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

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

What does that mean?

The Importance of Journaling

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

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

I used to hate them. Truly.

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

The Benefits of Journaling

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

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

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

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

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

Journaling on a Tarot Card

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

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

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

1. Describe What You See

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

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

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

2. Describe What You Feel

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

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

3. Define the Card

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

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

Ways to Journal

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

There are some things to keep in mind:

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

Here are some ways to journal

Longhand

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

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

Audio

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

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

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

Bullet Journaling

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

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

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

Combining Tarot & Journaling

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook

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

The Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook

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

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

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

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

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

Natural Writer Podcast

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

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

I have an imperfect podcast to launch on August 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!

“Will My Story Get Published?”

One of the questions I see a lot is writers wondering whether or not their book will get published.

I am in a lot of online writing groups where writers get to vent their quandaries, celebrate their successes, puzzle out plot points, and share inspiration. As I watch these forums, I find there are trends in questions from time to time. And the one that is occurring the most, in various forms, is “will my story be published?”

I am here to address that.

The simple yet complex answer is down to ID: It Depends.

The unfortunate thing is that writing a book and publishing a book are two different things. This is the reason why I harp on so much about knowing your “why,” as in, knowing why it is you want to write a book. When you know this, then you can discover your goal for the book, which determines how you write it, and what you write about.

Reasons to Write a Book

There are many reasons people write a book, and that can range from simply wondering if they can get from beginning to end, all the way to wanting to be an influential literary figure who is discussed in English classes through future generations.

Here are just a few—a few—reasons people write books.

  1. To see if they can
  2. To practice writing their next book
  3. Because they have a story in them they just have to get out
  4. Because it can potentially make money
  5. It will advertise their business
  6. It will make the writer more visible for their other endeavors
  7. The writer wants to be the next [Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Dan Brown, Janet Evanovich, Stephanie Meyer, Anne Rice, Judy Blume, Alice Hoffman, etc.], and reach the level of fame that means everyone knows who they are and there are shows and movies made from their books
  8. The writer wants to be the next [Toni Morrison, Shakespeare, Alan Moore, Charlotte Bronte, Oscar Wilde, etc.] and be influential literary deities studied in universities over the next century—as a bare minimum.
  9. The writer just wants to create something for their family and close friends to enjoy.

All of these mean different avenues and approaches to writing as well as different publishing goals.

If your goal is to make a living first and foremost, then knowing the market is what you need to do and write to that. What that means is keeping your finger to the pulse and either writing so quickly that you can produce and publish enough books that fit in with current trends that people instantly pick them up, or being able to predict the way trends are going and write to that and get ahead of the game. This is just one example of how your “why” can influence what and how you write.

Different Publishing Avenues

To directly address the questions of will a book be published, a writer needs to look at the different publishing avenues that a writer can pursue that fit in with their why.

Here are a few different ways an author can publish:

  1. Traditional Publishing. This means using a publishing house that is already established as a publishing house and does not expect money from you if they accept your novel. Traditional publishing may or may not require an agent for submission, will require you to adhere to their guidelines, and are looking at your book as a marketable product rather than as a piece in and of itself. This is why many writers, when they’re rejected from one publishing house, may get compliments from the publisher along the lines of “This is a great book, but it isn’t what we’re looking for right now.” They are essentially looking at what is trending and selling in the market, and calculating the likelihood that your book will be sold based on that market. If accepted, your manuscript will be invested in by the publishing house, from editors to cover design to marketing.
  2. Self-Publishing. The appeal of self-publishing for many authors can range from the lack of gatekeeping found in traditional publishing, to more control over your finished book, to a difference in royalties. If you are writing books to publish to make a living, self-publishing might be the choice for you, since you get around 75% of royalties when you say publish through Amazon, vs. 5-10% when you publish through a traditional publisher. Likewise, you control how fast or slow your content is published. If you want a book released every two weeks, you can make it happen. The downfall of this method of publishing is that it is a lot of a work. You are your own publishing house, essentially, which means you are the one paying for cover design (and trust me, you want to hire someone for that unless you have a graphic design background), editing, and marketing. The upfront cost can be intense, though there are plenty of writing groups out there whose main objectives are to help writers self-publish.
  3. Vanity Publishing. This form of publishing gets a lot of flack, though unnecessarily, in my opinion. This is a form of publishing that works for some people, but not for all. It is somewhat of a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing. Vanity publishers will extend the invitation for a writer to submit their work to them, and they will read it. I haven’t heard of anyone being rejected from these publishers, though it might happen. they then will offer the writer a publishing package, in which they do all the work of finding the right cover, the right editor, and put forward the marketing, though the writer is expected to cover those costs. At the low range, it can cost a grand to several grand, depending on the package the writer purchases, as well as the publisher. The benefit of this is that the publisher will have talented staff working on the writer’s book, and it takes away from the work the writer would have to do if they were self-publishing. It also removes the gate-keeping element while still producing a professional-looking end-product. The downfall is that there can be a stigma that surrounds publishing this way, usually found among other writers.
  4. Hybrid Publishing. Hybrid publishing is often used synonymously with vanity publishing, though there are differences, though they are slight.I won’t lie, this isn’t something I’m terribly confident in. However, according to Reedsy, “the ideal hybrid publisher will be selective when it comes to the authors they work with, and will truly want to shape the market the books take on.” I highly recommend reading the rest of this post for more information: Hybrid Publishers: What Are They and Should You TRUST Them?

“Will My Book Be Published?”

It depends. It depends on what you want for your book and the method of publishing you go for. Furthermore, it depends on the publishers you submit to, if traditional publishing is your goal.

It gets even more complicated: it depends on how you present your submission.

Earlier I mentioned gatekeeping. What this means is that those who are in a position of power to accept or decline a submission are essentially the gatekeepers of literature for their publishing house, and thus to the public. They decide what is quality enough or marketable enough that it can be invested in. There are many problems with this, including those that bleed into social issues such as a lack of diversity in publishing and literature (specifically looking at BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled voices in the literary world).

