The four elements are found throughout philosophy, myth and literature, in addition to serving as the framework for Tarot's Minor Arcana.
But what do they mean? What does the energy of each feel like? How are the four elements expressed in the real world (apart from literal manifestations in movies like The Last Airbender)?
I thought I’d create a fun post on how the four elements might look through various lenses, including Star Trek races, candy, Retro TV, music and Hogwarts houses. Although these are light-hearted associations, they can still be deepen our understanding of the four elements and provide a real-world framework for Tarot card associations (especially the four Minor Arcana suits).
First, let’s go over the four elements and associations:
EARTH Element (PENTACLES Suit in Tarot) – Feminine/Receptive Energy
Associated with: Material World; Physicality; Health; Money; Five Senses; Food; Environment; Possessions; Resources; Simplicity; Solid; Slow; Responsible; Loyal; Cautious; Hands-On; Grounding; Foundation
Symbolized by: Seedling; Leaf; Soil; Grain; Rocks
Chakras 1 (Root) and 2 (Sacral): Survival; Power over others
Astrological Signs: Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn
Magical Creature: Gnome
FIRE Element (WANDS Suit in Tarot) – Masculine/Active Energy
“The interviewees share their thoughts on ways to tell the
truth of our lives, access creativity, and balance magic and craft.” – Donna
Baier Stein (from the Introduction to The Tiferet Talk Interviews)
For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Tiferet Talk Radio is the radio arm of The Tiferet Journal. You can also find this fine publication on Facebook here.
The idea of transcribed radio interviews may sound like
boring stuff for a book, but I assure you that the dynamism of such an outlet
translates magnificently in interviewer Melissa Studdard’s thoughtful hands.
It’s evident that Ms. Studdard came to each interview supremely
prepared, not only with a thorough knowledge of her guests, but also their work
and—perhaps more importantly—how their creative contributions added to the
larger conversation of what it means to be human, to be creative, to find
meaning, to live our personal truths.
There’s so much ground covered in The Tifert Talk
Interviews—each author, artist and poet talking about their books, poetry, music, designs and
purpose—and yet, there’s an intimacy here, too. In fact, there’s great depth
in this book, which surprised me. I wouldn’t have imagined that
transcribed radio interviews could translate so well into book form.
Here are but a few of my favorite passages from the book:
Marc Allen (on dealing with doubts and fears):
“One thing that helped me was the knowledge that a plane is
off course over 95% of the time, but a pilot keeps correcting over and over,
and they reach their destination…Once you set a goal, once you dare to dream,
you set a course, and whatever you do, you move toward it. It’s always just
small obvious steps. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step,
and then just another small step. There’s no huge leaps you make. You just take
the little obvious steps in front of you when you set your course…We can be off
course most of the time, but if we just continue to return to our goal, our
dream, our plan and take the next obvious little step, over time we will reach
Edward Hirsch (on writing poetry):
“You can’t be sure you’ll get hit by lightning, but you need
to go out and stand in the rain, or you won’t get hit at all. You need to do
your work. So, one of the constants is that you need to fasten your behind in
the chair and sit down and do some work
and try to consciously practice your craft.”
Robin Rice (on how she does so much):
“I do work from early in the morning until I can’t go any
more most days. You could say I’m a workaholic if you really want to be
pathological about it, but the truth is that this is what I feel the time is
for. We are here now to do all we can. To usher in some kind of change in this
world. And it’s desperately needed, and anybody who can do anything I feel
should get out there and do it.”
Jeffrey Davis (on how writing is like a self-portrait):
“I don’t have anything in common biographically with these
characters, yet there are parts of my personality that I can also explore…I
overheard a conversation in the waiting room of the family clinic where we go,
and it was just myself and this woman on a cell phone, and I got to hear her
half of the conversation, and at first I was annoyed, and then I realized I had
something really good, and I pulled out my notebook and acted like I was making
my grocery list, but I was really quoting her.”
