or to read an oracle deck, and there are many ways to do this. There is no one right way. However, here are some offerings.
Note: I should mention, these are exercises designed mostly for Rider-Waite-Colman-Smith- and/or Thoth-based decks. While some of these exercises can be used for Tarot de Marseille decks, they don’t translate as easily. Oracle decks can also be used in this manner as well.
1. Describe What You See
Even if you know all the card meanings, describing what you see in a card can help you get to what you need to know about a card. It shows you what’s catching your eye first. Pay attention to that, and examine what that image, color, number, symbol, glyph, etc. might mean to you.
When you write this out, or record it out loud, you’re giving yourself the space to explore a card beyond the keyword meanings you might have memorized.
If you’re new to getting to know the Tarot, this is an opportunity for you to discover more about the picture in front of you.
2. Describe What You Feel
Writing the emotions or thoughts that come up immediately when you look at a card can help you get to the heart and energy behind a card. If you flip over the 3 of Cups and you feel panicked, then there’s a chance that you should pay attention to how you feel about social situations. If you turn over the 10 of Swords and feel relieved, then the chances are you should examine how you can move out of your particular situation and go toward that new dawn on the horizon.
Write out how you feel, and then ask yourself why you feel the way you do. Ask yourself “why?” several times, or “what can I learn from this?” several times before you move on. This is how you get in deep to your psyche.
3. Define the Card
Write out your definition of the card. If you know the card, or even if you don’t know the card, write out what it means to you. What is the image telling you? What story can you get from the picture in front of you?
Now, how does that story or definition relate to the position of the card, and to your life right now? Write it all out. Allow yourself to organize your thoughts in this way, and see what unfolds before you.
Ways to Journal
There is no right way to journal. Whether you’re doing it for a writing project, for school, or to get to know the tarot, there is no one way that is correct. What is correct is what works for you and serves you the best.
There are some things to keep in mind:
Don’t judge yourself for what you express through journaling. You are making space for yourself. You are allowing yourself a safe place to explore and examine ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Don’t think too hard. Try to let it flow
Have compassion for yourself.
Here are some ways to journal
While of course you can type out your journal entries, writing by hand, or by some measure other than pressing buttons, helps you to connect better with your thoughts and with the exercise.
When you write longhand, you can write your journal entry like you’re talking to someone, in pros, in poem form, however you want so long as the pen is moving or the voice keeps speaking, until you’re done.
Personally, I suffer from a hand injury a few years ago. When I write too much, my wrist and hand ache and it’s useless for a while. This is just one reason why someone might not be able to, or might not want to journal by hand.
Creating an audio recording is a helpful way to get around this. So long as you can find a space to yourself and can access some form of recording perhaps on your phone, on your computer, or into an old Home Alone Voice Recorder, then you’re good.
I do want to note that while yes, you can absolutely dictate your journaling to the computer, I wouldn’t recommend dictation as your writing practice. The reason I say this is that when you dictate, you need to tell the computer or dictation software to put in commas, periods, line breaks, etc. This can interrupt the flow of thought, and might create a barrier to achieve what you’re looking to achieve through your journaling.
Bullet Journaling is a combination of art and journaling. It allows you to think and mull and gnaw on your thoughts while you doodle and color, and then bullet point your key thoughts.
Furthermore, not everyone can express themselves fully through writing. Words aren’t their medium, and there is nothing wrong with that. Using bullet journaling allows for the journaler to use color, lines, and images to give a broader range of expression.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what any of the images mean to anyone else, only the person expressing themselves. The journal is for you and only you.
Combining Tarot & Journaling
It’s no secret that I see the Tarot as an excellent tool for writers. Learning to journal on a Tarot card is a great way to help a writer sink into the scene in a card and use it to help them write their story.
For example, a two-card reading process I like to use is Situation & Problem. The first card acts as the situation I’m starting from, then the card that crosses it is the Problem. From there, I begin writing.
If I turn over the 5 of Wands, then my situation could be competition. If my second card is the Lovers, then the Problem is either a choice that has to be made, or perhaps a competing love interest, depending on where I want to go with this this card.
