Starcat’s Favorites: Portals and Compassion

It’s that time of year when the veils between the worlds are thin. Personally, I feel like I’ve been going through a series of portals, starting with the eclipse at the New Moon. I’ve been noticing more ease and less struggle in my own body, mind, and spirit. My creativity has been flowing even more strongly than before, and my emotions feel lighter. I’m thankful.

Yet I’m aware that there are also wars going on in the world. And then comes another tragedy, a mass shooting, this one closer to home, here in Maine. It reminds me that everything happens at once: the joys and sorrows, creativity and rage, health and illness, birth and death, hope and despair.

There is always something horrible going on in the world, simultaneously with the beauty that is unfolding.

What helps me most is to tune deeply into compassion. It’s especially useful when feeling helpless. In this instance, I feel deep sympathy for the victims and their families, gratitude for all the amazing people lending their aid, and yes, also sorrow for the perpetrator, whose mental instability and who-knows-what life experiences led him to such awful choices. Embracing compassion and sending light, prayers, and healing can help us to become settled in our own energy systems at times of tragedy.

While political activism, donating to charities, and other outer-world actions can certainly help, it’s also key to honor your inner wellness. Feeling our feelings about things is essential. Then it’s time to release them and turn back towards the ways we are contributing each day to the goodness in the world.

Take good care of yourself. Use your somatic, magickal, and spiritual tools to tune in to your connection to the Divine. You’re a beloved child of the Multiverse.

Here are some interesting things from the web that I’ve discovered this month:

What does water have to do with manifesting? Check out this video.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Here’s a useful article about setting up a bullet journal to support you this November.

Have you ever heard of a “commonplace book?” I ran across a couple articles about them recently: one is connected with bullet journaling, another is specifically for visual artists. Intriguing…

Speaking of visual images, I get inspired by looking at interior design blogs and layouts. Not necessarily inspired to redecorate my own home, but just in general. I adore this room in particular! I can imagine one of my book’s characters, Winnie, loving this space…

Did you know that inspiration is perishable?

I’ll leave you with a comic about grief that I find rings quite true. Take good care of yourself out there.

Starcat’s Favorites: A Rollercoaster Ride

No, not a literal rollercoaster, although I do enjoy those. What I’m referring to is that I’ve been having quite the adventure this month! 

It was my birthday, and I had fun celebrating with family and friends. Some wonderful witchy folks also gathered with me for our 7th annual ritual for Yemaya’s Feast Day.

Then there was my book launch for The Elements of Creativity. What a wild whirlwind of a ride! I’ve received so much delightful support from my creative and entrepreneurial community. I’m thankful. The responses I’ve been getting about the book so far are overwhelmingly positive. This book is part of my mission to help other creatives bring forth their stories and wisdom, so it feels great to know that it’s now out there doing its sacred work. You can check it out and get your copy over here.

We’ve also reached the one-year anniversary of my Dad’s death, so I’m feeling tender and vulnerable (as is the rest of the family, especially my Mom). I found the perfect quote from Brene Brown, in her book Rising Strong, to sum up my experience with grief over the past year: 

“Owning our stories of heartbreak is a tremendous challenge when we live in a culture that tells us to deny our grief.” – Brene Brown

This goes for my grief for my sweet cat brothers, Percy and Merlin, as well – maybe even more so, as many people only acknowledge grief for humans who have departed. Cats are family, too, for me, and I feel their absence deeply.

Ah well. Life goes on, with its joys and sorrows, and before I know it, I’ll be hosting my next virtual writing retreat, Never Write Alone. Then we’ll have Halloween/Samhain, and be well into autumn. 

I’m grateful for the rituals and holidays that guide me around the Wheel of the Year, and the blessings of my beloved community to share them with each year. 

Here are some of my fun or interesting finds from the internet this month:

Speaking of grief, did you know that there’s a kind of grief that happens when you finish a big project?

I think perhaps we all need this WTF Tarot Spread.

On boundaries and how to protect your “inner garden.”

A friend told me about this “most beautiful twins in the world” article, and I found it inspiring in terms of imagining characters for my fantasy fiction.

More inspiration came from this look at the indoor decorating “color of the year.” So pretty! Along those same lines, this look at Erykah Badu’s studio was fun to watch.