Bernie Siegel (on behaving like a survivor):
“Do I have a sense of meaning in my daily activities and
relationships? And you know, that relates to the mortality rate of Monday. I
mean, if you work, your life has meaning in it, and you will be a lot healthier
and live longer. Well, I always say, find your way of contributing love to the
world. So, it isn’t about what job you take; it’s about how to contribute to
the world. Because people are everywhere, whether you are landscaping,
plumbing, or a veterinarian, people are attached to what you’re doing and you
have to really relate to those people.”
The Tiferet Talk Interviews is a fascinating collection of
twelve interviews transcribed from the Tiferet Talk Radio show, hosted by
Melissa Studdard. Some of the world's most notable writers and spiritual
leaders share their thoughts on writing, tolerance, and the world we live in
today. Gain incredible insight into their perspective on ways to tell the truth
of our lives, access creativity, and balance magic and craft. The Tiferet Talk
Interviews includes a special introduction by Donna Baier Stein and interviews
with Julia Cameron, Edward Hirsch, Jude Rittenhouse, Marc Allen, Arielle Ford,
Robert Pinsky, Dr. Bernie Siegel, Robin Rice, Jeffrey Davis, Floyd Skloot,
Anthony Lawlor, and Lois P. Jones.
is the author of the bestselling novel Six Weeks to Yehidah, and
its companion journal, My Yehidah (both on All Things That
Matter Press). Since its August 2011 release, Six Weeks to Yehidah has
been the recipient of many accolades, including the Forward National
Literature Award, the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and January
Magazine's best children's books of 2011. It was also named a finalist
for the National Indie Excellence Awards and the Readers Favorite Awards. Along
with Scott Lutz, Melissa is co-author of For the Love of All (Trestle
Press), which is the fifth story in the Mark Miller’s
One series and debuted in the number one spot for Hot New Releases in
Literary Criticism and Theory in the Amazon Kindle store. As well, her poetry,
fiction, essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in numerous magazines,
journals, and anthologies. Melissa currently serves as a Reviewer-at-Large
for The National Poetry Review, an editorial advisor for The
Criterion, and an editor for Tiferet Journal, where
she hosts the journal's radio interview program, Tiferet Talk.
Melissa received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is a professor for the
Lone Star College System and a teaching artist for The Rooster Moans Poetry
Cooperative. She loves anything related to writing and reading, whether it's
sitting alone with a book and a cup of hot tea, or attending a large poetry
reading or literary festival. She also loves travelling, meditating, going for
walks, bicycling, practicing yoga, and spending time with family. She
currently resides in Texas with her wonderful daughter and their four sweet but
mischievous cats. To learn more, please visit www.melissastuddard.com.
Baier Stein’s writing has appeared in Virginia
Quarterly Review, Kansas Quarterly, New York Stories, Prairie Schooner,
Washingtonian, many other journals and anthologies from Simon &
Schuster and The Spirit That Moves us Press. Her short story collection was a
Finalist in the Iowa Fiction Awards and will be published, as Sympathetic
People, in 2013 by Serving House Books. She has received the PEN/New
England Discovery Award for Fiction, a Johns Hopkins University Writing
Seminars Fellowship, Bread Loaf Scholarship, a grant from the New Jersey
Council of the Arts, prizes from the Poetry Council of Virginia, two Pushcart
nominations, and an Honorable Mention in the 2013 Allen E. Ginsberg Poetry
Awards. Her poetry chapbook Sometimes You Sense the Difference was
published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press. One of her stories was performed by
Tony-award winning actress Maryann Plunkett at Playwrights Theatre in Madison,
NJ. Donna was a Founding Editor of Bellevue
Literary Review and founded and currently publishes Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature (www.tiferetjournal.com.) She is also an award-winning
copywriter. Her website is www.donnabaierstein.com.
Rather than just reading for myself as I did with The Hermit, this is your chance to be in my book! All I ask is permission to use your first name (all else will be strictly confidential).