While the publishing house might be looking for something specific and your book might meet those qualities, it could depend on who it is that receives your piece and their own personal decision as to whether it is worth investing in. Publishing houses tend to be, or want to be, well-oiled machines, but at the end of the day, dealing with literature is dealing with art, and art is a human aspect. Thus, the human element must be considered, which differs from one human to the next.

Likewise, how you submit your piece can mean the difference between a published piece or not. Your story might be the next great [British, American, Canadian, European, etc.] novel, but if you have no idea how to write a cover letter and sell not only your novel, but yourself on a single side of a sheet of paper, it might not even get read by the publishing house. This is where having an agent can be helpful, though you still need to be able to sell your book to your agent beforehand.

Speaking of formatting, another important thing to consider is having your book as edited and polished as possible before you submit for publication. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: this includes self-publishing. Hiring an editor for this task is essential. Not asking your family member to do it, but hiring a non-biased, professional editor. There are readers and publisher who won’t get passed typos and organizational mistakes of a manuscript.

Have I made this seem impossible yet? I’m sorry. It’s not. It is absolutely possible to get published.

What You Can Do

This isn’t a dire impossibility. Writers are getting published every day, or their choosing to self-publish. And there are ways you can hone success for your hard work. Here are a few tips.

Get Professional:

If you are writing a book to be published to the wider world, regardless of what method of publication you choose, it is essential that once your piece is written, you treat it like a professional business product. Get yourself in the mindset that this is what will represent you, and you are going onto Shark Tank, or whatever big-league television program where you only deal with CEO professionals who only see [dollar, pound, euro, etc.] signs.

I know, this might not be the advice you want to hear. After all, writing is an art. You are an artist. I hear you, I understand, and I’m there with you. But after your art piece is created? You’re a businessperson, and the hard-to-swallow Truth pill is that once your art is created, it is a product.

So what does this mean? This means that you need to look at what your publishers want and figure out how to market your book to them.

No matter where you’re at in your writing stage, there are a few things you can start doing now:

  1. Make note of the books that are similar in tone/genre/message/style to yours, and who is publishing them, and when.
  2. Make a list of your ideal publishing companies you’d like to work with
  3. Begin looking at what they are looking for in books, and whether they require agents. Likewise, look at when they are open for submissions. An excellent resource for this is The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. This is updated every year with publishers and agents, providing details as to when submissions are accepted as well as what they look for.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3, though instead of looking at publishers, look at representing agents. This isn’t necessary. Not everyone wants an agent, and not all publishers require one.
  5. Start practicing writing cover letters and reach out to those in writing groups for feedback. In many Facebook writing groups there are agents and editors who might be willing to offer critique, as well as other experienced and published writers.

The Most Important Thing

While the submission and publishing process can be daunting, don’t get discouraged. When you submit and get rejected (and you will get rejected at least once by a publisher. All the greats do), do not be discouraged. And if you self-publish a book and it doesn’t sell, do not be discouraged.

When you put yourself out there and don’t get the result you want, it can feel hard to continue on. But the important thing to know is that it’s not necessarily down to your piece, but how your piece was presented or marketed, or even what the general trend in literature is at that moment.

Here are authors who you likely know, and how long it took them to first get published.

  1. Stephen King – Carrie – rejected 30 times
  2. Dr. Seuss – rejected 15 times
  3. Richard Adams – Watership Down – rejected 26 times
  4. James Joyce – Dubliners – rejected 22 times
  5. Frank Herbert – Dune – rejected 23 times
  6. Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen – Chicken Soup for the Soul – rejected 144 times
  7. Herman Melville – Moby Dick – rejected 4 times
  8. George Orwell – Animal Farm – rejected 4 times
  9. Robert Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – rejected 121 times
  10. William Golding – Lord of the Flies – rejected 21 times
  11. Louis L’Amour – 200 rejections before his first piece was published
  12. Kathrin Stockett – The Help – rejected 60 times
  13. Samuel Beckett – Murphy – rejected 40 times
  14. James Patterson – The Thomas Berryman Number – rejected 31 times
  15. John Grisham – A Time to Kill – rejected 28 times
  16. L. M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables – rejected 5 times
  17. Jasper Fforde – The Eyre Affair – rejected 76 times
  18. Madeleine L’Engle – A Wrinkle in Time – rejected 26 times
  19. Joseph Heller – Catch 22 – rejected 22 times (seems fitting, right? 22 and 22…I’ll show myself out)
  20. William Golding – Lord of the Flies – rejected 21 times
  21. Anne Frank – The Diary of Anne Frank – rejected 15 times

Just to name a few. There are countless more famous authors not mentioned above, such as Beatrix Potter who was rejected enough that she took it upon herself to self-publish The Tales of Peter Rabbit. Likewise, Sylvia Plath, E. E. Cummings, Agatha Christie, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac, Richard Bach, and so many more were rejected before they went on to take their places in literary history.

So…Will You get Published?

Maybe.

I’m sorry I can’t give a better answer than that. But at the end of the day, it depends on a lot of factors:

  1. Your goals for your book
  2. The avenue you take
  3. The market
  4. The publisher
  5. The agent
  6. The timing
  7. Your genre
  8. Your presentation of your book
  9. Your persistence

At the end of the day, it depends on the investment you want to put into your book, both monetarily and financially. Writing books to get rich or make a living, unless you’re a ghost writer, is a pretty touch way to go, and the reality of it is that it’s a low likelihood of making a living. It is not impossible, by any means, but it is a lot of work, no matter what avenue to publication you take.

However, if you are writing for the love of writing, and the intrigue of craft and revision and writing, then it’s worth it. You’ll be spending time doing what your soul is calling you to do, and that’s why you do it.

