Hold yourself to a high standard… and be ready to face up to your story.

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 – Judgement

The time has come, writers. The Judgement card has come, and while this card may appear strict and forbidding, it is really a reminder of the rules and strictures that govern our lives each day. When Judgement comes, it is a sign that something (whether a higher power or our own inner moral compasses) is looking critically at our work and weighing it meaningfully. What will Judgement find wanting?

Seen through the lens of our writing, the Judgement card calls for us to look more closely at the work we are creating and our ethos for writing. What is the purpose of the story we are working on telling? Are we telling stories that have deep meaning to ourselves, and possibly to others? Or are we working on a story that has lost all meaning and begun to fall flat? What are the ways in which we have become lazy and rushed in our work? How can we push ourselves to be our best? Look at your work and think about the ultimate meaning that it holds for you. Is this a story about family? Love? Fate? Whatever your story is really about, it is important and good. Be a critical writer this month. Check in with your story and weigh whether it tells the story that you really want it to tell, or whether it has gone off course. Make sure you are holding yourself to a high standard, and push yourself to do your best.

A card for your plot – Six of Swords (reversed)

The Six of Swords is a card for journeys, and a card of change. How appropriate when it comes to the idea of plot! When the Six of Swords comes, it symbolizes that change is in progress—and change is not always the easiest of processes. In this case, as the card is reversed, it may show that there is resistance to change, and a certain stubbornness clinging to the situation. You may be making the best of a bad situation, and working hard to salvage something that is not going the way you want. 

In terms of plot, there is always change going on. Plot itself is the act of change, after all. But this month, you may find yourself (or your characters), resisting the change that the story has planned for them. They may not want to change, and are stubbornly trying to remain as they were, fighting you as you try to write. You may even be resisting the change yourself. Maybe you had an idea for your plot that is no longer working, and yet you are loathe to change course. Whatever the change is in your story, know that it is a good thing. Change signals progress. The Six of Swords shows us that change can bring good things. Do not be afraid of shifting the course of your story and changing up the plot. Let your intuition guide you, and let go of that which might be holding you back. 

A card for your characters – The Devil (reversed)

Wow, what an amazing card to draw! The Devil might seem terrifying, but it is not. This is not a devil of torment, but a creature of boundaries and limitations. The Devil shows us that there are things we hide within ourselves, things that are taboo and forbidden. These are the things we bind up, wrapping in layers of shame and condemnation; indulging our darker urges can bring great pain to ourselves and others, but it can also bring us great pleasure. 

In this spread, The Devil is reversed for your characters. This is fantastic! This shows that we should be releasing the beliefs that limit us, allowing ourselves to explore the darker desires that lurk beneath the surface, and allowing our characters to do so, too. This also shows that we should be wary of deception in our characters — the lies they tell themselves, and the lies we tell ourselves about them. As you work on your story this month, let your characters indulge in some dark thoughts. Let them be selfish, and foolish, and sexual. Let them be all the things that make a person human. Do not try to censor your characters or restrain them. Let them act out and be terrible, and see where that takes you. It will be liberating for both them and for you, dear writer. Have fun. 

A card for unforeseen circumstances – Five of Pentacles

The Five of Pentacles is a card of challenges, writer. Challenges that will make you feel isolated and alone. It is a card for winter, and for being so wrapped up in the things that are happening to you that you cannot see the goodness that is around you. 

This month, it seems that there will be some real challenges coming your way. Unexpected challenges that will set you back and make you doubt yourself. You may feel alone in your writing process, as if you are struggling against the very forces of nature itself. But even in that moment, the Five of Pentacles also tells us that there is hope ahead. All is not lost. So when you feel that you are alone, take a moment to breath and refocus. Do not wallow in self-pity or condemnation. Look up and take a step away from the problem. Breathe, and look around yourself for solutions. If it is social media that is causing the problem, get away from the internet for a bit. Take in the beauty of nature and the sound of the wind through the leaves, and breathe. If it is family troubles or financial troubles that plague you, do not forget the community of writers that is all around you. Reach out to your friends. Read a book that stirs your soul. The Five of Pentacles tells us that trouble will come, and it will be hard, but we are not alone. 

A card for the wider world – Death (reversed)

Ah, the card we all dread. The Death card is here, carrying the weight of endings upon its bony back and grinning at us meaningfully. The Death card may sometimes feel terrible, and it is indeed inevitable, but it is not a negative card. 

Death signifies change—the kind of change that comes to everything in its time. In the reversed position, Death tells us that we are entering a time of personal change and transition. There is an ending here, which may be difficult for us to accept, and it is an internal ending. You may find this month that something in your worldview is changing in a way that you never expected. The things you once valued may no longer hold as much importance to you. This may feel startling and frightening at first, but it is not a terrible thing. Because just as Death comes to us all, so does Rebirth. After Death comes a renewal. 

The Death card tells us not to be afraid of change, but to value it. It brings beautiful things in its wake, even if it seems frightening at the time. 

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.