I'll give you the spread, and you can be read 1 of 3 ways:
1. You shuffle your own deck, face down, and randomly pick the appropriate amount of cards. Then, you share your own insights and I'll provide some commentary.
2. You shuffle your deck randomly and select the cards, but I'll do the entire reading.
3. I use one of my decks, select the cards and then do the reading.
My friend and colleague Michael Banuelos (ModernDayOracle.com) graciously allowed me to showcase his reading in this blog post. But if you opt to read your own cards after I give you the appropriate spread, it doesn't have to be this extensive! (In fact, I'll be editing Michael's reading for my book because of space constraints).
So, wanna be put in queue to get a free reading to be featured in my book? Just like the Naked Tarot's Facebook page here and send me a private message. Or, feel free to email. All I need to know is your first name (and permission to use it), and which method you want to read with (see 1-3 above).
I'm hard at work on my upcoming book Naked Tarot, which will include a card-specific spread and sample reading after each chapter. Ever since I put out a call on my book's Facebook page, volunteers are lining up to get readings. (If you'd like to be included, it's not too late; just "like" my book's page and send me a message--or feel free to email).
Some of the readings are so extensive, I can't include the entire reading in my book.
So I thought I'd share a sample reading from Naked Tarot--specifically, The Magician Spread--that I did with my friend and colleague Michael Banuelos (ModernDayOracle.com), who was very brave to tackle this spread (and gave me permission to share here).
The Magician Spread from Naked Tarot
1. Where am I deceiving myself? 2. How do I bullshit others? 3. What talent needs more focus? 4. What skill am I abusing? 5. How can I make magic?
Michael: This card
speaks to me of potential. I deceive myself of potential. I know what I am
capable of, I know what I can do and yet I seem to allow at times outward
situations and experiences rule over me and I allow old patterns to set in and
even though I have many opportunities to get ahead, I always find that one
thing that I have to give up in order to stay where I am. So where am I
deceiving myself? Facing the mirror right now.. I can truly say that while I
make sacrifices and it seems that I do it for others to assist, I also do it
because I am scared of what being fully embodied may mean. This card reminds me
a lot of my life lately. My Dog died in my arms not that long ago, well it
feels like it wasn’t that long ago, maybe a month? I knew he was going to die,
I just had this knowing but didn’t want to face it and then it happened. Before
he died though I started to give up. I started to let go of what I was doing,
didn’t exercise as regular, didn’t do the uplifting things that I regularly do,
I just let old patterns settle in.
And that’s kind of where I’m at. Not going
one way or the other. I am making excuses when there is no excuse. I am just
afraid of succeeding. Thinking I have to give something up that I don’t want to
give up may be the ultimate deceit and what cheats me out of moving forward.
2. How do I bullshit
- Earth - Oya (equivalent to 3 of Earth/Coins)
reminds me a lot of the Tower Card. Oya Mother of Storms. Hmm… “A primary
attribute of Oya is tearing or a wrenching movement between worlds. As do the
Guedehs and Brigitte, she stands between the worlds, although her movement
between them has a more wrenching or tearing quality.”
is actually very challenging to see lol. Shit! Making me face what I already
know So I guess with this
being about how I bullshit others I can see where this talks about how easy it
is for me to tap into other peoples energies. I can connect with people on a
very raw and emotional level even without them realizing it. So I can bullshit
with others by really toying with their emotions or with their vulnerabilities.
That sounds horrible but at times when you want to deflect awareness of
yourself; it’s easy to allow them to see this trait in you so that they
automatically start communicating. This one is a little rough for me to put
into words. I guess you can say that I change often, my ideas or my words or
perceptions and so I shift focus depending on who I speak with...