Your Homework

This is a big topic, and there is a lot to think about. In considering publication, you’re making the switch from artist to businessperson. And as a result, it’s going to take a lot of consideration and research. As a result, your homework comes in multiple parts.

Homework Part 1

The first part of your homework involves some introspection. I would recommend a journal for this exercise.

  1. Spend some time thinking about why you are writing
  2. Using your why as a focal point, begin exploring what you want to do with your writing when you’ve finished it. What is your ultimate goal?
  3. Be honest with yourself and ask how much energy you are willing to put into this goal. If it’s everything you’ve got, explore that. Ask yourself what that entails. If it’s not very much, ask what you can do with that “not very much” energy, and see if you’re willing to expand it and how, or what you can accomplish with that energy. There are no wrong answers here. This is an exploration of you, in this moment, in this situation, right now. This can always change if you don’t like your answers.
  4. Begin researching different publishing avenues. If you know for a fact you want to go the traditional publisher route, then look into publishing houses and begin researching what it will take to be represented by them.

Homework Part 2

That’s the first part of your homework. The next part of your homework will be on-going. As you read for the fun and enjoyment of it, begin paying attention to your favorite books and who:

  1. Published them
  2. What agents represent them
  3. Their editors

A lot of this information can be found in the acknowledgements at the beginning or back of the book.

Homework Part 3

This is the least fun part of your homework. I’m sorry, but it will pay off.

Begin practicing writing cover letters. There are actually multiple steps to this (because I love giving you lists).

  1. Refer to your list above of publishers and agents you’d like to work with. Hopefully you have a list of at least five, in any combination. Look at what they require for submissions.
  2. Consider literally anything you’ve written, or are thinking about writing, regardless of what you want to do with it. It could be a poem you wrote in the second grade, a short story you wrote because you were pissed off and ended with you just scribbling across the page, or the novel idea you’ve been kicking around. Anything.
  3. Create a mock submission to each of the publishers/agents on your list for any of your pieces or ideas. Do this multiple times. Get comfortable with it. Get used to collecting and writing and organizing your ideas/stories/poems in the ways they require, and write a cover letter for every one of them.
  4. If you create something you like (regarding your cover letters), then start sharing them in writing groups or with trusted people who know what to look for in this situation. Remember, too, that a cover letter for a piece of literature is not the same as a cover letter for a resume for a job. There are similarities, but they are not the same. So when you pick people to look over it, make sure they are someone who has some experience or authority on the matter.

That last step can be a little scary, but no more scary than handing your work over to a beta reader, in my opinion, and certainly less scary than actually submitting a piece of writing.

Remember, whenever you’re submitting anything, you’re putting a piece of yourself out there. Just like being out in the world as an individual, you or your work might not be to everyone’s tastes. That’s okay. It is not possible to write something that everyone likes.

I was once at a pub talking about my frustration with preparing a piece for submission. I was told by one of the listeners of my plight, in all seriousness, that what I needed to do was write a book that everyone loves.

I just stared at him, wondering if he thought that no writer had considered this approach.

There is no such thing as that unicorn of a book. There are haters of Winnie the Pooh out there (I don’t know who these monsters are, but I know they exist). And so I tell you this, dear writer, with all the love and empathy I can muster that you will not write a book that everyone loves. And just because a publisher or agent can’t get behind your work doesn’t mean that your work isn’t worth being out in the world.

Keep writing. You’ve got this.

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The Unexpected Hiatus

Wow. We are nearly through January, and I have been nowhere to be seen for months.

After my move to Greece, I hit a lot of unexpected hiccups that prevented me from a lot of the set-up I had anticipated, including access to internet, being able to get on an actual phone plan that would allow me to have data for web connection, as well as a few other things.

The island I was on was pretty basic. And when the lockdown measures hit a week after we arrived, we found we weren’t able to access many of the services we needed. At one point, I slipped on a rock and smash my phone completely. Because of the lockdown measures, I couldn’t get it fixed or send for a new one, as these things were seen as non-essential. This is just an example.

As a result, I reserved the little connection I had for my wonderful and patient coaching clients. I am grateful to say that I have been able to continue working with them.

And as is the nature of the universe, more change has arrived on my part as I responded to a family emergency, which has landed me back in the US until further notice. While Greece was an adventure, it won’t be one I’ll likely be returning to. The UK, yes, at some point, but not Greece.

The good news from all of this is that I am now connected again. I have electricity. I have internet. I have a phone plan and a working phone. And while the family emergency is now less emergent, though still present, it is under control and everyone involved is optimistic.

I am grateful to be in the Pacific Northwest again. I am grateful to be able to serve you, my wonderful writing friends and community! And I am grateful to be stepping into the public as a coach again.

Thank you all so much for your patience with me and your support!

Writing with the New Moon

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

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

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

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

What is the New Moon?

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

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

How to Use the New Moon

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

What does this mean in terms of writing?

It’s a great time to start a book.

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

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

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

Your Homework

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Running out of Ideas

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

Henri Matisse

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

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

Blogging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creative Flow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Homework

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

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

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

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Setting & Releasing Writing Goals: Considering the Writing Journey

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

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

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

When Things Fall Apart, p. 129

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

Let me break it down.

We Are Not Given Any Promises that Everything Will Be Okay

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

Let’s consider the first part of the quote.

Setting the Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This leads me to the second part of the quote.

We Are Encouraged to Simply Look Deeply

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude & Tenderness

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

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

Grateful to be a Part of the Journey

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

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

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

Approaching Tenderness

How does one go about approaching tenderness?

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

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

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

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

Practicing Non-Attachment & Releasing Through Curiosity

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

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

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

Releasing Parallels in the Law of Attraction

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

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

Curiosity in Writing

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

True curiosity is what leads to discoveries.

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

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

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

Setting and Releasing Goals

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

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

Your Homework

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

Journaling Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Project

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

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

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

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

Let me know how this experiment goes in the comments.