When I journal on the situation, and what the card looks like, the colors expressed, what the images mean to me, I’m starting my brain along the path of how I could apply this to a story. This is my jumping off point for my story, whether it’s a piece of flash fiction, a novel, or a short story.
Likewise, when I begin to journal on the Lovers and what it means to me or how I might apply it in terms of the first card, then I’m beginning to develop a plot. I’m exploring how what I know, what I feel, what I see in this prompt can be the thing to interrupt the first card.
This is just one way out of hundreds that I can benefit from journaling around or about a Tarot card.
Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook
If you want to take a truly deep dive into your writing practice and discover more about yourself as a writer, I have something just for you:
The Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook
This workbook has over 65 pages of journaling exercises to help you plunge into the depths of what makes you, you, of what your writing habits are, what is supporting you, and what is holding you back.
Through using the classic Celtic Cross Tarot spread, I walk you through
Getting real with your current situation
Begin looking at your writing life through the lens of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water
What’s getting in your way
Uncovering your biases that might be holding you back
Looking at what’s supporting or hindering you internally and externally
How to develop your actionable steps to make necessary changes
The best part about this workbook? It’s completely free.
Fill out the form below to get your workbook and begin learning how Tarot and your journaling practice can serve you as a writer!
Full transparency: I’m terrified. This is a really scary thing for me to be doing! I actually have recorded and re-recorded my intro episode like ten times. Finally, I decided I would just publish it.
And you know what, I STILL found an editing error!
But that is to be expected. I’m learning new editing software (I’m used to editing sound on video editing software that I no longer have access to, nor am I willing to throw down $800 to gain access to), and to top it all off, I was doing it on my phone. Editing anything on your phone can be tricky, in case you haven’t discovered that.
However, my trailer episode is about an imperfect start, and thus, I think that my imperfect trailer outlines that.
If you want to get ready for the real deal, the full-on podcast, I’ll be launching on a Tuesday, and will keep up the every-Tuesday pattern.
I’m using Anchor as my host, which has gained me access to the following podcast platforms:
I am still currently waiting for Apple to get back to me. I will update this when I find out more.
I am very excited for this, and I hope you are too. Be sure to check out my imperfect trailer and subscribe for more imperfect, informative, and hopefully entertaining episodes of the Natural Writer Podcasts.
Don’t forget, we are still open for submissions for the Nightmares When I’m Cold writing competition/anthology.
Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!
While I’ve already talked a little bit about Tarot in writing, I thought I would look at another esoteric approach to the creative topic: writing through the Elements.
As you may already know, I’m very interested in the tarot. So much so that I have a whole tarot blog, sell professional tarot readings, and incorporate tarot in my writing. This post, however, is not about this. What it is about are the suits in tarot, or, more accurately, their elements.
When I talk about elements, I’m specifically referring to the four western elements: air, fire, water, earth (and if the order of those elements hurt your eyeballs (because it would hurt mine), don’t worry, I have them ordered like this for a reason).
Each of these Elements correspond to a different Tarot suit, and it was actually through the Tarot that I gained the most understanding of the Elements. Since I write using the Tarot, I write using the Elements, and I have some insight that I would like to pass along to you.
Let me give you a little introduction to each of the Four Elements.
Air: Concept, Communication, Thinking, Education, Law
The element of Air in the Tarot is the Swords, and is likely the most important steppingstone for the writer. Air represents thoughts and communication.
Consider how Air is our outward breath on which our words are carried. Consider how ideas and inspiration are fleeting, as if being carried away or being dissolved by the wind.
When we’re in our plotting and planning mode, when we’re thinking about character development, when we’re editing and revising, that is when Air is at play. Air is the logic that gets us started. It’s the idea that germinates within us, which we then communicate through our writing.
In the Lenormond (which isn’t the tarot, but an oracle deck designed in the 18th century by Madam Lenormond), the card, Birds, represents community and gossip. Birds twitter (Tweet) to one another, letting each other know that they’re there, and thus they can represent people speaking. Likewise, birds also have hollow bone and (most) travel through the air.