3. What talent needs
Egg – Beginnings – The Fool
World Egg, embodying the leap from nonbeing to being, is eternally present as
the first step of all that would manifest. This
card shows the Great Snake coiled within the fastness of the void, holding the
World Egg within its mouth. Birth has taken place, and the eg is protected and
carried by the mouth of the snake. This refers to the creative powers of the
Word. The Word, or rhythmic sound, defines and thus shapes the World.”
need to focus on creating the Physical Body that I desire but from a different
standpoint. I need to focus on the Spirit. I have a voice and I have things I
like to express and get out into the world to help others to assist them in
their learning and I need to focus more so on connecting with people and being
able to communicate better but also to embrace that Lighthearted essence and
allow all ideas and all thoughts of true desire to be birthed into my reality
and for me to truly embrace the moment.
Janet: Also, the Fool/Egg is "baby steps", as well as not overthinking things or entering into new situations "with baggage" (expectations/assumptions). One way to overcome the Hanged Man may very well be to take those baby steps, one right after the other. Also, Fools TRUST.
Michael: Yes.. .Let go, breathe
in and just do it lol. I've started
some things.. so good to know I need to keep at it.
3. What skill am I abusing?
Courir Le Mardi Gras –
Uncontrolled Energy – The Devil
“Attributes of this
card include the material taken to its conclusion, pushed to its limits and
beyond. This is the point at which the material turns in upon itself in a
burning fury. This is the meaning of Carnival (farewell to flesh). Flesh, or
the material, is taken to its extreme and explodes in a brilliant display of
Michael: I think this talks
about pushing everything I know to the limit. Taking my body and maxing it out.
Taking my current spiritual practice and truly maxing it out. This talks about
me really riding the edge, very good at pushing past the boundaries that are
set in place. I tend to go as far as I can in everything I do and don’t really
contemplate anything else, just knowing I can indeed take it to the next level
regardless of the effect. Not always the best thing to do.
Janet: Ah, the ol' "too much is never
enough" adage. I relate! You swing between
impetuousness, overdoing it, then getting hung up...and doing nothing. Yes?
Michael: omg lol yes all the time
5. How can I make magic?
Couche – Internal Inspiration – The Hermit
“The aspect of this card is that of a womblike room filled with those who await birth into a new life. They lie in a fetal position on their mats. Life depends on life, so they are sustained by the slaughtered and sacrificed animals at their feet. The attributes of this card center on sanctuary, the maintenance of a safe space for ritual growth.”
Michael: I need to embrace all that I am. The Hermit is my card and this comes from within. I need to retreat for a while. In order for me to make magic I must be born again into this world. I must take the journey that has been laid before me and look within for the answers, retreat into the universal womb and be at one with its purity, with its knowledge and come out when the time is right to be born again and when that happens, magic will be released, experienced and created.
Janet: And, it can indicate sequestering yourself away from people (mentally, digitally, etc.) so you can really hear your own voice and what YOU want. Sometimes, chameleons get so lost in the camouflage of others, that they forget what they "look" like at core.
Michael: Hmm.. Absolutely! unplug
So, dear readers, here's yet another sneak peek from my upcoming book Naked Tarot. If you choose to use The Magician Spread, I'd love to hear of your experience! Feel free to comment here or shoot me an email.
A decade ago, Wald and Ruth Ann Amberstone (The Tarot School)
came out with a neat little book called Tarot
Tips. One tip that especially intrigued me was Tip #30: Secret Paths.
Of Secret Paths, they write:
“I’m going to share a
secret technique with you. It’s one that I have discovered that adds a whole
new dimension to your readings. It’s called the Secret Path.
Essentially, a secret
path is a connection between two or more cards. This connection can be obvious
or mysterious. You can use this technique in any reading where you would like
more information than what is readily apparent. If you really know your deck
well and can do this in your head, you can amaze your friends and clients by
pulling this information seemingly out of nowhere.
It works like this:
Choose a card
(whichever one you like) and find another card in the deck that shares a
visual, esoteric, interpretive, or intuitive connection with it. This second
card will have an additional or clarifying message to add to the reading.”
