Sometimes I feel like my whole year has been in Mercury retrograde. With one thing after another, there has been a lot of waiting, a lot of postponing, and a lot of loss. I have been stuck—in situations that are not my choosing, with no path forward—and in talking with my friends and sister writers, I know I am far from the only one who would rather watch reruns of clips from The Voice (or Aquaman GIFs) than face my ever-growing list of things that just stubbornly refuse to get done. As we enter the holiday season, which has its own joys and challenges, it can be helpful to recall that, as writers, we have complete control over our tools and our voices. We don’t need anyone’s permission, or an infrastructure, or a legal ruling, or even an outside opportunity in order to write.
So my current burning question for the Tarot is:
How do we get unstuck?
To find my answers, I pull a single Tarot* card. I use it for insight, as a confirmation, to get around my blocks and habits, to take some risks and find some epiphanies. Often, it gives me an energy that I need to hold onto, so I put it on my altar. Today’s card is The Knower of Rivers.
The Card: In the Shining Tribe Tarot deck, the Knower of Rivers is analogous to the Knight of Cups: a card of action, and also emotions and the subconscious. It follows the Place of Rivers: a place where we go to meditate, withdraw, and revitalize our emotions. The Knower comes out of this place renewed, ready for action, with the tools for success literally clutched in their hands. The card suggests power, and also victory (in the “seven” of the four figures and three fiery trees on the ridge). But this is a victory fueled by self-knowledge, and it comes from the courage to gaze deeply into oneself and “enter the deep and limitless waters” of our own mysteries.
So what does this card mean for you, as the writer?
Of course, it is great to pull a card that promises action and transformation when your life feels like you are running in place. But this card reminds us of two things:
First, change comes from within. This is not an external card, where success comes from wielding a sword or forcing an issue. The suit of Rivers is about intuition, and mystery, and dreams. It is intensely creative. It suggests that all the power you need lies within you. And forward motion comes, in part, from embracing the darkness you find there, accepting it, and transforming it into radiant light. This has been a really important reminder for me, since it is the darkness that makes me stuck: I don’t want to feel it or deal with it. But the darkness—our struggles as humans—is what gives our creative stories and images energy. Without it, there would be no plot, no vision that haunts your readers, no powerful connection to their own lives. To be writers, we need to tap that darkness.
Second, you are doing something. Sometimes the self needs renewal. All the “doing” that our society equates with progress can get exhausting, and hollow. “Being” is important too, especially for writers. We need to gather—our energy, our material—and since we do work on a subconscious level, we may not be aware we are doing it. So instead of thinking of ourselves as stuck, better to think of ourselves as resting. Retreating. Recharging. And to be open to just being very aware of what is going on around us, and the messages we find there.
How can you apply this card to your work?
Relax. Open. Don’t try to escape.
My exercise offering is designed to help you notice what you are experiencing and find a way to use it. In these times of unconscious gathering, you may be getting messages that you aren’t bringing into your conscious mind. You may even be actively blocking or resisting them. So we will mimic the journey that the Knower of Rivers takes.
It is helpful to find a quiet place, where you can relax and release your mind. (Have something to write with handy.) If you find that your thoughts are racing and your brain is telling you that either you don’t have time for this or it’s all useless, be aware that those are defense mechanisms. As long as you don’t have a train to catch, you can give yourself ten quiet minutes.
Deep breaths help, as does closing your eyes. Your mind does not have to become a perfect vacuum. There simply has to be enough space to allow some images or words to bubble up. Don’t chase them. Do imagine bubbles: let them rise, with ease, then let them go. See if something starts repeating. [For me, it’s been witches! For whatever reason, witches keep appearing in random tarot readings, in my email inbox, in conversations with friends.]
Once you notice a pattern or a repetition, or even just one single image or word that has some energy behind it (even the energy of resistance or fear), you might know exactly what to do. If not, jot down some notes. When does this message appear? What emotions are associated with it? What archetypes? What colors? What size is this thing you are feeling? Where is it in your body? What words are associated with the image? What images with the words? Most likely, once you’ve made these notes you’ll have a direction to explore, but if not, the final step is this: Pick a pronoun and write: “She is… They are… It is…” (whichever pronoun you chose) and then follow that with any associated or descriptive word from your notes above. [Such as, “She is red.”] Then freewrite a sentence to follow that. And another to follow that.
I hope this exercise helps you get in sync with yourself and start feeling unstuck. Happy writing!
*In this feature, I’m working with The Shining Tribe Tarot: Awakening the Universal Spirit, created by renowned Tarot scholar Rachel Pollack, who taught me that the Tarot “is a vehicle to remind yourself of what you already know.” If you want to know more about the deck and its images, or have your own Tarot practice, here are the links.