Happy Writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear

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

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

The Ego

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

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

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

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

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

And to do so, the ego uses fear.

Fear

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

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

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

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

The Warrior and the Monster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sitting with Discomfort

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

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

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

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

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

The Warrior’s Discomfort

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

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

Refrain

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

Discomfort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have been bypassing my discomfort.

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

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

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

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

Refrain and Respecting The Fear

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

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

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

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

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

Your Homework

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy writing.

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Why Consuming Diverse Media Matters

We are writers. We focus on reading and writing. Many of us pay attention to market trends in order to find a published home for our work.

However, sometimes there is a manipulation in those trends. Publishers are the ones who decide what they think will and won’t sell. They, like writers, look at the trends, but they also mediate the trends. Because they are the say in what gets published, they are the gate keepers.

This can prove to be a problem, as so many BIPOC people, disabled people, LGBTQ+ folx, etc., have been saying for years.

Blog Banner: Why Consuming Diverse Media Matters

The Problem with Gate-Keeping in Publishing

For some, reading is a way of simply escaping. What is escaping if not experiencing another life in order to know a world different from the reader’s? This might mean experiencing a character in the same professional line as the reader but with different strengths which help the reader understand how to develop that state of being, or it might be something completely different like an alien working against the human space army to save their solar system’s sun.

In every piece of fiction we read, we have a curiosity about the plot and the character. We want to experience their world, their reality, in order to escape from our own and maybe learn something along the way. This might not be the conscious aim for the reader, however, when we put ourselves in another person’s shoes, fictional or real, we are extending ourselves into another way of thinking and into another way of living.

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”

~Rudine Sims Bishop

When we extend ourselves into another way of thinking and living (and this is the beautiful part), we stretch our empathy muscles, and we understand the world just a little bit differently than we did before.

Lee and Low Books wrote a January 2020 blog post on the importance of diversity in publishing, which fueled their 2019 Diversity in Publishing survey.

Why does diversity in publishing matter? The book industry has the power to shape culture in big and small ways. The people behind the books serve as gatekeepers, who can make a huge difference in determining which stories are amplified and which are shut out.”

A very long and detailed example of publishers shutting voices out was outlined in a letter from RaceB4Race’s letter. In this outline, they explain a set of proposals were rejected from literary publication on the topic of Medievalists of Color. I’m likely to do a poor job of summarizing this article, as there is a lot to it, though the organization created RaceB4Race in a response to a rejection of

“a set of proposals for sessions on race and antiracism.” They found that “By creating a space to engage with premodern critical race studies, RaceB4Race fulfilled a long unmet need. RaceB4Race proved that premodern critical race studies is not a niche field!”

After trying to publish their findings, they were met with a reject which stated that while the content was interesting and valuable, it lacked opposing perspectives.

“We were disappointed and confused by this rejection, especially by the suggestion that the range of contributors was ‘constrained,’ given that our contributors’ expertise ranges from the history of medieval studies to slavery in early modern England to 17th-century French court ballets. In what sense could our range possibly read as ‘constrained’? Perhaps ‘constrained’ in that we did not include some older, more established white men to validate our calls for antiracist methodologies and pedagogies? But even more troubling was the suggestion that the editors were expecting and imagining ‘opposing perspectives’ to an antiracist collection. What kind of ‘opposing perspectives’ were imagined exactly? The cluster’s intervention pointed towards an entirely new direction for premodern studies, and its push for a radical transformation of the field was dismissed with a one-liner that hinged on ellipses and illogic. This second rejection felt eerily similar to the first by the International Congress of Medieval Studies.”

Examples like these can go on and on and on.

So, what happens when our access to media is formed for us because of gate keeping in the publishing industry? Well, a few things.

Lack of Representation

What results is that there is a lack of representation books, both in characters and in voice. This is massively important. One of the reasons will be gone over in depth in the second part of this post, but the most important point is that it alienates those whose voices are non-able-bodied, non-white, non-cisgendered, or non-straight.

I am writing this from the perspective of a white, able-bodied, bi woman’s perspective. So whereas I have the right to talk about bi representation and the representation of women’s voices, I don’t have the right to talk about perspectives of those with disabilities or from BIPOC folx.

Because I don’t have that right, I want to share words of marginalized authors’ voices.

Deborah Dixon

Debora Dixon writes in her article, “Representation in Literature: Why It’s Important & How to Handle it,” about the importance of writing representation. She writes:

Seeing people who look, act, and experience life like them in media makes a person feel included in a society, and it reinforces positive views of themselves and what they can achieve in society. Also, members of other groups, especially majority groups, base their ideas of groups on what they see in the media. For example, a hiring manager who watches too many police procedurals might view candidates of minority races as having criminal tendencies.
For people who exist outside of these marginalized and underrepresented groups, it can be hard to imagine life with the experiences and hardships that minorities experience. Without those experiences, writing characters of diverse backgrounds can seem daunting.

The importance Dixon is putting forward is that what we see and read in the media can inform and develop biases. As writers, we need to watch out for that and make sure we’re representing people correctly. Likewise, and most importantly, it’s about inclusion and making sure everyone is seen and heard.

In this article, she goes on to talk about what writers can do to make sure they aren’t harming while they’re writing a character from a marginalized group that the writer doesn’t belong to. To learn more and in greater depth, be sure to read her page, Diversity in Literature here, and check out the article as well as her publishing house, Shalamar.

K. Tempest Bradford

Writer and podcaster, K. Tempest Bradford writes in her 2017 article, “Representation Matters: A Literary Call to Arms,”:

“For readers and viewers, seeing themselves represented on the page or screen can open up to them what’s possible. For some, it’s a lifeline.”
[…]
“Seeing oneself reflected in fiction, even if partially, is important for people from marginalized communities and identities. It’s also important for people who align with the dominant paradigm as well. It allows them to see and understand that people who aren’t like them exist outside of narrow stereotypes and also outside of the confines of their own narrow understanding.”