I’ve never tried the Secret Paths method with an actual
reading, but when we were creating our Snowland
Tarot, I knew I wanted to devise a chart of Visual Secret Paths to pass on to
readers via the companion book to the deck. Over the past few days, I’ve added
over 30 Visual Secret Paths to my list; there’s almost 100 catalogued here.
I chose not to include the Snowland Tarot Secret Paths in my Snowland Deck companion book, but decided,
instead, to share it here. Note that this is only the key to the Visual Secret Paths of the Snowland Tarot, not the Esoteric, Interpretative or Intuitive
Paths. (I may share those at a later time.)
If you’d like to go on your own treasure hunt through the
images in our Facebook fan page album in case I missed any correlations—or you
discover some new ones—click here. Feel free to comment here or email your
findings to me so I can add them!
Snowlanders, if you try the Visual Secret Path with your
deck, I’d love to hear about it (or you can share your readings in the secret
Snowland Explorers blog). Don’t yet have your own deck? Click here to find out
how you can get your very own copy.
Without further ado, here are most of the Visual Secret Paths of the Snowland Tarot. I’ve decided to keep out Paths that are too
numerous because of the snowy subject matter (e.g. hats, snowflakes, trees,
gloves, scarves and stars—although I have them catalogued, too), but have elected
to keep a few that are also numerous (tables, windows, icicles, belts, beards,
Note: these Visual
Secret Paths are in no particular order.
Train; The Hermit
Nurturer – Mental (Hulda); 10 Mental; Director – Energy (Charles Dickens);
Mother Nature; 2 Mental
Chains; 4 Energy; Youth – Mental (Jack Frost); Quester – Material (Balto);
Quester – Emoting (The Snowman)
Wolf: 9 Mental; 3
Mental; 10 Material
Nature; 9 Material
Carousel; 5 Energy; 10 Material; 3 Material
Cane: The Hermit;
The Sun; Director – Energy (Charles Dickens); Director – Material (Ebenezer
Scrooge); 9 Energy
House: 4 Energy;
Nurturer – Mental (Hulda); Youth – Mental (Jack Frost); 10 Material; 7 Mental;
Director – Material (Ebenezer Scrooge); 6 Energy
Director – Emoting (Father Christmas); Teaching; 6 Energy; Nurturer – Energy
(Lucia); The Commander; 6 Material
Bow: Director –
Energy (Charles Dickens); Beginnings; 6 Material; 8 Mental; Youth – Emoting
(The Snowdrop); Director – Material (Ebenezer Scrooge); Youth – Energy (Little
Match Girl); Quester – Mental (Uller)
Within 12-hours of emailing the company and blogging about the shard of plastic found in my husband's granola bar, a rep from the company arrived on our doorstep bearing three shopping bags filled with McKee Foods snacks (sans granola bars).
Professional and apologetic, he took the almost-empty box and shard with him to investigate the matter.
I doubt we'll ever know where the shard originated (it would be great if they'd let us know, but I'm not holding my breath), and it's for this reason we'll never buy an item from Sunbelt or McKee Foods (makers of Little Debbie Products) again.
Last Friday, my husband, Ron, was eating a Sunbelt Peanut
Sweet & Salty granola bar, sold in a box containing 10 bars.
Suddenly, his teeth hit something hard. He figured it might
be a piece of toffee, perhaps from a different part of the factory. However, it
After washing it off, we discovered that it was a patterned,
translucent, hard shard of plastic with wicked sharp edges on two sides. This
shard measures approximately 1 ½ inches at its longest.
I tried to call Sunbelt around 5:30 PM Friday, but their customer service
center was closed. I tried calling my local Wal-Mart after that, but the
clueless operator sounded reluctant to bother a manager. “Well, we can’t yank
boxes off the shelf for just one piece of plastic…You’d better call
So I did. Turns out that Wal-Mart customer service holds
banker hours, too, so no one was there.