Every time you sit down to write, you are bringing forth the element of Air. You are thinking and you are communicating.
However, the thing about Air is that it is all logic and the expression of it. For this reason, it also corresponds to education and the law, as both are meant to be non-biased, but simply facts in front of you. Because air is simply facts in front of you, you need to look to the other elements.
Fire: Creation (Process), Passion, Drive, Will
Fire, which I personally love, represents activity, creation, and passion. This is essential when you’re writing. That passion is what will bring forth that idea. It’s the drive behind you. It is the burning in your belly that demands action from you lest the fire consume you alive.
It’s what makes us write.
In the Tarot, Fire is represented by the suit of Wands. Wands are that magical tool that zaps magic and makes things happen at will. Fire represents the Will and the action to bring forth that Will.
Consider all the analogies we have with this element:
The spark of inspiration
Fanning the flame
Heat of passion
All of these apply to our art.
Without Fire, we have an idea, but we don’t have the energy to pull through that idea. Fire is our inspiration, the thing that gets us excited. It can be the thing that gets you to starting your idea, and is the flame that needs to be fanned in order to get the idea into fruition.
The element of Water is a big on, in my mind. There are some elements that mingle with Air, depending on who you talk to, but here are my associations: emotion, creativity, intuition, and the subconscious. In the Tarot, Cups represents Water, for they hold liquid, they are the container of that creativity. With a container, we can see how much or how little Water we have.
There is a lot to unpack there.
When we think of Water, it is the lifeforce that it in all of it. We need it to survive. And thus, we need our art. Art is our form of expression, whatever medium we choose—whether it’s dance, painting, sculpting, speaking, writing, singing—it’s how we communicate who we are and how we feel. When our forms of expression are stifled, then we have problems.
Consider the concept of Toxic Masculinity, or the idea of what a man “should” be. One of the biggest tropes of this is that men don’t cry. This erodes a person when they can’t fully express themselves. The emotion is there, the expression is there, and it has to come out. The result can be very unhealthy actions such as self-harm, addiction, or outward verbal or even physical abuse. Anger and bitterness can be the result.
We all have the element of Water in us, literally and metaphorically. We are made up of Water in our cells and tissues, and we need it to survive. If we want to stay healthy, then we need to work with Water.
There is a lot I want to say regarding Water and creativity, but I’ll leave it for another post. For now, consider how you interact with water. Consider the affects of the moon on people—the idea that people “get weird” on a full moon may have to do with it’s pull on Water and the Water within us.
Consider the many variations of Water, how malleable it is, how it can be a gas, a liquid, or a solid. Consider the difference between a puddle and the deepest parts of the ocean. Consider a placid lake, or fifty-foot swells. Consider the corrosive power of a repetitive drop of water, and the carving power of the water that shaped the Grand Canyon.
While you’re in your flow, in your creative element, you mold and shape worlds, people, and situations. You take the idea and passion you have, and you apply creativity and emotion. Water is life, and that is what you bring to your writing when you apply emotion to your idea and passion.
Earth: Creation, Manifestation, Health, Money, Physical World
Earlier I mentioned that there would be some people who wouldn’t like the arrangement of the list I gave: Air, Fire, Water, Earth. If you’re anything like me, Earth comes first. However, when we’re talking about the creative process, Earth comes last.
The element of Earth represents physical matters. In the Tarot, it represents everything that we need for our physical survival in the everyday (mundane) world: food, health, shelter, money. When it comes to creativity, Earth is the fruit that is born of the combination of the rest of the elements. It is the idea you had in the beginning made manifest in the shared world we all live in. When you are working with Earth, then you have something you can show those around you. It’s your completed manuscript draft, it’s the sketch of your painting, it’s the notation of a song. It’s the product you created.
It’s that simple.
In the Tarot, Earth is represented by the suit of Coins, or Pentacles. The Pentacles are represented by a upright, five-pointed star in a circle. Each point represents a different element while the fifth point represents Spirit, or our individuality. The circle of the Pentacle represents how they’re all connected. This is essential to understanding the Earth element.
