Robots Need Words Too: NaNoWriMo Days 1-4

I miss coffee shop writing sessions…

NaNoWriMo, November 2020, DAY 1 – 0 words

Dear Diary,

Recently I looked back over last November’s blog series I wrote about doing National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). It was actually quite useful to me. I was reminded that I did most of my writing in the evenings, quite often doing sprints with BlackLion and others.

I have some clients and community members who are doing NaNoWriMo for the first time, and I figured perhaps this will inspire them on their journey, too.

On the very first day, though, I wrote absolutely no words (well, beyond my journaling practice, which is separate).

I’m recovering from an infection that started in my right eyelid (yep, pretty weird and random, eh?). On the first day of NaNoWriMo, I was tired, grumpy, and out of sorts. Not the place you want to be in when writing a novel.

So I didn’t.

I didn’t even beat myself up over it – I didn’t have the energy for that, either.

DAY 2 – 2132 words

Dear Diary,

I felt much better today. I mean, I’m still tired and resting and healing – but no grumpiness and a lot more mental clarity.

Even so, I didn’t get to my novel until after dinner. Around 8:15pm, I opened up Scrivener (the software I’m using) and Discord (I’m not sure I can explain Discord, but it’s a chat-based communication platform, I guess?).

I went to the channel where Maine NaNo happens, and some writers were doing sprints together – one of whom is a friend of mine.

They have a new thing this year, a “bot” called Sprinto. It lets you send commands that start the sprint, and then it does the timing for you. So cool! I love having a neat robot thing to run the show.

It means we can do sprints anytime, even when the admins aren’t there. So convenient!

DAY 3 – 2126 words

Dear Diary,

BlackLion and I sprinted together this evening. The Discord channel was pretty quiet when we got there, but by the time we were done, there were a handful of us.

I love doing writing sprints. They force me to put the editor brain completely aside and just write. 

That said, I worked on this one scene that just goes on and on and on… I think there’s too much talking and not enough doing in it. Although I did leave it on a bit of an exciting cliffhanger at the end.

It’ll all get fixed later, during the editing process.

After we were done with our writing, we watched The Good Place. We’re on season 3 and it’s just hilarious.

DAY 4 – 2384 words

Dear Diary,

This evening after dinner, BlackLion and I joined the Maine NaNo crew for a scheduled write-in. It officially went from 6 to 8pm, but we were there from about 6:45 until after 8.

I wrote a bunch of words.

None of the writing I’m doing currently is planned in advance. I was sick with an infection during the last part of October, so I’ve done literally no planning ahead this time around.

Yup, at the moment, I’m a “pantser.” (Which means writing by the seat of one’s pants, without a plan).

I might try to plan a bit over the weekend. I usually like to have at least some solid plot points to aim for as I make my way through the story.

But then again, maybe I won’t.

Tonight after we wrote, we watched the new episode of The Mandalorian, followed by more of The Good Place.

How’s your writing going so far this month? I know there are a lot of distractions right now, but I’m doing my best to focus on the things that matter most and letting the rest go.

Using NaNoWriMo for Non-Fiction: 7 Tips

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that National Novel Writing Month (also known as November) is something I enjoy. I’ve done it for the past several years now, using it to try my hand at writing contemporary fantasy.

Most of my writing clients, though, write non-fiction. “If you’re not writing an actual novel,” they wonder, “can you still do NaNoWriMo?”

While NaNoWriMo is focused on fiction and its particular challenges – like character development and world-building – the container that it create can indeed be used for other genres of writing.

Here are seven tips on how to use the community momentum of NaNoWriMo to propel your book or other writing projects forward:

  1. The magick of NaNoWriMo lies in the word count goal. Use some kind of software that has a word count function. This month, it’s all about the words and getting them onto the page. Make it easier for yourself by letting the robots tally them up for you.
  2. Enlist your family’s help for the month. Get some extra support with chores and social obligations. Here’s a handy video you can share with your peeps.
  3. Try a new writing technique, like timed writing – the Pomodoro method works well, as do word sprints. Or try some channeling. Perhaps write via voice memo or longhand (though you’ll need to transcribe them so you can get your word count in!).
  4. Don’t edit what you’ve written. At all. Not this month!
  5. Have a fresh brainstorming session to generate plenty of ideas to write about. Even if you’ve done this before, or have a working outline, take this opportunity to load in some new anecdotes, client stories, examples, or techniques to share.
  6. Infuse your book draft with some fiction-style writing. Add some dialogue, describe a place or situation, or flesh out a character who figures in your book (it might even be you!).
  7. Participate in some of the virtual happenings during the month – revel in the extra camaraderie and accountability. Make some new writer friends. No one is going to reject you because your book project is a different genre. The NaNoWriMo crowd is very supportive and encouraging.