Flash forward to just a few minutes ago, May 13, 2013—the day after Mother’s
Day. I call the customer service line to Sunbelt once
“I am so sorry about that. We’ve never heard anything like
this before. We only get calls saying ‘Where can I get it?’” (Translation: Where can we rush to buy your
I proceeded to stress that the hard plastic triangle was
sharp on two ends and could have lodged in the throat, causing choking, or went
down the throat, perforating the esophagus or stomach. I mean, my 14-year-old
son eats granola bars, too!
I offered, “I can scan the image and email it to you to help
trace the source...?”
“That’s very sweet of you”, she interrupted, “but we’re a
public company so we don’t communicate with the outside and have a firewall. So
that’s not necessary.”
“Oh, OK. Well, I’ll just put it on my blog, then. You’ll be
able to see the images there.”
So here they are:
Next time you’re tempted to buy a Sunbelt Bakery granola bar
(a Little Debbie company), you may get an extra “surprise” instead…one that’s
potentially life threatening.
Elongated countenances and bloated visages of sundry animals appear throughout theMibramig Magical Tarot. According to artist Mibramig, the deck’s creator:
“As the great masters of ethology, from Konrad Lorenz to Gerald Durrell, teach us, some animal behaviours are surprisingly similar to those of man. Vice-versa, in many situations of our existence, we humans behave oddly and bizarrely in an animal-like manner. In theMibramig Tarot, animals represent the many masks of the human soul. They are symbols of our feelings, of our attitudes, and of our ways of being: playful, happy, and amusing, symbols that, precisely for this reason, are bearers of profound truths.”
However, what we have in the Mibramig Magical Tarot are caricatures of animals—a mishmash of distended heads, melonesque female boobs and human genitalia—all served up on the same ol’ Tarot template: the Rider-Waite-Smith milieu.
Not just “inspired by” the RWS, mind you, but actual duplication of the poses and settings.
Yet another opportunity lost to re-imagine Tarot, especially through the eyes of mammals and birds.
When I got the deck in hand, though, the adorableness that graced the online samples just weren’t present in most of the deck. In fact, I found the inclusion of human genitalia and backsides on the animals (especially the couple in The Lovers, the white cat in The Star, the central figure in The World and the bird people in Judgement) downright disturbing (and not in a cool, Deviant Moon sort of way). I couldn’t find any Minor Arcana cards online, so had I known that the Mibramig Magical Tarot was a RWS clone, I would have likely passed on this deck.
Although the artists claims that the connection between human and animal behavior underscores the deck, the L(ittle) W(hite) B(ook) offers no explanation of why certain animals were chosen for the Major Arcana or the suits.
For example, why the elephant for The Magician? The giraffe for The Empress? The walrus for The Emperor? The toucan (I think) for Justice? The bunnies in The Tower? And, why dogs for the Cups suit, goats for the Wands suit, primates for the Swords suit and birds for the Coins suit? (Maybe there IS no reason for such choices other than artistic…?)
While the LWB begs for such illumination, the concise card interpretations provided are quite good. Even the Tarot fad of the Happy Squirrel card, also included in this deck, is explained.
Because the animals lack dynamism (gosh, those poor dog/human hybrids in The Lovers look dejected at worse and bored silly at best—and the goat on the 6 of Wands looks so unsure that he deserves the honor), I feel that Tarot beginners might have a hard time reading with this deck. Not only that, the Majors are merely numbered and the Court Cards are identifiable just by suit and element icons, which may also prove problematic for newbies.
If you love the card images included with this review and found online—and don’t mind the RWS imitation—you’ll no doubt be happy with the Mibramig Magical Tarot. I really wanted the rest of the card to match the few images I saw online, but sadly, this deck just doesn’t work for me.
Here are three sneak peeks from the Tarot Guild of Australia's newest issue Autumn 2013 (they're in the Southern Hemisphere, hence Autumn instead of Spring).
I wrote a 4-page article about our Snowland Deck's Energy suit (aka Fire/Wands), and our snowy owl (Teacher) helped inspire and guide the wonderful editor, Mordreth. Also, our Magician card graced the back of the magazine among other fine renditions from various decks.
