Take a step back and check in… you are doing fine.

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 – Seven of Swords

As we move into the dog days of summer, when the heat of August starts to sink into our bones, the Seven of Swords is here for us as writers. This is a card of deception and strategic thinking. Secrets and lies are on the agenda. This may seem like a bad sign, but it does not have to be. 

This card shows us that not all is as it seems. You must be thoughtful and methodical right now, writers. This may mean that an idea you thought was wonderful turns out to be false and flat. Or maybe you are entering into contract negotiations and need to be very clear and careful about what you say. You may have to lie about something right now—and that’s okay. There are times in life when we cannot be wholly honest with others. That is natural, and sometimes it is even a good thing. But if you are feeling anxious or fearful right now, and you think that lying is the only path forward, question that impulse. Why do you feel that way? What is driving you toward lying as the only option? Sometimes in life we lie (both to ourselves and others) because it is the easy path forward. Don’t give into that impulse without thinking. As writers, our jobs are to tell stories that are true, no matter how fantastical they seem. 

Wherever you are in your process right now, the Seven of Swords tells us not to rush ahead. Don’t dive in without thinking and act on your first impulse. Slow down and consider your options carefully, so that you do not make a decision that will hurt yourself or others. 

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

The Three of Swords is a difficult card, symbolizing painful events in life, things that may damage you emotionally and physically. This card often comes to us when the world is a dangerous place, and our hearts are in danger of breaking. But the good thing is that this month the Three of Swords is reversed. This can turn its meaning inward, toward our inner lives, and it can shift the meaning away from damaging situations, and toward healing and forgiveness.

The Three of Swords in a reversed position refers to the ways we think about ourselves and our stories. We may feel tempted to give in to negative self-talk this month, telling ourselves that all our work has been for nothing, and our stories are terrible. This is not the time for that. We must have forgiveness for ourselves and our mistakes. We must be optimistic about what is to come. 

In the context of plot, do not become bogged down in the details. Do not look back at what you have already written and critique it. Look ahead and keep going. You may also want to consider providing ways for your characters to reach a point of forgiveness and release as well. Consider what big events your plot may have in store for your characters—where is the opportunity for catharsis in the plotline? How will your character react when they reach that moment? 

A card for your characters – Death

Okay, writers, don’t panic. 

The Death card has come for your characters, and it’s going to be okay. This does not mean that your characters have to die (unless you’re into that, and then you have the card’s blessing). No, the Death card shows us that all things must end. Death is a natural part of our experience of life, and this goes for the stories we tell as well as the people that surround us. It is a card of grief and mourning, of finishing things and letting them go. It is an ending, but it is not The End.

With regard to your characters, think carefully about their endings this month. Will they live, or will they die? How will their stories end? Do you need to excise a character from your draft because they are not working in this story? Does your character go through a change so profound that it is as if they have died? Consider not just a character’s journey, but how they are going to end up. Make sure that you are clear on your characters’ ends, and how those ends will resonate with the readers. 

This card reminds us that we cannot just consider our characters in the moment. We have to think about those characters as on a journey of change, from beginning to end. Check in with your characters this month. Consider their endings. Make sure you understand them and why they are important. 

A card for unforeseen circumstances –  The Star

The Star has come, and we are grateful for it. This is such an amazing, optimistic card! The Star connects us to ideas of faith and spirituality. It is a card of water, which flows with powerful inspiration and connection. In the card, a beautiful woman holds two chalices, collecting and pouring water out—both onto the earth and into a pond. By doing so, she represents replenishment and inspiration. 

Things may have been hard and challenging in the last few months. The world has not been easy or hospitable lately, and this may have influenced your writing lately as well. The Star tells us that this is a time for us to replenish ourselves and our reserves. We have the strength and potential of water, able to change our shape and move through difficulty smoothly. Like water, we writers can reshape ourselves at will, and we can also reshape the world around us with just a little patience and time. 

This month, tap into your beliefs in order to help you manage any unforeseen circumstances or surprises. Why do you write? What is the foundation for your writing practice? You will want to return to that in order to steady yourself. The Star is also a card for renewal, so know that this month may bring something positive your way, a circumstance that is unforeseen, but also reinvigorating.

A card for the wider world – Ten of Wands

The Ten of Wands tells us that you are full up this month. There is a lot going on in your world, and you are fighting to manage it all. This may be writing-related responsibilities, work responsibilities, or other kinds. Your plate is full, and you cannot take on more at the moment. The weight of the world is on your shoulders, and you are nearly overwhelmed. Your physical and emotional muscles are aching, and the thought of taking one more step forward is nearly too much for you. At least, that is how you feel. 

Allow yourself to feel that way. Your writing is progressing and you are coming to important moments in your work. There is fulfillment in the process, no matter where you are as a writer—just dreaming up a story, to finishing a draft, to preparing to publish. You are balancing a lot right now, and you are on the edge of taking on too much. Do not push yourself to try anything huge, or put a new responsibility onto your plate right now. 

The Ten of Wands also tells us writers that we need to be critical of ourselves right now. Take a closer look at the responsibilities on your plate and the way the wider world influences you. Have you taken on too much? Are you trying to run a blog in addition to writing a novel, because it seems like that’s what everyone else is doing? Are you trying to write a story that includes seven different plotlines because your favorite author did so? Are other responsibilities piling up on your plate right now? Think critically about what you have to deal with right now, and what is essential. Can you put anything aside, even just temporarily? Can you scale back your big projects to allow yourself time and space to breathe? The Ten of Wands tells us that you are not quite overwhelmed yet, but you are very close, and you need to slow down. 

Allow yourself to be satisfied with what you have already done. Keep going, and keep dreaming. 

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