This article is beautifully in depth with wonderful explanations of the importance of representation in literature as well as how to do it right. I strongly encourage everyone to read it from start to finish.

“Representation is key to good writing. This is true whether you’re a novelist, a playwright, or a screenwriter; whether you work in television, in game development, or new media. All narrative has the power to impact culture and individuals in a positive way or a negative one. It’s up to creators to choose.”

Niche Only

Ask yourself when the last time you read a book where the main character was LGBTQ+, BIPOC, or disabled whether mentally or physically. If you bought it in a bookstore, what section of the bookstore did you get it from?

In most, though not all, these books have their own category in bookstores. There is an LGBTQ+ section where fiction is muddled with non-fiction on anything to do with the LGBTQ+ lifestyle, experience, community, history, etc.

When “normal” is white, cis and straight, then anything else becomes a niche market. And that is a problem.

In publishing, if something is niche, then it means that a writer who has main characters who fall into the “other” category need to find an agent and/or a publisher who specializes in that niche. It narrows the ability to publish quite a bit.

When publishers decide that these stories are niche, then they continue the thought that only people who are specifically interested in reading about characters with disabilities, or only interested in Chinese trans characters will want to read them. However, all that’s doing is further perpetuating the divide.

If these books aren’t filed or considered “normal,” then they will always be seen as niche, which they aren’t. They aren’t their own genre because they have non-white, non-disabled, non-straight, and/or non-cisgendered. They are still stories about people who experience life in their own ways.

What You Can Do About This

Read!

Read lots!

Read writers who are “other” in all genres. Read Afro-science fiction, read a fantasy novel where the MC has cerebral palsy (I really hope that exists because I think that would be awesome), read a western with a cross-dressing cowboy or saloon girl.

If you are white, cis, straight, and an able-bodied person and you read these books, then you are voting with your dollar. You are showing the publishing industry that these books are in demand and they are not niche. You are showing that the main character’s racial background, their sexuality, their gender identity, their disability is a part of the diverse world we live in.

This is called normalizing. The only way to un-niche these voices is to normalize them. And the only way to do that is to buy and read books by these authors.

At the end of this post, I’ve included a list of diverse fiction authors and their books. I know that I, personally, want to read books with LGBTQ+ characters that aren’t romance. They are hard to find.  

Check out the books that are from an author who is different from you. If you’re cisgendered, read a book from the perspective of a trans person. If you’re white, read a book by a Native American or Indigenous writer. If you’re able-bodied, read some fiction from someone who is disabled. If you’ve never experienced anxiety or don’t understand it, read fiction about someone who has anxiety.

And if you find it difficult to find these books, write to your favorite publishers and demand that there be more available. Confront them on this point.

A group called the Black Writers Guild has already sent out an open letter to the Big 5 publishers with a call to fix the racial disparities in the publishing industry. A way to support this is to add your voices and your money to this call. By “your money,” I mean investing in books by marginalized voices.

Demand publishers to unlock the damn gate.

Some Publishing Statistics

In a 2019 article put out by Publisher’s Weekly, it relays the publishing data gathered from a Lee and Low diversity survey.

The survey found that in the publishing industry:

  • 76% were white
  • 74% were cis women
  • 81% were straight
  • 89% were non-disabled

Statistics like this suggest that there is likely to be a bias when it comes to manuscripts that cross desks for publication. Thus, there is a call for a more diverse publishing industry.

The British children’s reading charity, BookTrust, found that

  • Fewer than 5.8% of children’s authors and illustrators in 2017 were POC
  • 1.98% of the 5.6% of the above authors were British people of color
  • An average of 4 books per white person were published compared to an average of 2 books per person of color from 2007-2017
  • Overall, between 2007 and 2017, 8.62% of children’s books creators were people of color

You can download and read their full report here.

The Importance of Normalizing

Have you been outside in the world…at all? Have you noticed that not everyone looks the same? Have you noticed that not everyone acts the same, or thinks the same? I mean, if you turn on the news and watch the talking heads at all, you’ll see bickering over opinions which shows right here that not everyone thinks the same.

One thing that we accept pretty readily is that there are divisions in thinking. We can wrap our heads around that because almost all of our discussions are communicating with a mind that isn’t our own. You can’t escape that. It’s normal because it is literally all around us.

You know what else is all around us? All the rest of the world which is created of a rich tapestry of individuals. So why isn’t that reflected in our media? What’s more, is that making the general heteronormative population more biased because we don’t experience those who are different through the media we consume?

The answer is yes. Seriously.

Recently, I’ve started watching the Netflix mini-series Hollywood, which is set in the 1940s. There is regular discussion about what will and won’t sell. A particular story which is outlined is Anna May Wong, who was a Chinese American actress. The story depicted in the show is that she tried out for a part in The Son-Daughter (though in the show, the movie was titled something else), a part she was perfect for, but was turned down because no one would accept a Chinese face on screen, despite the character actually being Chinese. The part was then given to white actress Helen Hayes.

The show has countless examples of how Hollywood was gatekeeping diverse media, including a wonderful line from character Archie Coleman who says, “I want to take the story of Hollywood and give it a re-write. So maybe someday soon, you ain’t a half-Asian director who feels he has to hide it. You’ll just be a director. I won’t be a black writer writing about some white lady. I’ll just be a writer.”

While that was 80 years ago, there is still a level of that today. After all, writing Afro-science fiction is seen as niche.

The way to combat this segregation in the media is to normalize it all. Allow more books to be published from marginalized voices and by wider consumption of that media, then we accept it as normal. Because it is.

Who is Reading?

In a 2019 Bustle article by Kerri Jarema, Jarema outline a study which says white people read more books on average than non-white folks. Jarema then makes the claim that it is up to publishers to change this.