When Pentacles are present, they are saying that Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit have all come together to work in the physical world. Only when these things come together can something be created and exist in the shared reality.
Consider getting a Psychology degree, for example. You go to school to learn about Psychology (Air is education), you work diligently through the requirements (Fire is drive), you believe in what you are learning (Water), and you develop your own personal take on what you’re learning (Spirit is individuality). When you get to the point where you are putting all of these things to practice in your career, then you’re bringing those elements into the shared world, which is Earth. However, if any one of these things is left out, you won’t find success in your profession.
Earth marks the end of the cycle. But all ends are just beginnings, as I’ll explain when I talk about how Earth and Air interact.
The Progression of the Elements
There is a natural progression through the elements, in case you hadn’t caught on. I wanted to spend a little bit of time talking about how they work together, flowing from one into the other to create the cycle. This is also where I want to talk about balance. With everything, there is a balance that must be achieved in order for it to work. Just like when you start a marathon, you know you need to keep your breathing just right so you don’t make yourself dizzy or deprive yourself of air; you need to keep your pace steady so you conserve your energy for the long-haul; you don’t drink too much water so you don’t cramp or make yourself sick, but you drink enough that you muscles are nourished; and so on. Everything must be in balance.
Air & Fire Infusion
When we have an idea, we need inspiration to get it started. The word Inspiration to me is carried on the breath, but backed by fire. It’s like a hot air balloon—it’s air that carries us up, but it’s fire that gets that air moving and gives us lift-off.
When we think about the nature of Fire, and what it needs, we begin to understand how it can effectively work with Air.
Fire starts as a spark. We blow gently on it (applying Air) to turn it into a flame. With controlled air, we feed the flame until it’s burning steadily. If we apply the right amount of air, we can turn it into a raging torrent. If we apply too much too soon, we extinguish the flame.
Fire consumes Air. Have you ever been inspired but had no idea what to do with that inspiration? You know you want to write, or paint, or create, but you’re fresh out of ideas? That creativity dwindles into nothingness, because it has no ideas to feed on.
This is why it is so important to keep an idea journal. When you have any idea at all, whether you like it or you don’t, write it down. Make sure that when those creative surges come, you have plenty of Air to feed that Fire.
This is how you create a balance between Air and Fire.
Fire & Water in Harmony
You might have noticed that fire and water both have variations of the word “create” in them. I want to point out the distinction. Fire has to do with creation in the sense of the creative process. It is an active word energy, and specifically talks about the process of bringing something to fruition. Water has to do with creativity. It’s like the bead of magic that swirls through you and your work, surprising you as you go.
In the Tarot, Fire and Water are brought together in the 14th Major Arcana, Temperance. She is seen as mixing two things together that seemingly shouldn’t be mixed, yet bringing harmony as a result. She does it with such patience and mindfulness, that it brings something beautiful and harmonious into the world. In the Thoth Tarot, this card isn’t called Temperance. It’s called Art. The two mysterious opposites being brought together are Fire and Water. When you have a spark of creativity, you have Fire and Water. When you have passion you have emotion. When you have drive, you’re working from a place of your intuition and subconscious, both of the latter are Water, which we didn’t go too much into in this post.
In the natural world, Fire and Water interact in interesting ways. When you apply heat to water, the molecules shake up and the water begins to boil. Apply more heat and you have steam, which is what you want when it comes to your writing (the perfect mix of Air, Water, and Fire). But if you apply too much, then there is no more water because it all evaporates.
If you have too much Water and apply it to the Fire, then you’re dousing the Fire. You lose your passion. It seems backwards, doesn’t it? Too much creativity (Water) hindering creation (Fire).
I once tried to write a 500-word piece of flash fiction where every non-article and non-preposition started with the same letter. My goal was to write 26 of these, one for each letter of the alphabet. I had to get creative with it, so much so that I burnt myself out doing it. I couldn’t complete the project. I didn’t even get through the first piece. My creativity suffocated my creation. Too much Water on the Fire killed it.