If you’re wondering whether or not to jump into NaNoWriMo this November, I say go for it! Even if you don’t complete the goal, you’ll most likely write more than you would have otherwise. And it’s super fun!

Want more writing tips and ideas? Sign up for my email list over here and join a community of Thriving Artists.

What’s Stopping You From Doing The Thing?

You know the thing I mean. The one that is of deep priority to your soul…yet you never quite seem to get to it.

It gets continually moved forward on your (written or mental) to-do list.

It could be a creative project, like writing a book, starting a band, or taking a class in that new art technique you’d love to try. It could be something like asking that special someone on a date.

Maybe it’s cleaning and de-cluttering your room.

You’re not even sure WHY it’s not getting done.

Procrastination is tricky.

Sometimes it points to the timing being off. Your inner being is wise, and will guide you gently astray if the time for Doing The Thing isn’t right.

At other times, though, procrastination points to some kind of inner blockage. It might be a fear (of success or failure, perhaps) or a deep-seated old belief. It might be the notion that your work has to be perfect.

It could be that the project in question feels too big, too overwhelming, or too important. It’s intimidating.

Maybe you’re just tired.

No matter the reason, it’s best not to force yourself to do that thing. Forcing the issue just leads to unfinished projects and resentment.

How about a gentle process of inquiry, instead?

Try this: grab your journal and a pen. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Use this prompt: “I really want to do [The Thing], but…”

Free-write your answers. Keep writing until the timer goes off – even if you’re just starting with “I don’t know” over and over. Try not to overthink your answers. Let them flow forth onto the page.

Often you’ll surprise yourself with the underlying reasons for NOT pursuing that project that you thought you wanted so much.

Once the hidden inner blockages are out in the light, they tend to lose their charge. Seeing them renders them less potent.

A useful next step is to break that thing down into smaller steps, and add those – one at a time – to your to-do list. Start slowly. Baby steps toward your goals totally count, and are more sustainable than trying to tackle a big project all at once.

Try it, and see what happens.

If your big thing is a book or other writing project, I encourage you to join my mailing list. When you do, you’ll get a free copy of my “What’s Stopping You?” quiz. The quiz will help you narrow down some of the reasons you’re not writing, and how you might begin shifting them.

Starcat’s Favorites: Daily Spiritual Practice

The last couple of weeks have been like a rollercoaster. Lots of ups and downs – both personally and collectively.

My astrologer friends tell me that, given what’s going on in the stars, it’s to be expected. This is a time of big transitions.

I’m so thankful that I always have my daily spiritual practice to keep me centered (or as centered as possible).

My current practice includes meditation, alchemical journaling, and Tarot cards. I also write down my dreams, and I’m keeping a Pray Rain Journal. I spend time in the morning and again in the evening on my spiritual well-being. It’s non-negotiable.

My practice is like a rock. It’s always there, whether I’m having a rough day or a fantastic one.

One of my other favorite ways to stay centered is, of course, reading (along with enjoying art and music). Here are some interesting tidbits I’ve found recently:

Celebrating the season of Autumn.

5 reasons to read fantasy – not that I needed any.

September is the month to celebrate some of my favorite Goddesses!!! Learn more about the Mothers of the Sacred Waters and my beloved Yemaya.

Check out this amazing art exhibit on the streets of Portland (Maine).

Need an emotional boost? Try some uplifting music. I loved this Tiny Desk concert with some amazing musicians.

A friend in my mastermind group recommended Nick Breau as a helpful Law of Attraction coach – and he offers a free course on the art of manifesting.

Getting plenty of protein (but not too much) helps keep your immune system strong.

This is a long but very interesting article on the Victim Triangle. Super helpful for shadow work…

A comic book guide to the bardo, the Tibetan Buddhist afterlife. Because, well, why not?

Enjoy your weekend!

Why I’m a Druid by D&D Rules

Do you play that imagination game where you figure out what you’d be in a certain scenario? For example, which Hogwarts House you’d be sorted into (Ravenclaw, of course), and that sort of thing?

Or is that just me? I love those little sorting and labeling quizzes, though I try to resist them now since they have the reputation for bringing computer viruses.