How many steps do we need to take in a day for optimum health? Maybe not as many as you might think.

My wonderful biz sister wrote this terrific post about my new book (and why she gets support with her writing projects). The book also got a glowing review over here. Check it out!

Enjoy!

Starcat’s Favorites: End of Summer

I know, I know, I always go on about how much I love summer. It’s true, I do. But I also adore autumn. So the end of summer brings more loveliness.

This year it’s all a bit tricky. Not only because the weather has been weird, making for less swimming and other outdoor activities than usual. There are also lots of unpleasant anniversaries coming up, relating to my Dad’s death last September. The first family reunion without him, my first birthday without him, the date of his passing, and on and on. 

Also, our beloved Merlin LoveCat has disappeared. He’s 14 and a half, and has always been an independent fellow with a deep love of nature. We tearfully suspect he went on a walkabout over the rainbow bridge. Maybe he’s with his brother Percy, reunited in the Summerlands. I’ll write more when I can. It’s hard.

We all know it: grief is a bitch. A friend told me about compounded grief, which is what happens when you have multiple losses. After last year and this year, I think I’m under its spell. 

Even so, I’m blessed with a delightful family, the best friends ever, and a community of Thriving Artists who make me smile every day. I have books and Milton Lovecat and work that I truly enjoy. I’m endlessly grateful.

I’ve also got a big book launch coming up, which helps me divert my attention from my grief when I need a break.  

So yeah, I’m welcoming the final gorgeous days of summer and leaning into the autumn energies. Can you blame me?

Here are some recent finds on the web, in case you’re looking for some distraction of your own:

We finished watching Jane the Virgin and I absolutely loved it. I hadn’t realized that she’s a writer, too. I want to write a telenovela! Besides Jane, Rojelio is my favorite character.

There’s a lot of talk about AI (artificial intelligence) right now. Here are some thoughts about using it to support your manifesting practices.

I’m daydreaming of tropical vacations. Here’s an article about visiting Bermuda.

I’m reading Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower right now; it’s fantastic. Here’s a list of book recommendations for fantasy and sci-fi fans.

The Chani Nicholas astrology app is now available for Android and I’m super excited! I’ve been reading it every morning. Love it.

In September I’m going to join a few other witchy biz folks doing the Garbage Post Challenge. This is the podcast episode that describes what it is.

Sending you lots of love on your journey, especially if you’re under the spell of grief. We can do this.

Are You Missing Out on an Essential Nutrient?

I see it all the time. Friends and acquaintances whose lives are heavily scheduled, extremely full from sunrise to bedtime, and yet they feel like something is missing. Their routine is crushing their spirit under its heavy load. They almost never have time for self-care. They might try to fill that hole of need through alcohol, TV, or ice cream sundaes. They harden themselves and keep going, not sure how to get out of that rut.

Does this sound like you? You might not even know what you’re longing for.

What’s missing from the lives of so many people in our culture? It’s one of the basic nutrients for a healthy life: exercising your creativity.

Creativity is essential for optimum health, like brushing your teeth and eating your veggies.

At this point I can hear the protests begin. “I’m not really creative,” you might say. “That’s fine for artists and writers, but I just can’t do that stuff. I’m not talented.” A friend of mine, while in the midst of an amazingly creative conversation in which she reveals the fascinating workings of her Gemini mind, will routinely play the “I’m not creative” card. I’m not buying it.

Sure, you might not write novels, act in plays, or knit sweaters, but I’m positive that you’re creative. We all are.

Creativity is a part of being human. Whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, you’re creating your life all the time. Your problem-solving abilities, your likes and dislikes, the way you dress and decorate your home – these are all expressions of your innate creativity.

When you repress that part of your psyche, or devalue it, it’s like going too long without a good night’s sleep. You’re just not on your game, and you know there’s something more you need.

When you consciously make creativity part of your daily life, you notice the difference. Being a conscious creator is exquisitely fulfilling. Increasing your creative nutrition has benefits in all areas of your life – actively expressing your creativity is good for your body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

Expressing your creative side will keep you feeling and acting young. This can have a positive effect on your body. If you feel young, you’re more likely to skip, to dance, to take a swim in the lake. You’ll feel good about saying yes to playful activities that also involve physical exercise.