I have a copy of their LAST issue and now, this issue, and I have to say...it's the best Tarot magazine I've come across. (I wish we had a reputable, thriving Tarot organization in America that not only boasts professionalism and inclusivity--as the Australian Tarot Guild does--but also a kick-ass magazine, to boot).
You can subscribe no matter WHERE you live at their website here.
(Yeah, isn't it ironic that a Tarot organization half a world away wanted to showcase our Snowland Deck...while the American Tarot Association under the Stephanie Arwen Lynch regime has told the Editor of the ATA Quarterly, Elizabeth Hazel, that she is NOT to review--or assign for review--ANYTHING written or created by me for ANY ATA publication. Just out of personal dislike, mind you. Censorship, anyone?)
Onward to more positive things! The Australian Tarot Guild is also hosting a rather rare International Conference August 9-13, 2013 (click here for more information). American presenters include Mary K. Greer, Amber Jayanti and Rachel Pollack, with Caitlin Matthews hailing from the UK.
In the latest installment of Writer Quirks (and Advice!), I'm pleased as punch to introduce you to my colleague and friend, Anne R. Allen. I met Anne through Twitter, subsequently discovering her fabulous writing blog. In fact, her writing blog is so good, Writer's Digest just named it one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers in their May/June 2013 issue! Without further ado, here's Anne...
I think I might be one of the world’s unquirkiest writers.
Unless being boring is a quirk. I sit down at the keyboard every day at 8:30 AM
with my tea and almond milk. I check email, listen to Garrison Keillor’s
Writers Almanac at 9:00, turn off the radio at 9:05 and get to work.
I always go over the pages from yesterday before going on. I
try to write 3 pages, but sometimes it’s 10 and sometimes it’s a half a page I
delete the next day. But I always aim for those 3 pages.
I take a break at exactly 12:30 and get back to work about
an hour later. In the afternoon I mostly work on social media and my blog,
guest blogposts and promotions. Mondays I go to Farmer’s Market and do errands.
Saturdays I take off and go to the beach or go out and listen to live music if
I can. Even if I have a big deadline. I’ve learned if I don’t take at least a
couple of afternoons off a week, my muse gets cranky.
On regular writing days, I go for a walk at 4:30, then come
back to prepare dinner—I try to cook everything from scratch—and I eat in front
of the hokey local TV news. (Great fodder for stories. Way better than national
Then back to the keyboard at 6:30 if I’ve got a project
going, or sometimes I sit down to read.
That life might sound like hellish boredom to some people,
and it would have to my younger, wilder and crazier self, but it’s an idyllic
life for me right now. I guess I feel I’ve had my share of adventures, and now
it’s time for me to stay put and write about them.
My advice to writers is remember only you can write your book. Trust your muse. Listen carefully to
feedback, but never change anything just to please somebody else if it doesn’t
resonate with you.
You’ll end up with a Frankenbook written by committee.
I spent way too much time with my first novel incorporating
feedback from critique groups, workshops, beta-readers, etc., and I ended up
with a cobbled-together mess of genres and styles. My current editor is trying
to make sense of it now. But I think even he is stumped. It has some of my best
writing, but the plot goes off in too many directions.
Catherine Ryan Hyde and I have written a lot about how to
deal with critique in our book How to be a Writer in the E-Age...and Keep Your E-Sanity!. It’s important to remember critiquers all come to your page with
their own agendas. If they’re self-involved beginners, they’ll try to rewrite
your book to be about them. If they’re rule-bound “old hands” they’ll try to
get you to write a cookie-cutter book that’s just like everything else out there.
The trick is to nod politely, say “duly noted” and forget everything they said.
My favorite quote happens to be from my eBook: “People are always asking me ‘how do I know I’m a real writer?’ and I say, “If you write—and you’re not a wooden puppet carved by an old Italian guy named Gepetto—you’re a real writer…. Don’t give up because you don’t have an agent yet, or your mother-in-law calls you a slacker who ‘sits around on your butt all day,’ or your mechanic keeps asking why you don't have the money to replace that clunker. You’re a writer. Go write.”
