Do you feel like a success yet? If not, that’s ok. We’re all striving for that feeling in some way or another. But maybe take a few minutes and take stock of how far you’ve come.

If you think about it, success is really a matter of perspective. It may not look the way you first thought it would. And it can be hard to let go of that expectation, that picture of what you felt being successful would look like.

But for all you feel like you still have miles to go to attain that elusive goal, there are so many more who feel like you’re miles ahead of them and wish they could for a moment be in your shoes.

Ten of Pages

When you first started writing, did you ever think you’d make it like this? But all your hard work has finally paid off in a big way. Now it’s time to celebrate your success by giving back. Is there a young writers’ fund you can donate to? Do you have time to mentor a few new writers along their journey? The best way to strengthen the effects of your success is to give back. The circle is turning. Now it’s your turn to be generous and remember those who helped get you to where you are now.
Key words: completion, success, prosperity

It’s time to shift our perspective from what we wish we could still do to what we can be proud of having done. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. How can we be part of that effort to raise up others around us, to celebrate and help redefine success until we are able to shake off that nagging feeling that we “should” be somewhere other than here where we are right now, in this moment.

There’s room for everyone to live lives that reflect joy and success, no matter what stage of the journey we find ourselves on. Our value comes from our being, not from our doing. If we could truly embrace that, then we’d be able to see just how much of a success we already are. 

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I took the day off yesterday to celebrate my birthday. Past me would have felt really guilty about that, about missing a day in the midst of something I had committed to doing every day. Do you also get so stuck in a perfectionist mindset that you derail yourself for the smallest deviation from the path to the goal?

Present me, the one who has been through a pandemic and suffered personal loss and its accompanying grief this year, she knows better though. She knows that you can come back from missing a day of something (or a month…) and still do great things. She knows that our value comes from our being, not from our doing. She knows that being an artist and a writer is not about what you produce. It’s about how you view the world around you and how you express that view.

Artist of Pages Lunaria TarotThe Artist of Pages, in your spread or pulled on its own, represents being at home in your craft. You’ve reached the point where you know what you want to say, and are able to do it with eloquence and style. The confidence and generosity you feel are the product of patient, hard work. Not some flash in the pan, the Artist of Pages promises stability and emotional fulfillment.
Key words: loving, patient, healing, generosity

If you’re struggling to claim that identity of “writer” or “artist”, remind yourself that no one else gets to decide who you are. Only you get to decide that. You don’t need someone else’s approval to be who you are. You get to just be. And you don’t need to compare your actions, your place on the timeline of supposed “success”, or anything else about your creative journey with anyone else.

Hopefully you can find ways to validate yourself, to acknowledge your successes and how far you’ve come already. And then, hopefully you can share the confidence and enthusiasm you have in your own work with others who are still struggling to define themselves. We’re all doing the work of living. Let’s make something beautiful at the same time.

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If 2020 defined itself with one tarot card, this would be it. The Tower represents sudden and unexpected change. You may not have been looking for it, but change is here. For a lot of us, because of the events of the past 9 months, our old lives have been turned upside down and burned to the ground. The devastation and feelings of brokenness and loss are real. But The Tower’s message is at its essence one of hope. Like the phoenix, we can rise from the ashes and reclaim our creative power.

The Tower Lunaria Tarot Marge PiercyWe can only know what we can truly imagine.
Finally what we see comes from ourselves.
Marge Piercy
You may not have been looking for it, but change is here. The Tower is a sure sign that your life is about to be turned upside down and burned to the ground. This can be scary, because it’s usually unexpected. But the good news is that it will open up the floodgates of change and renewal, and your creative river will begin flowing again.
You may find the process of change painful, but if you can remind yourself to trust the process, you’ll come through stronger. When your routine or way of thinking gets dismantled, it’s a sign that it’s time to rebuild and become stronger.
Maybe you got a rejection on a manuscript. Maybe you got feedback telling you that those minor revisions you thought you needed actually add up to a complete rewrite. Remember that sometimes you have to allow the structure to crumble to the ground so that you can be sure all the weak spots have been found. Then you can rebuild something stronger and more magnificent in its place.
Key Words: unexpected upheaval, change, blocks forcefully removed

Even setting all the global upheaval aside, you may feel stuck. Maybe you got a rejection on a manuscript. Maybe you got feedback telling you that those minor revisions you thought you needed actually add up to a complete rewrite. Remember that sometimes you have to allow the structure to crumble to the ground so that you can be sure all the weak spots have been found. Then you can rebuild something more magnificent in its place.