Creativity helps your mind stay nimble and flexible. You might have seen the recent studies showing that the most beneficial activity to prevent dementia in old age is dancing. Not just dancing by following rote moves, but freestyle dancing – which involves a whole lot of creativity, often in a split-second improvisational manner. There are many creative activities you can do that offer that type of thinking-on-your-feet, and they’re good for your mind.

Expressing your creativity also helps you surf the waves of your emotions more skillfully. You’re human, and you’re going to feel anger, grief, sorrow, disappointment, and other “negative” emotions. Whether due to fear, lack of time, or not knowing how to handle them; from time to time we simply push our strong emotions down, thinking we’ll deal with them later. Creativity is a healthy way of expressing stored emotions and moving through them. You can pour your most potent feelings into your chosen art, releasing them from your psyche.

Creativity helps you to be more connected with the spiritual side of life, no matter your belief system. Artists often acknowledge that their most potent creations seem to come through them. When you’re immersed in the moment of creation, you fall into a timeless space where things seem to just flow. You feel like you’re part of something bigger than your ordinary consciousness, and you are. You’re tapping into the energies of the cosmos, and you take that feeling with you back into your everyday life.

Creative expression brings more joy and laughter into your daily life, too. Playing is good for us, and it’s something we do too rarely. Finding a creative practice that you adore gives you an excuse to play, to laugh, to really enjoy yourself. This is a good thing. You can really feel those creative nutrients seeping in when you have yourself a big belly laugh or a fit of the giggles.

When you stop to think about it, you probably already have creative activities that you enjoy doing, or ones you’ve always wanted to try. What are the hobbies that you wish you had time for? What were your favorite things to do when you were a young child? Maybe you don’t even need to think about it, because you already have something in mind. Good!

Now that you know creativity is an essential nutrient for good health, there’s no excuse. Get started today! Find a creative activity that you can add to your day, and devote some time to it.

If you don’t know quite where to begin, enlist your imagination as your partner in the process. Start by playing some creative games, sketching or writing about a dream you had, or spending some time playing with a young child. You can ease into this, getting your creative muscles back into shape slowly.

Don’t worry about the outcome of your creative practice. You’re not taking that pottery class to come up with a new set of dishes, or making a scrapbook to impress your neighbors. Don’t take dance classes just so you can rock the recital (you might still do that, but it’s not the point!). Immerse yourself in the fun of being creative, the immediacy of the moment, and let your joyful feelings be the reward.

Trust that, over time, your creative expressions will help you feel better. You’ll thank yourself later. For now, allow yourself to enjoy your creative playtime!

(This article first appeared on Kind Over Matter).

Starcat’s Favorites: High Summer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! According to me, at least.

Although, like some people who struggle around the winter holidays, missing loved ones, I’ve been missing my Dad a lot this summer. I thought I’d be relatively okay until the milestones coming up in the fall, but no, not really. I had to remind myself that it’s been less than a year since he died, and so it makes sense that I’m still actively grieving.

On days when I’m not quite as sad, I’ve been trying to get out and enjoy some of my favorite summer activities. I’ve been to the beach several times, and have been swimming in various lakes and ponds. I attended a couple of great concerts: Dave Matthews Band and Michael Franti.

We haven’t yet gone on a picnic, but we have plans in motion. Soon we’ll be heading up to Quester’s family camp on the ocean for a few days.

August will bring birthdays and the family reunion, and more swimming. How’s your summer going? What are you looking forward to in the weeks to come?

Here are some fun finds from the internet for your perusal in the hammock, on the deck, or at the shore. Enjoy!

I’m not at all surprised that faerie tales may be much older than we’d previously thought.

A lovely money meditation from Jeannette Maw that feels more like a magickal spell to me.

Some beautiful thoughts from We’Moon about the upcoming Lammas holy day. “Something becomes unlocked, unloosed in our still tender hearts and lifts off howling in gratitude for what needs to thrive.” – Molly Remer

The journaling prompts in the Lammas article reminded me to let you know about my summer virtual retreat, which has a luxurious spa and journaling theme. It’s happening on August 12 & 13, 2023. Join us!

