Be strict with your routines… but don’t forget to schedule something fun!

Story Mystic is a new column for writers. Each month I draw five cards focused on the art of writing. What do the cards have in store for us? What writing challenges will the next month bring? Let’s find out!

A general card for writers right now – The Emperor

The Emperor is a powerful card, and it symbolizes structure and control. In the hand of the Emperor lies the world itself, and this card signifies no less. 

The emperor himself sits upon a throne, and wears red for passion and armor to show his invulnerability. The emperor is an older figure, wise with years and experience. This card shows that tradition and stricture can be powerful tools to help you as a writer. Think about your writing life right now. Is the Emperor your draft at the moment? This may mean that in order to sort it out, you need to go back to the basics in order to make your story the best it can be. Are you the Emperor right now? If so, you have all the power and ability in the world, and years of experience to back up your craft. But you will need a steady routine to bring out the best of yourself as a writer, and you will need to adhere to it every day. 

As a card for writers, the Emperor represents the fact that keeping control is essential right now. Traditional narratives and structures are also aligned with the Emperor, and may prove to be useful to you. The Emperor comes into this spread to remind us that as writers we have the ability and the talent to control entire worlds, if only we stick to the structures and routines that will keep us strong. 

A card for your plot – Ten of Swords

The Ten of Swords is a powerful card. It shows a latticework of swords, all criss-crossed across the sky above a figure lying on the ground, apparently dead. This is a card of betrayal and deep wounds, but also of the peaceful stillness that comes when the worst has come to pass. 

Consider how this card may connect to you this month, writers. If this is a card represents your plot, perhaps the worst has come to pass for your characters. They may be in a bad position with no apparent way out. They are struggling, and you are not sure where to take them next. If that is the case, do not be afraid of this moment in the story. Allow your characters time to grieve, or to be angry. Explore their darker emotions and their wants and needs in this moment. Let your plot run its course, and look for the glimmer of hope of the horizon. 

If this card represents you as a writer right now, you are likely struggling with your abilities as a writer and storyteller. You may have come to a difficult part of your story, and you are looking at all that you have written and plotted (or left un-plotted), and you find that it is not right. The plot of your story has betrayed you, and has not turned out like you imagined. Your work has fallen short, and you are struggling. 

If this is the case, do not despair. This is natural to all writers. We all struggle with what we have created and fear that it is worthless somewhere along the way. The Ten of Swords is here to say that no matter how dark things may seem in your story right now, there is always hope. You have not plotted yourself into a corner. Give it time, and the solution will dawn upon you. 

A card for your characters – Judgement (reversed)

Judgement is a biblical card, with the weight of not just the judgement of others, but the judgement of the gods. When this card arrives, there is a moment of reckoning and an ending on the rise, and this applies no less to your characters than it applies to you. 

If the Judgement card is here for your characters, it is likely that they are being held to account by your story. This might something that you have planned and orchestrated within the story structure, or it may be that your characters are being judged by readers. In either case, since the card is reversed, your characters are being found wanting. When reversed, Judgement means that there is doubt in the air, that the understanding of what is right and wrong is no longer clear to you. 

As a writer, you need to believe in yourself in this moment. Do not allow yourself to doubt yourself or your portrayal of your characters. Do not allow yourself to doubt the work that you have done with them, or their quality as pieces of your story. In this moment, you must be careful not to let your characters lapse into flatness because you are afraid to make them a little strange. Trust your instincts and trust the advice of others. Go for it with your characters, so that no matter how others judge them, you can be proud.

A card for unforeseen circumstances – Six of Pentacles

The Six of Pentacles is a card for giving, and for receiving. Traditionally, it shows a wealthy person is rich robes, handing out coins to beggars to kneel and beg. This card uses symbols for equality and fairness, and it is a cyclical card, because there are times in life when we are wealthy enough to give, and other times when we receive what others have shared with us. 

Since this card has come as a part of “unforeseen circumstances”, it is likely that you will received an unexpected opportunity with regard to your writing soon. You may receive unexpected free time that you can use to writer, or a scholarship to a writing course that you have been pursuing. Maybe you will receive a moment of inspiration that carries you through the end of your latest story in a flash, leaving you awed that you could do it all so quickly. 

Whatever kind of bounty comes to you, writer, don’t forget that to receive is just a part of the cycle of things, and that you should consider ways to give back to others as well. You will be in a position to be generous, soon. Do not forget that your largesse comes from others, and that you have the ability to share your wealth. Give back. Share your ideas. Host a writing party. Spread the joy. 

A card for the wider world – Six of Cups (reversed)

The Six of Cups is a card of nostalgia and looking back. It shows a young child offering flowers to another, and that second child reaching up happily to receive them. The children work together, and they are in their own, joyful world, heedless of the adult world around them. They are not burdened by worries or fear. They are content with each other. 

In the context of the “wider world”, the Six of Cards is here to remind us that though the world will always been challenging and often scary, this is a season for reveling in the joys of childhood once again. But since this card is reversed, it also reminds us not to get lost in those memories. This is the time of year that reminds many of us of being young and playful, without a care in the world, but we cannot idealize that time and forget all else. We want to reflect on the past in order to find paths to joy, and we need to find new ways to be joyful and playful in the present. The Six of Cards reminds us that we are adults, and though our joys may be different from what they were when we were children, they are not less meaningful and important.  

Ann Langley writes speculative fiction and wild poetry, and can be found on twitter @ann_elangley for general chatting and hanging out purposes. She used the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot Deck for this reading, which can be found here.