"And then it dawned on me: when I started viewing polarization as an asset instead of a liability, I got to wake up and look around me every day and realized that the people who surrounded me were the right ones. That I built something that they loved, and that I brought the right people inside my blanket fort." -- Erika Napoletano
"Do what brings you life. Do not do what deadens you."
– Alan Cohen
It’s been said that shiny baubles and sparkly objects
attract magpies. Apparently, they thieve such items to weave into their nests,
perhaps to attract a mate.
Thus, humans irresistibly drawn to what is shiny, new and
pretty suffer from The Magpie Syndrome—earning them the nickname “magpies”.
While this can apply to hoarders, collectors and obsessive consumers—as
well as dabblers and dilettantes—I’ve come to believe that this syndrome can
apply to writers, too.
And I think I may be suffering from it.
Books with the prettiest covers, widespread attention and commercial
success are fiction. And, having read my share of poorly written fiction, I’ve
concluded “Hell, I can do better than
But after three novel attempts—with encouraging feedback and
“I want to see what happens!” (even from seasoned readers and published
mentors)—I’m beginning to suspect that I’m deluding myself.
I’m enamored with brainstorming and new ideas. Although I’m
a finisher, starting is so much more fun for me. That, and the immediate
gratification of instant creativity. My husband suspects that is why I love
blogging so much: I think it, I write it, I select pictures to accompany it,
and BOOM! it’s out for public consumption in under 30 minutes. Same with
There is no laboring with these types of writing, no
angsting over rewrites. Come to think of it, there’s little labor or re-writing
with my non-fiction books, too. The inner editor keeps me on track as I write,
for the most part.
As I was talking to Ron before he left for work, he made a
remark that jolted me more than he realizes, “For someone whose path is so
clearly marked, you sure have a hard time figuring out what to do.”
What he meant by that is that I love writing
Mind/Body/Spirit books—especially Tarot—and it’s easy for me. I mean, every
part of it. Easy to come up with ideas, easy to innovate, easy to write, easy
to query, easy to propose and easy to cinch yet another book deal. (Sure, it
took a lot of labor to GET so proficient, but I pretty much sail through things
now). If you love it, and you’re good at it, it’s your path…right?
See, I have a strong Warrior Archetype in my psyche and I
think this pattern—which has served me well in overcoming major obstacles—has
convinced me that any worthwhile path must be uphill. A difficult challenge.
It’s no secret that I detest the lazy, the slackers—and the
mindless who don’t question anything, especially their own assumptions.
Perhaps I’ve erroneously assumed that if something is easy
for me (forgetting that it wasn’t always), I’m somehow “lazy”, or that my
endeavor isn’t worthwhile.
I’ve been asking myself some hard questions about writing.
I can write fiction, does that mean I need
to? Or even want to (deep
do I think fiction publication will give me that non-fiction writing won’t
(other than illusionary “big bucks” and long-shot recognition)?
not fun to write fiction—if it’s 98% unenjoyable grunt work—then what in
the hell am I doing?
As I’m re-reading what I wrote, I feel a bit silly. It’s
like being handed bliss on a platter (which my life is, outside of
writing-related angst) and saying “Oh, no. I think I’d like to forage for my
own food in a dense forest 1,000 miles from here, which I’ll arrive at on foot, and
then cook my meal when I get there”.
What about you, dear reader? What causes you angst in your
writing life? Have you ever been torn between genres? Or wondered where the
hell the “best path” for your creative life lies?
A few of my lovely pervs friends asked "What kind of pole?". My pal Gayle Trent, however, had the perfect solution (see below):
It's one of my favorite songs from the 80s (we just listened to it the other day), but can you believe this is the first time I've actually seen the video? Chalk it up to growing up in a house without MTV...