A friend shared this interesting article on luck – what it is and how to cultivate it.

Looking for some longer-form reads for your summer vacation? Here’s a list of the most popular recent fantasy novels.

For my fellow organizing geeks (aka Virgos), here’s a method for using your bullet journal to keep track of big projects.

Enjoy the warm and beautiful days of high summer!

Creativity for Empaths: 9 Ways to Flourish

Are you an empath?

Do you tend to know how someone is feeling – or that they’re feeling “off” – before they tell you? Can you read the energy of a room when you walk in? Are you overwhelmed by crowds? Do people confide in you, even when they don’t know you well?

If you’re not sure whether you’re an empath or not, you can take this quiz that my friend Jennifer Elizabeth Moore, author of Empathic Mastery, offers on her website.

Creatives quite often have at least some level of empathic connection. I suspect that’s because when you’re sensitive to energy, as most empaths are, you’re also more open to creative inspiration. Being an empath can be intense and make life more challenging, but it also brings creative gifts.

As a creative empath myself, I’ve come to know the tips & tricks that help empaths navigate creative expression. Here are 9 ways to be a Thriving Artist if you’re also an empath:

  1. Accept your gifts. Because we’ve been pegged as “different” for most of our lives, empaths can be a bit, um, insecure. As a creative being, self-doubt can become a crutch that keeps us from pursuing our passions. Release old patterns of doubt and accept that your creative gifts and talents are real. How? Read on…
  2. Do your inner work. The best way to become comfortable in your own skin, and more secure, is to do your shadow work. See a skilled therapist or coach. Explore and release old patterns and beliefs. Start a daily spiritual practice, if you don’t have one already.
  3. Make your day job easier. It can take extra energy for empaths to navigate in this hectic world. That leaves less time for creative pursuits. The best thing you can do is to make your creativity part of your daily work. Do what you love, for a living. I realize that’s not accessible (or not immediately, anyway) for some of us. If you have to work a day job that’s boring or doesn’t light you up, allow yourself to “phone it in.” In other words, consider giving less than 100 percent of your energy to your work, and save some for your creativity.
  4. Create a space of one’s own. Having a place that’s all yours is a huge benefit for empaths. You’ll thrive without having to block or merge with others’ energies. If an entire room isn’t available to you, create a smaller sanctuary. I wrote and worked in the corner of my dining room for years, and I made that area my own. Use crystals, artwork, music, and comfortable pillows to make your space sacred.
  5. Find some fun “unnecessary projects” and dabble in other media. This helps you keep your creative magick flowing. There will be times when you feel stuck. When this happens to me, I switch to a different project. While writing my forthcoming book The Elements of Creativity, I also catalogued my entire personal library of books. Not for any particular reason, other than that it pleased me and kept me focused. It was a classic “unnecessary project.” I also took time to do some art journaling and make greeting cards. These activities allowed me to get my creative juices flowing, so that when I returned to my book manuscript, I could get back into the groove.
  6. Isolate yourself from similar works. Being an empath can sometimes make you a chameleon. You might be susceptible to copying others’ voice, style, or ideas, without even realizing it. When you’re actively working on a creation, avoid similar genres. Get your inspiration from other media.
  7. Enjoy nature time and Artist Dates. Taking time away from other people and recharging is key for empaths. It also helps Thriving Artists to refill our cups. Take time out in nature regularly. Get some exercise. Go on Artist Dates. Take time for solitude, just you and your journal. It will help.
  8. Don’t tell the naysayers during the process. You’re especially vulnerable to other people’s feelings and judgements. If you have sceptics, naysayers, or pessimists in your close circle, don’t involve them in your creations right away. I didn’t tell my Dad I was writing my first book until it had already been sent to the publisher. I knew he’d doubt my ability to do it – not because he didn’t believe in me, but because writing a whole book is a huge endeavor, and no one else in our family had done it. Later, he became one of my biggest cheerleaders.
  9. Surround yourself with other creatives. While you don’t want naysayers questioning you, it is helpful to have people encouraging you along the way. I find that other creative people not only understand what you’re going through as you create, but they’re especially good at cheering you on. Also, their creative energies will inspire and motivate you. You might even want to join a creative virtual co-working space, like the Parallel PlayDates – this will give you creative community, inspiration, and accountability, from the comfort of your own space.