You want to remember to use your Fire to keep your Water at a nice simmer, and remember to take the time to replenish your Water as you go along so it doesn’t dry up. And you want to make sure you aren’t suffocating your flames with too much creativity.
Water & Earth Shaping
Water is the what shapes the physical. Likewise, the physical shapes water. What happens in the real world changes how we feel about things and how we view the world. For example, if you and tend to your garden, it will grow and produce fruit. If you love it too much, you might not even want to make a cut of it, leaving trees unpruned, beds unthinned, or even fruit unpicked, because you simply want it to be.
Our love for something can nurture growth, just like it can erode it. This is especially true when it comes to our creativity.
When we have our creation, or a draft of it (Earth), we need to nurture (Water) it into maturation. This is looking at it and understanding that some parts will have to be trimmed back, that you might have to redirect the growth, or even remove parts altogether. This is the balance. It is knowing when to “kill your darlings.”
However, when we have too much love for what we’ve created, we might not be able to see where it is that needs to be altered.
In the Tarot, I always see the Queen of Cups as the ultimate card to represent Water. She is seen as caring and nurturing, in touch with her emotions, and a very mothering figure. The reversal of her is “smother love.” Pouring too much Water on a garden will drown it.
Water is powerful and can be eroding. When we put too much heart into something, then it can erode the outcome. Consider how water carved the Grand Canyon.
Likewise, the drive to manifest a draft of a finished product might tempt you to bypass your creativity and emotions. You might just want to get the thing done. Thus, Earth can serve as a block. You might have a finished product, but it will fall flat.
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.
When Earth and Water collide, they have the opportunity to work in harmony with one another. Allow Earth to guide your Water, and allow the presence of Water in your Earth.
Earth & Air Seaming
As I mentioned before, Earth marks the end of the cycle. But it doesn’t mean that you’re done. I also mentioned, when I talked about Air, that it represents the first idea and outlining (both of which are the beginning of the writing process) and editing. Air is also the beginning and the end.
What does this mean?
When you have a tangible product in your hands, it might just be a first draft. Then, you start the process over again, this time with editing in mind, until you have your next draft, and so on until you have your physical product.
Earth can sometimes be immovable. Consider a wall that breaks the wind. This can sometimes be the barrier we face when we’ve finished a draft and aren’t willing to begin the editing process. I know plenty of people who get stuck in editing because they just don’t want to do it.
Adjusting your mindset so that you see your draft as something that’s malleable and workable will help make the shift from Earth back to Air. Consider saplings that bow in the wind. They’re Earth, and they’re in their early stages of life. With each pass of the year, they get stronger, and bow less in the wind because they’re stronger and more solid. Your first draft should allow easy editing—by that, I mean there should be ample material to edit. But with each pass of the creative cycle, your MS gets more and more solid, until there are only leaves reacting to the wind, just tweaks here and there that aren’t necessary to make.
The key is knowing when to stop editing.
I had a teacher who once told us that there was no such thing as a final draft. We, as writers and artists, will always find something we want to change. The final harmony between Air and Earth is having the wisdom to know when to stop the cycle on a particular piece, to know when it is completed.
The instructions for this homework assignment are basic, though be prepared, the work itself is not.
What is an idea for a piece that you’ve had but haven’t acted on? If you don’t have one, spend some time coming up with an idea.
Work through the elements to see how you can use them to move you through your first draft.
Here is a recap of the elemental associations for you:
Air – ideas, concepts, education, outlining, editing, communication
Fire – passion, creation, drive
Water – emotion, creativity, intuition, subconscious
Earth – manifesting, completion, health, solidifying, that which is physical
Bonus: Spirit – you
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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.
I’ll back up.
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.
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.
What is my ultimate goal within myself this year?
What do I need to accomplish within myself to achieve this goal?
What is holding me back?
How do I feel about this?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
What is a balance of fire and water to you? Within you? Outside of you? What can you do to work toward this balance?
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.
How does this card represent the balance of creativity and passion to you? Does it at all?
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!