For those of you who are having trouble getting words down, wondering if it’s worth it, if you’ll ever find your voice or have something worth sharing, here’s a reminder:

The world needs your story.

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Sunlight seems like such a benign thing, doesn’t it? When you picture sunlight, what emotions come up? What images to you see? I feel warm and protected, and I see my cats curled into an especially sunny spot on the floor, or sparkles on water… I think of plants growing and springtime.

I tend toward seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and find myself missing the sun when it’s wintertime. I imagine living further north than I do, closer to the Arctic Circle, would be a challenge, and not one I’d excel at.

But just as with anything, you can have too much sun. Sun poisoning, drought, skin cancer… all things caused by too much sun and not enough clouds.

Still…

The Sun Lunaria Tarot Langston HughesThe only way to get a thing done is to start to do it, then keep on doing it, and finally you’ll finish it… –Langston Hughes
The Sun is shining on you, and if good things aren’t already happening for you and your writing career, they’re not far off. Youthful energy, renewable and strong, radiates through you. We could all use enlightenment and clarity. And The Sun promises energy and nourishment that’s necessary for growth.
What the moonlight obscured can be seen clearly in the light of The Sun. But don’t look directly at it. You might go blind. Instead, focus on what the sunlight reveals, which is sometimes an area for improvement. You might find that discouraging at first, but don’t despair. The Sun is not harsh. It’s gentle and healing.
Dig in and take from this time what you need in order to grow tall and strong. You have the power you need to achieve your dreams.
Key Words: vitality, enlightenment, clarity, success

The sun is effective in, necessary for, and inextricable from our existence. And I’m so thankful for the balance that our natural world models for us. Light and shadow, sun and moon, day and night… we need them in order to thrive.

The Winter Solstice is coming, longest night of the year. We could all do with a little more light in our lives right now. What areas of your life and your creative practice could use a little more of The Sun’s energy? What are you doing to cultivate a light that’s nurturing and life-giving to your art and writing these days? 

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I just checked Twitter, and apparently it’s Tarot Tuesday (and yes there’s a hashtag). That’s great news for me, because it gave me the momentum I needed to get into this post today. Some days are easier to blog and have a thought than others, no?

Anyhow, on to today’s card: the Apprentice of Pens… the suit of Pens mirrors the suit of Swords in a “standard” deck (because, you know, the pen is mightier). The suit corresponds with the element of air, the intellect, logic, reason, communication. And Apprentice is the equivalent of Knight… so if you think of a Knight wielding a sword (or a pen in this case), you’ll be able to visualize the energy here.

Apprentice of PensThe Apprentice of Pens is that swift kick. The forceful determination, fearless action, and dynamic courage represented here are often not the most graceful and refined aspects of character traits. A little goes a long way in these cases.
Be careful, as you channel this energy and barrel toward your goals, that you don’t damage yourself or others in the process. Sometimes perceived blocks are just that: perceived. Don’t charge in without first taking a mindful assessment of what’s going on. You might find that a better understanding of the circumstances and a small tweak in your creative practice is all you need to get going.
But if you’re experiencing any sort of block in your creativity, a little Apprentice of Pens will help you bust through to the other side and get moving toward your goals.
Key Words: dynamic, forceful, action not grace, courage

I love to think of the Apprentice of Pens barreling into a challenge, not worried about consequences so much, not overthinking, just acting. I often overthink my work, and can whittle a piece down to nothing by contradicting myself and writing out anything that has a hint of passion because I’m worried it will be “wrong” somehow. And yet this card is also about doing just that… or rather, it’s about finding the balance. Because it’s always about balance, isn’t it?

How much charging forward do we do? And where do we need to stop and consider? The analogy of a bull in a china shop comes to mind. When you picture a bull in a china shop, what value association do you put with it? Good or bad? Depends on the goal, right? If you’re looking to destroy a china shop, a bull is the way to go! But if you’re trying to preserve china, maybe not. So… allowing yourself to be both, to hold both aspects of yourself and use them intentionally. That’s a skill.

I’ll be looking for those Apprentice of Pens moments more closely in the future. Because I don’t like to feel like I’m blundering forward, but also I don’t want to feel like I’m holding myself back. Each day, each moment brings new opportunities to strike that balance, to release myself to do the creative work.

What say you all?