What are your favorite ways to thrive as an empathic creator? What were your results from the empathic quiz? Share your own tips and tricks below in the comments.

Starcat’s Favorites: Summer Is Coming

I wasn’t sure what to write about in my favorites summary this month, and then I received a monthly wrap-up from Nisha of Rainbow Plant Life. She writes about the food, media, and other things she’s been enjoying lately, and I loved it. So this is my version.

I’m on sort of a health kick with my reading material. I’ve been devouring Wild Feminine by Tami Lynn Kent, which I read for my spiritual book club. It’s excellent. I also bought Fast Like a Girl by Dr. Mindy Pelz at a recommendation from a biz sister friend. 

In terms of fictional stories, I read The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, which centers around art and history, artists and mental illness. It was a bit slow to start, but very well written.  I enjoyed it, and the ending was satisfying. I’m trying to read Sandcastles by Luanne Rice but I’m having trouble getting into it fully.

BlackLion and I are watching Jane the Virgin, which we’d never seen before. It’s silly and amusing. We’re also watching the new Muppet series about Dr. Teeth and Electric Mayhem. Again, lighter fare. He and I went to the movies recently and saw The Guardians of the Galaxy part 3, which we both loved. My mermaid sisters and I are going to do a watch party to view the new Netflix documentary on mermaids!

I’m hosting a workshop soon about writing nonbinary characters. The idea came from a question one of my clients had about how to use they/them pronouns in fiction without confusing readers. I reached out to an online friend with personal and professional experience in this area, and they agreed to do a workshop. You can find out the details and sign up over here (there’s no cost, and yes, it will be recorded).

My Mom and I found a new-to-us local cafe, Verbena, that’s a farm-to-table type of place. I loved their spicy grilled tofu sandwich, and their Portuguese rolls are delicious. I’ve been eating out more now that the weather is good and people are out and about, doing things. I’ve enjoyed Indian food, pub fare, and a women’s potluck where the magick worked – all the flavors of the various salads and side dishes complemented one another exquisitely.

BlackLion and I have been getting back to the yoga studio in person more, too, and that’s such a treat. I love Samudra – if you’re in southern Maine, I highly recommend it.

Random thought – I want to put up my hammock. It’s time for some outdoor reading and journaling sessions. I love this time of year (the lilacs in the picture are from our front yard).

Perhaps because I’ve been so busy with other things, I don’t have that many links from the web for you this time. But here are a few gems to check out.

Feeling messy and inconsistent with your journaling practice? No problem!

I’ve been listening to this abundance meditation and reprogramming my thoughts.

Jeannette Maw recommends using flashcards to help with manifesting.

Enjoy your weekend!

Why You Need a Creative Community

What do you think of when you picture yourself writing a book? If you’re like most people, you think of long solo sessions at your laptop, at home – or possibly in a coffee shop, for variety. 

The thing is, if you want to write a book but you’re not already doing it, that image of the solo writing sessions might actually be slowing you down.

What I’ve discovered in my five years as a book midwife is that most creatives, yes, even the introverts, crave (and thrive in) community. 

Even the introverts? Yes – hear me out. In a creative community, especially with like-minded folks, there isn’t the usual small talk and awkwardness that turns us off.

Instead we dive right in to the deep end, talking about new story ideas, odd dreams we had, what we’ve been reading, numerology, or any number of weird fun things. 

For three years now, I’ve been running the Parallel PlayDates. It’s a virtual co-working session on Zoom where I take everyone on a guided meditation at the start, we play with a short writing prompt, and then we each do whatever it is we brought along to play with. There’s time for shares – what we’re working on, what messages we got in the meditation, new inspiration from the prompt, how life is going – and that’s when the magick happens. There’s so much creative energy. 

The other magick is that people are getting things done, while having fun. Book chapters, yes, but also blog posts, emails for their business, afghans, edits, and more.

Having a community of Thriving Artists where you can show up each week, just as you are, and be not only accepted but seen and understood is powerful medicine.