I personally would put the responsibility on both reader and publisher. I am in no way defending publishers and gatekeeping. However, an argument I recently saw on Twitter (I know, I should research better) stated that publishing houses are businesses first, that they have to invest where they’ll see a return.

That is true. That also leads to a much bigger problem of capitalism overrunning and drowning out what’s right, which we won’t get into here.

Seeing as capitalism isn’t likely to change any time soon (though we can hope!), then we need to speak the business language to the publishers and show them that disabled, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ main characters sell just as willingly as white, straight, cis, and able-bodied characters.

This being said, I do recognize there are likely other factors that might play into how much different groups of people are reading, from accessibility to time available, which can be down to a variety of factors that I won’t get into here.

Your Homework

Read! Check out some of the books below, or find some other authors who write characters who are not like you. Then, read another. In fact, challenge yourself to read ten books this summer, from now until September 21st along these lines.

Not only do this, but see if you can find these authors on social media and give them a follow. Be sure to also recommend the books you read and liked.

Finally, continue learning. I provided a list of articles and resources below the list of books for you to continue exploring. There was a lot of good content that I didn’t include.

Fiction Books by Marginalized Voices

I struggled with this list. Not so much with finding BIPOC and/or LGBTQ authors writing BIPOC and/or LGBTQ characters, but with finding fiction with disability representation, either learning or physical disabilities by authors with disabilities.

As a result, I admit, because I was really struggling, there are some books listed where I couldn’t find the information about the author or just flat out the authors are not represented by their characters with disabilities.

This just goes to show, there is a gap.

Contemporary

Sherman Alexie, Flight
Mia Alvar, In the Country
Barrett Rose Baum, Perfectly Flawed
Louise Erdrich, LaRose
Bernadine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other
Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues
Angela Flournoy, The Turner House
Nancy J. Hedin, Bend
Helen Hoang, The Kiss Quotient
Julie Iromuanya, Mr. and Mrs. Doctor
B. L. McGrew, We Are Immeasurable
K. A. Moll, Coming to Terms
Susan Nussbaum, Good Kings, Bad Kings
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Yong Takashi, The Escape to Candyland
Michelle Tea, Valencia
Jennifer Tseng, Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness
Hilary Zaid, Paper is White

Fantasy

Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows
Sarah Rees Brennan, In Other Lands
Octavia Butler, Kindred
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer
Celeste Harte, Conquest
N. K. Jemmisin, The Fifth Season
Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water (note: this book is actually Magical Realism, though for simplicity sake, I put it under fantasy)
Malinda Lo, The Huntress
Alex London, Black Wings Beating
Day Al-Mohamed, The Labyrinth’s Archivist
Rebecca Roanhorse, Trail of Lightning
River Solomun, The Deep
Scott Tracey, Witch Eye
Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing

Historic

Marguerite de Angeli, The Door in the Wall
Elaine Castillo, America is Not the Heart
Kathrine Dunn, Geek Love
Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes
Vet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer
Elizabeth McCracken, The Giant’s House
Chinelo Okparanta, Under the Udala Trees
Leslie Marmon Silko, Gardens in the Dunes
Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad
Jacqueline Woods, Red at the Bone
Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Science Fiction

Omar El Akkad, American War
Storm Constantine, Wraeththu
Esi Edugyan, Washington Black
J. Fally, Bone Rider
Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds
Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon
C. T. Rwizi, Scarlet ODyssey
Rivers Solomon, An Unkindness of Ghosts
Tade Thompson, Rosewater

Research

“Representation in Literature: Why It’s Important & How to Handle It,” by Deborah Dixon, Writers Helping Writers
“Publishing Statistics on Children’s/YA Books about People of Color and First/Native Nations andv by People of Color and First/Native Nations Authors and Illustrators” from Cooperative Children’s Books Center School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“The Black Writers Guild’s Open Letter Asks for 8 Much-Needed Changes In Publishing,” by Neillah Arboine, Bustle
“7 Stats About Diversity In Book Publishing That Reveal The Magnitude Of The Problem” by Kerri Jarema, Bustle
“A Woman Hasn’t Won The Pulitzer Prize For Fiction Since 2014 — And Only 30 Women Have Won In Total,” by Kerri Jarema, Bustle
“New Lee and Low Survey Shows No Progress on Diversity in Publishing,” by John Maher, Publishers Weekly
“Where is the Diversity in Publishing? The 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey Results” from Lee and Low Books
“Diversity in Publishing Statistics” from Midnight Publishing
“It’s Time to End the Publishing Gatekeeping!” RaceB4Race Executive Board
“The Major Built-In Bias of the Publishing World” Jennifer Baker, Zora
“Representing Me: Seeing Yourself on the Page” by Alex Laffer, Book Riot
“The Power of Seeing Ourselves in Literature: Gabby Rivera’s Debut Novel Offers a Life Raft for Queer Youth” by Arial Gore, Psychology Today
“Why It’s Important for Kids to See Themselves in Books” by Jodie Rodriguez, Scholastic
“Diversity in Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers—Marketing Matters, Too” by Jean Ho, NPR
“The Alienating Lack of Disability Representation” by Grace Lapointe, Book Riot

Resources

We Need Diverse Books
RaceB4Race
Minority In Book
Thomas King, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative

Character Discussion Tarot Spread for Writers

One of the most important things in a book is that who or what is working against the main character as they try to complete their goal or their character arch. This is the antagonist.

post banner: Character Discussion Tarot Spread. Understanding your MC and antagonist by mediating a conversation via Tarot. Natural Writer Coaching

I have a personal love for antagonists. I have a very high expectation for them in that I want them to reflect certain things in the main character, just like certain things in the main character might reflect in the antagonist.

Understanding the protagonist and antagonist can help you create a brilliant piece of work, and in this post, I’ll provide a way of using the Tarot to interview your protagonist and antagonist.

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what your protagonist and antagonist actually are and are not.