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This morning, thoughts swirl around in my head and defy attempts to be articulated. And I think that’s part of what the message is in the Four of Pages. Every act doesn’t have to be calculated. Every word need not be meticulously thought out.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the mechanics of the artistic wheel that we forget that the reason we got into whatever creative pursuit we have was that it delighted us! So occasionally, it’s ok to do something for the sheer joy of it.

The Four of Pages says:

Four of Pages Lunaria TarotYou’ve worked hard to get where you are. Those late night/early morning writing sessions, your relentless networking, workshop attendance, and social media presence all prove your dedication to your writing goals. But now that you have a bit of success, you don’t know how to enjoy it. Take a breather. Get back to the parts of life that bring you joy. Remember why you started this whole writing thing in the first place!
Key words: control, resistance to change, fear of backsliding

Contrary to the message from that voice inside your head, you will not lose professional clout or artistic cred for being joyful. I saw a post from Julia Cameron (of The Artist’s Way) this morning, reminding us that great art comes not only from suffering, but also from bliss! What if you turned toward joy with your work for a while? What would change in you or your process?

We moved to a new house in the past couple of weeks, and I still don’t have my art studio set up. But I’m committing now to creating for the joy of it in the next few weeks, toward the end of 2020, to calling in joy and pleasure. Won’t you join me?

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How many of us spend our days fumbling through from one opportunity to the next, never really thinking about what direction we’re taking, or what kind of synergy could exist in our creative journey? It’s easier sometimes not to spend too much time dwelling on where we want to go. That way we won’t be disappointed when we don’t get there.

I have a massive fear of failure and of being left out or forgotten. So I often say yes to all opportunities that come my way without considering how they align with my goals for myself and my creative life. Then I feel overwhelmed, spread thin, or frustrated that I’m not getting to spend time on what I really want to be spending time on. When I start to feel this way, I’ve learned that it’s time to take a step back and assess what I’m involved in. It’s not easy to say no when so many “good” opportunities exist in the world.

The Three of Quills is a reminder that a) goals and intentions help make the magic happen and b) you get to decide which direction you take. At any moment you can decide that you want to take a new direction. But better to choose a goal and then switch direction, than to wander directionless through your creative life.

Three of Quills Lunaria TarotNow is the time to stop and define your writerly goals, or redefine them if you already have some. You have a manuscript in the works, or maybe a couple under your belt. Time to ask, “What vision do I have for my writing career?” Are you writing a series, or two or three? What are your goals? What dreams do you have for your writing life? You get to choose the direction you take.
Key Words: envision the future, active waiting, direction

The new year is a great time to make a list of goals and dreams and to set new intentions. Sure, you’re probably going to fall short of some of those goals. But your creative work can also start to feel more focused, which is a great outcome. And we only really fail at achieving a goal if we stop trying.

Give yourself permission to try something on purpose. You have agency if you choose to use it.

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The Nine of Pens, today’s pull from the Lunaria Tarot deck, perfectly illustrates Zombie by the Cranberries….

In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh

We’ve all experienced it, right? That one critical comment (or maybe it was a few?) that pierces our heart and sends us spinning down the rabbit hole of “why am I doing this? Have I wasted my life? Maybe I’m not cut out to be a writer (artist, musician, etc.)…” Sometimes the arrow comes from close to home (“It’s just not the kind of book I like to read,” says Mom.), but often it’s a less than favorable review left by someone we’ve never heard of before. 

The problem is never the comment though, it’s our reaction to it. Our ego gets pricked, we respond in a perfectly human way to the pain, then get embarrassed for responding humanly, and then suddenly we’re cutting ourselves off from everyone we’ve ever known because they all must think the same thing about us and we should never create anything again to avoid this horrible embarrassment and pain… (just me? anyone else do this too?)

The Nine of Pens says:

Nine of Pens Lunaria TarotWhatever pain you’re experiencing, it can’t be that bad. You might have gotten a bad review, or had an unpleasant encounter with internet trolls. Don’t spend time dwelling on it and withdraw. Things are always worse in your head than they are in real life. If you continue to spiral, you’re only going to feel worse and possibly make the situation worse. Snap out of it. Find your way back to joy and harmony. And get used to being comfortable with not pleasing everyone. It’s your job as an author to ruffle feathers. Don’t let them ruffle yours.
Key Words: dark visions, anguish, drama, be proactive

We all need that friend, the one that will give us a reality check when we need one, who will remind us that we were never going to be liked by everyone, and that that doesn’t mean we should stop creating. Building that support network of creative people we trust who will come find us and drag us out of the hole we’ve gone down… it’s an essential component of the creative life. So who is that person for you? If you’re not sure, the Nine of Pens will stand in for them until you find someone.