If you want to write a book, or create any kind of long-form creative project, think about your own creative community. Do you have one? Do you want one? What would it feel like? Would you wish to join an existing group, or create your own? Are there people in your life that you’d invite in? 

Maybe you’re ready for an in-person experience, and can seek out a local writing group. I like the virtual realm because it feels inclusive – there are creatives from many different geographical areas and backgrounds. 

The Parallel PlayDates are a fun combination of witchy spirituality and creative focus. That’s the flavor over here, and I invite you to come and check out a session. I’d love to see this type of thing replicated all across the globe, so you should also feel free to take the idea and make it your own.

When creatives gather in community, the energy is empowered and expanded. It feels so free to be in a space where people get what you’re up to and cheer you on. It’s also useful to have the accountability of showing up and actually doing the work. 

I’ve recently had the inspiration to change some of my offers and refresh my business overall, but I already know I’m keeping the Parallel PlayDates. Why? Because I’m right there with the attendees, writing, editing, and doing other creative stuff each week. I get so much out of them.

What does your inner wisdom say about my offer to join in? If your Muses are nodding vigorously and your heart sings a little song, follow their lead and come on in. The water’s fine.

Starcat’s Favorites: Balance

It’s that time of year when I have to pay closer attention than usual to balance. What do I mean by that? The balancing postures in my yoga practice?

Well, yes, I do love a good tree pose, but I mean balance in terms of activity and rest. Everyone is coming out of hibernation, the weather is warmer, and my weekends are starting to fill up with social events.

That’s all well and good, but as an ambivert who leans toward the introvert side of the spectrum, I need my down time, too.

Just last month, glancing at the calendar, my activities have included: two birthday celebrations (one at a singalong piano bar), yoga classes in the studio, the first in-person meeting of my women’s group in many months, a Celebration of Life for my cousin’s husband, a Full Moon celebration with friends, family D&D sessions, and of course the usual weekly family dinners. And more!

Today we’re going to breakfast and a book sale, and I look forward to integrating some new books into my home library and then settling down with a stack of them. Which reminds me – I’ve finished my book cataloguing project! Here are some stats, as promised. Drumroll, please…

Physical books in our home library: 1,928

I also have 195 e-books in my digital library.

Here are some interesting tidbits to check out:

This article has such a powerful message. There’s a lot of truth here.

A useful video on how to make magickal sigils – I tried out the second method and it came out great.

A friend was telling me about this website where you can order healthier candies. I haven’t tried them yet, but they look delicious.

Here’s a new tune by Jason Mraz, with uplifting lyrics. Fun!

I had another guest post published on Mike Dooley’s website – my ninth. Click here to read my article.

Enjoy your day, and remember the importance of balance.

Starcat’s Favorites: Yoga Practice

As I write this, the calendar has officially switched to Spring, and the Sun is in Aries. This is our sassy Aries-born catten (still a kitten but almost a cat), Milton LoveCat.

We’re having that weather that makes you wish it was warm out – but it isn’t, truly, not for me, anyway. But I do love the pretty sunshine, the birdsong, and the snow melting.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most consistently this year so far is my hatha yoga practice. I’ve been doing a daily yoga practice since January 2nd, at home using the excellent yoga challenges by Yoga with Adriene. The two years prior to that I’d gone in and out of doing yoga regularly. With this renewed commitment, I’m starting to notice my strength and flexibility improve. I’m so thankful for yoga (physical and the other branches as well).

My internet reading list this month is more of a “to be read” list.

I’ve mostly been reading paper books recently. I read Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, a wild ride.

I’ve already read five of the books (or series) mentioned here – and judging by the high-quality recommendations, I have five new adventures to look forward to acquiring and devouring.

Bookwyrm side note: I think I actually like The Starless Sea more than The Night Circus. What? It’s all about books and has cats…

This Chani-website article on astrology and the generations is quite fascinating.

If you want to be a regular journaler but aren’t yet, I recommend Susannah Conway’s work. This is a new course that looks soooo good.

Okay, these are my “bookmarked to read soon” links – I can’t endorse them yet as I haven’t fully read or listened to them. But this is where my interests are tending this season, apparently! Hee hee.

That’s all for now. I’m either going back into second hibernation or venturing out bundled up to feel the Spring breezes. We’ll see.