What is a Protagonist

To put it simply, the protagonist is the one who carries the story forward. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the protagonist is the main character, though these can sometimes be used synonymously. More often than not, the main character is the protagonist, though sometimes the protagonist can be someone who is just helping the main character.

What is an Antagonist

The antagonist is the one who slows the progression of the story down. This can mean hindering the main character in their goal or character arch, or it can mean it slows the plot down.

The antagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad guy. It can be someone who is well-meaning in the story who just gets in the way.

The antagonist also doesn’t have to be a person or sentient being. It can be elemental, such as the weather or having to do with the environment. It can be an illness, or it can be something conceptual such as time or the legal system. Likewise, it even science itself.

Whatever it is that the main character is working against is the antagonist.

Antagonist and Protagonist Discussion

An interesting and creative way to use the Tarot is to have a discussion with your deck. For example, you might ask a question, pull a card, and then respond to that card by asking another question, and so on.

How you can use this method in writing is to create a dialogue with your characters. Most of the writing-related Tarot spreads I make have card placements which answer a specific question about the situation, character, or the plot itself. For example, in my 3-Act Spread, the question for card 1 was essentially “What happens in the first act?”

However, you can create a dialogue between your characters this way by starting off with a conversation topic and allowing yourself to draw as many cards to create a back-and-forth between the characters as you feel is fit. Then, present another question.

The beauty of this spread is that it’s completely adaptable to your needs. I will give you a couple starting questions for you if you want, but really, you can create your own.

The First Thing You Need to Know

There are a couple of things you should know about your story before you continue on with this. However, it’s not essential. This method of reading the cards means that you can adapt it however you want, and you can discover a lot along the way as well.

  1. Is your Protagonist your MC?
    As stated earlier, your main character is not always your protagonist. If you know this before you create this conversation, you might know whether or not have a dialogue between your MC, protagonist and antagonist, or just between two.
  2. Is your antagonist consciously in opposition to your MC?
    This might change the questions you ask to get the conversation going between the two characters.
  3. The goal of at least you MC, though maybe your antagonist too.
    Again, this will be a way for you to steer the conversation.
  4. Is your antagonist sentient?
    In the cases of the antagonist being, say, mental illness or the weather or some other natural force, this spread is absolutely still do-able. You simply personify it. While weather might not have a goal other than to be (though we can get really philosophical here), you can still interview it in the sense of what damage it can do, how it can support your protagonist, or how your MC can use the problems it causes to their advantage. Get creative!

These are just suggestions for things to know ahead of time, though it’s not essential.

The Discussion Spread

First of all, if you haven’t already read them, check out my 3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Writing Tool and 3-Act Story Structure Tarot Spread. These will talk about the best decks to use and give you an introduction on how to go about using the decks.

Before you start into this spread, make sure you have a pen and paper or a recording device for you to record what you find. I personally find, that since this is a dialogue, it works better to record audibly rather than to write it down. However, I do go back and forth with which methods I use.

Also, be sure that you have a good chunk of time for this. While I will encourage you to read the cards quickly so you don’t hang yourself up on it too much, you might find that you go through the whole deck of cards—of which there are 78, so it could be a long discussion.

Finally, go with the flow of the conversation. Really try to imagine the characters having this conversation. What are their tones? Are they thinking about their answers before they speak? Are they responding with heat? As you draw the cards, keep them paced with the conversation. If you feel like a character is going to respond irrationally, flip the card quickly and flip the next card just as quickly, so you’re forced to read it similarly.

To outline this spread, there will be an example at the end of this post to outline how it might be done.

With that in mind, here are the steps for your Antagonist and Protagonist Discussion Tarot Spread.

Step 1
Numbers

The first step is to determine how many characters are at this discussion. This can be a round-table discussion, or a mediated dialogue—or go crazy; don’t mediate it at all. However, you need to know how many participants are in this discussion.

Step 2
Signifiers

Generally, you don’t necessarily need a signifier card in a reading. I find them to be totally optional. However, in this case, I would recommend it simply as a marker for who is which side of the dialogue.

A signifier card is a card that represents a character or person. You can read more about it in my 3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Tarot Tool post here.

Select one for each participant in the discussion, and really make sure that this card is a good visual representation for each participant so you don’t get confused as to who’s saying what. If you have a really good discussion going on, there can be a lot of cards drawn.

Step 3
Get Your Questions Ready

Think of this like a debate or a discussion on the news with a panel of talking heads. You are the facilitator of the questions, and then the participants discuss them. Because of this, you need to have a few questions ready, but also be ready to draw some cards.

Here are some potential questions to start you off:

  • What is the relationship between you two (or three or four, etc.)?
  • Why do you want to hinder MC?
  • MC, what would you say antagonist’s greatest strength is? How does that help or hinder you? (ask the Antagonist the same thing)
  • MC, how do you feel about antagonist? Antagonist, how do you feel about MC?
  • What is your relationship to one another and how do you feel about it?
  • What is the best outcome for each character in this story, from each character’s perspective?

Step 4
Start Asking

Shuffle while you’re looking at the signifier cards, keeping in mind what you know about the characters in the discussion. Decide who should answer your question first and think about the question. When you feel like it’s time to stop shuffling, then draw your card and put it under the appropriate signifier.

Read the card quickly, keeping in mind reading the image on the card rather than thinking of the definition of the card, and record or write down your answers.

Be sure that you do read the cards quickly as you go about the back and forth. This is so you don’t get hung up on a card and you keep the conversation somewhat flowing.

Step 5
Respond

If you have more than two participants in the discussion, draw a card for who you feel would respond first, and continue the discussion from there, reading the response to what’s been said or expressed in each card.

Draw as many cards in whatever order you want to keep the conversation going until you feel enough has been said on the topic.

Step 6
Repeat

From here you can repeat steps 3-5 as many times as you need to get a good feel of the relationship between the MC/protagonist and antagonist.