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This morning I drew The Hermit. And I laughed because it’s 2020, so obviously I’m an expert on being a hermit now, right? Except, is that really true?

2020 has been a ridiculous year. And sure “social isolation” has been a big component of it. I don’t want to discount the emotional weight that having to keep 6 feet or more from … everyone … and not being allowed to gather in groups … and having to wear a mask when you’re around people has. But even shut at home in our little bubbles, are we really cut off? Are we really “alone”?

Anecdotal evidence: I sit in front of this machine where my thoughts are digitized and immediately broadcast for the consumption and entertainment of others. I have email, four social apps, and a streaming music service sending me a constant stream of information about others in my “social circle.”

Reader, I am not alone. And if I let it, the cacophony of that digital stream will drown out my own voice very efficiently, and for as long as I want it to.

Sometimes that’s comforting. When you’re dealing with mental illness, being completely alone with your thoughts can be a terrifying prospect. So each person needs to make their own assessment about how much “alone” is actually healthy for them.

Still, for most artists, finding some time to be alone IS healthy. Some amount of cutting out the noise of “what will everyone think?” is required if you want to hear what makes your heart beat… if you want to connect to your intuition… if you want to find out what you really think about … anything.

Enter The Hermit…

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”The Hermit Lunaria Tarot
Henry David Thoreau
Outside distractions are inevitable in this digital age. Our constant connectedness and our necessary responsiveness to the needs of those in our circle of influence take up a lot of mental space. Do you find your thoughts drifting when you sit down to try to be still?
If you’re having trouble turning off the chatter in your head so that you can hear your muse, The Hermit offers this advice: There is no remedy so potent for the distracted mind as time alone to reflect.
Solitary contemplation is so important for your writer’s brain. The Hermit card reminds you to take time away to process what you’ve been soaking in through your daily experiences. Being able to turn off the distraction of your day-to-day is necessary to finding the Truth with a capital T that we’re all seeking through our thoughts and words on the page. But it’s a practice that can only be developed over time.
The noise of the outside world may drown out your intuition. Remember to trust your gut. You have everything you need to tell your story already within you. Give yourself the quiet and space you need to get it out onto the page.
Key Words: solitude, meditation, introspection, trust your gut

Caveat: As I said above, knowing how, and when, and how much to turn off the outside distractions is unique to each individual. Always keep a solid, reliable support system around you. Hell, even Thoreau had his mom nearby to do his laundry for him.

So ask yourself, “Am I in a place right now where I can safely and joyfully take some time out?” Even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes a day. And then turn off those apps, put your phone on Do Not Disturb, and spend some time listening inward. Channel your inner Hermit. Once you get past the noise, I think you’ll be pleased to discover that your intuition has been waiting there for you all along.

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I pulled another card from the suit of pages today and this song popped in my head (title reference)… the Metallica version first, but then I remembered Bob Seeger and thought… gods but I’m getting old. Ha ha ha! Anyhow…

A note on balance: I used to think that balance meant finding time for everything. And I’d be disappointed with myself, and feel unbalanced, if I couldn’t fit everything into my life that I wanted to (writing, painting, hiking, running, grooming the dog, taking a bath, cooking healthy food, etc. etc. etc.)

I have since learned that this way of thinking, having the expectation of somehow balancing just right to be able to fit everything in, is outrageous and unrealistic. Ha! What a surprise and what an actual relief. You mean I can set something aside? I can choose what I want to prioritize in the moment? And that choice can change whenever I want it to? What a revelation to me, and something I’m still learning to embody.

Maybe you still think you can balance and achieve everything. And who am I to tell you that you can’t? Go for it! Live the dream! And also… maybe… don’t be so hard on yourself when (if) you fall short sometimes. We’re only human. And it’s all part of living the creative life.

Two of Pages tarot for writersBalancing the writer’s life (creative time, finances, goals, family life, marketing) requires focus and determination. Make sure you are aware of what irons you have in the fire. Don’t overextend yourself, but also don’t be so focused on one aspect or one project that you neglect everything else. A happy writer is well-rounded and has learned how to manage all the different aspects of their life equally.
In this card, the two books hold each other in balance with perfect synergy. Each project has its own requirements, but they support each other. What choices do you have to make for your writing if you want to achieve your goals? How can you add balance to your creative life?
Key words: change, possibilities, balance, back-up plans

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