Your Homework

Your homework is to think about your main character, your protagonist, and your antagonist. While I highly suggest you play around with this dialogue method, I also invite you to do the work leading up to doing this discussion spread.

Knowing about your protag/MC/antag is essential, and the more you know about them before you start either this dialogue or even writing your story, the easier writing will be down the line.

Things You Should Know

For discovery writers, it’s not a big deal whether you know this or not. However, while you might discover your plot as you go, it’s good to have a little bit of background before you get to writing. Likewise, if you’re doing this Discussion Spread, then you can discover these things about your characters as you go.

However, here are some things you might want to know:

  1. Each character’s goal.
    By this, I mean each character participating in the discussion, or who are going to play a major part in the story. Even the sidekick needs a goal, and if you want a really good character, their goal should be something other than helping the MC. It can be the same goal of the MC, but maybe for a different reason, which leads to the next question.
  2. Why is their goal what it is?
  3. How does the character view success?
  4. How does the character view failure?
  5. How does the character handle success?
  6. How does the character handle failure?
  7. What does the character hold dearest?
    This can be a thing in the world, or it can be a concept, or it can be both.

Spend some time with these questions, or you can use these questions in your dialogue spread.

Example of the Discussion Spread

For this example, I’m creating two characters that I know nothing about. I’m going to use this discussion as a discovery method.

The genre I’m using is urban low fantasy.

I am keeping this simple, with my MC and my antagonist.

Light Seer's Tarot Emperor and 4 of Cups

MC: The Emperor – a teacher of magic

Antagonist: 4 of Cups – a board and obnoxious teenager who thinks she knows the world better than her teacher does.

Also, the Tarot deck used for this reading is The Light Seer’s Tarot by Chris-Anne.

Question 1
What do you want?

I’m starting with the MC, and then my antagonist will weigh in on this want from what she knows.

MC: to be happy
Antagonist: but you’re always on guard and fighting.
MC: I’m fight for what’s in my heart that I feel is right. You should learn to do that too.
Antagonist: Yeah, sure whatever.

Note: You might be wondering where I got the “yeah, whatever.” Just to shed some light on how I’m taking away dialogue from the images, in the antagonist’s final comment, I drew the Devil. In the Light Seer’s Tarot, the Devil has a guy in the bottom former bent over and covering his ears. In the context of this conversation, I saw it as a denial of want to see or hear what the MC is having to say. Hence, there is the dismissal of “yeah, whatever.”

I put those cards to the side, not in the deck, and I asked the antagonist the same thing.

Antagonist: I want to just feel like I’m doing something good, and just want to be free-flowing.
MC: you’re moving too fast. You have to slow down and really go deep into yourself to know what you really want.
Antagonist: But I know enough about the world. I can manage.
MC: But you’re holding me  back because you won’t learn the lessons I’m damn trying to teach you.
Antagonist: Fine, then I’ll go.

Question 2
How does antagonist leaving make you feel?

MC: I feel like I need to chase after her.
Antagonist: You don’t, I can manage on my own
MC: I’m going to take the leap anyway, I can’t ignore it.

Question 3
Antagonist, do you know that by running away you’re stopping MC from achieving his goals?

Antagonist: Whatever. I’m doing what I want with my life. He can do what he wants with his.
MC: That’s not how this goes, we’re a team.
Antagonist laughs.

Question 4
MC, why do you have to chase after antagonist?

MC: There’s a lot she doesn’t know, and she will get lost in her own head if she’s not careful.
Antagonist: You’re not giving me enough credit, and that hurts me.
MC: I kind of want you to hurt. But, I want to be happy, and people hurting in the world doesn’t help me be happy.
Antagonist: And that’s what I’m hoping for.

Question 5
Why are you hoping for that?

Antagonist: because I have my own goals and really, I need my teacher. If he’s going off and doing his own thing, then he’s not teaching me.
MC: So I can be happy or I can keep teaching her? I feel like I’m drowning with all this.
Antagonist: choose wisely.
MC: I’m going to be true to me. You can do what you want, but I’m staying true to me and pursuing my happiness/

Question 6
What are you going to do about that, antagonist?

Light Seer's Tarot Emperor and 4 of Cups + Knight of Swords
Antagonist: I’m just going to have to go back and remind him why he needs to chase after me.

Question 7
I’m going to ask you both again – What do you really want?

Antagonist: I just want to feel complete and content. I want the whole family thing, and I want my magic to be completed, and I want to find love. But I can’t do that unless I have magic in my life, and my teacher won’t teach me.
MC: you march to your own drum. You’re damn impossible to teach.
Antagonist: some teach your are. You can’t center yourself enough to deal with a teenager?
MC: I am a magician, and I am skilled in what I do. Some wily kid isn’t going to change that. You can try and rock this boat, but I know who I am, at least.
Antagonist: You taught me that we all have the world inside us. That means that I do have the ability to change that.
MC: I’m ignoring you. I like what I’m doing, and I’m not letting you disrupt that.

What Have I Learned?

I learned why it is that the antagonist is hindering the MC. While I started the conversation with the idea that they might already be at odds, as it went on, I saw that this is their backstory.

I learned that the MC is someone who is passionate about what he does, both in his professional life and in his personal life. He’s always “fighting.” It’s even seen here in the dialogue that he’s fighting to keep the antagonist on track, even going so far as to try and retrieve her. The antagonist then forces him to give up and pursue what makes him happy, and this will be something that comes up later in the story as a form of guilt which might be what he needs to overcome.

The antagonist is selfish. She just wants to do what she does. I can take from this that as the story goes on, she’ll resent him for giving up on her. And while she’ll try to make her magic great, she’ll always fall short because he gave up on her, despite the fact that she pushed him away. Because of this, there is an element of revenge. She will want to get him to give up on the other things he cares about simply to serve an ego boost in knowing that she isn’t worth giving up on, anything can be worth giving up on.

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