If you’ve played Dungeons & Dragons, you’ll know that the magickal-type characters are divided into neat little categories. Priests & priestesses get their power from a deity of some sort. Mages develop their arcane power from studying and spellcraft. There are other variations, but those are the basics.

In the game, you can’t be both. That would be too “OP” (overpowering), as the gamers say. Heh.

But I feel like I have elements of both. I call myself a priestess, because my power definitely flows forth from the Divine energy of All That Is, and more specifically through the archetype of the Goddess. However, I do study and practice magick. I love spells and rituals. I’m a fae scholar of the mysteries. I’ve spent the middle part of this year expanding my studies of Western occultism, and I love it.

In D&D, the druids are considered a subset of priest. Their power comes from Nature, and that resonates with me. Also, in terms of historical druidical practices, my heritage is mainly from the Celtic isles. So chances are good that some of my blood ancestors were druids. Also, I can talk with animals pretty easily.

However, the practices of modern druids, while beautiful, aren’t quite my thing. For one, I’m not really a gardener or outdoorsperson. I love Nature, but I’m most at home in a cozy room surrounded by books and crystals – which sounds more like a mage, right?

If I were being judged by the rules of D&D, I guess druid is the closest fit. But I’d be the one with an untended garden, nestled in the crook of a tree reading a book and taking notes with a quill pen (made from a feather that a bird gifted to me).

What about you? How does your magick manifest? What D&D character class best describes your approach to living your life? Which Hogwarts House is yours? Inquiring (playful) minds want to know…

9 Books to Inspire Us As We Build a New Society

I’ve been thinking about all the people I know who are actively working toward building a new, more conscious society. There are many ways to do this work.

One woman runs a program to feed the hungry in New York City, assembling and delivering bags and bags of donated food each week. Another helps empaths who feel immobilized and overwhelmed learn to use their gifts rather than be used by them. A healer practices and teaches a powerful technique for eliminating chronic pain. Those are just three examples from a long, long list.

We’re each doing our own part to craft positive change. It’s like making a quilt. We each bring our own colorful, unique square of fabric, and together we’re piecing together a gorgeous design.

Sometimes it can be hard to envision what the result will look like.

Luckily, we have among us visionary writers (and other creatives) who can help us out with a bird’s eye view – and stories, of course.

Here are nine inspiring utopian books that will keep you inspired as you do the challenging and fulfilling work of changing the world.

City of Refuge by Starhawk. This is a sequel to her novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, which is on my list of all-time favorite stories. I most highly recommend the whole series (there’s a prequel, too, called Walking to Mercury). Starhawk skillfully shows how a society based on magick, equality, and social justice might look and feel.

Always Coming Home by Ursula K. LeGuin. This book purports to be an anthropological text about the Kesh. She’s created an entire culture, living in harmony with the land in a post-apocalyptic future. It’s complete with myths, symbols, and even jokes. It’s quite amazing.

The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker. She’s another of my top favorite authors and this book weaves in many elements of a more conscious society. Walker also takes us into the exploration of past lives and the need for ancestral healing. And, there are big cats.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. This is the only non-fiction book on this list, because I’m deliberately focusing on story and seeing the big picture. But the author’s focus on stories in her essays is both poetic and uplifting.

Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. This is a fun and rollicking ride through crazy worlds full of myth, magick, and serendipity. I resonate with this way of experiencing reality. We need a little wild chaos in our new society. It’s essential for creativity.

The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant. My favorite thing about this book is how the community members care for one another. It also incorporates the non-physical (the life of our nighttime dreams) with physical reality.

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach. This book brings magic and miracles into the realm of everyday life – where they belong. It’s a lovely retelling of some of Western culture’s myths that have become twisted and judgmental over time.

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. In this fun adventure story, Redfield illustrates and integrates ancient wisdom and New Age philosophies. It’s a glimpse into how we can relate with one another and our surroundings with more conscious awareness.

The Oversoul Seven Trilogy by Jane Roberts. The channeled Seth books had a profound impact on the way I see the world. Jane Roberts put it into a fictional setting that, much like Starhawk, vividly illustrates how the philosophies might actually play out on Earth.

When you take a break from your activism and your callings, relax with an uplifting book. It’ll give you hope, inspire you, and send you back feeling refreshed and renewed. Enjoy!

Standing for Social Justice and Equality

I consider myself an ally to people of color.
In the past, I didn’t often write about it publicly because I hesitated to offend – not offend racists, who cares? – I mean I don’t want to offend the very allies I wish to support.
But I want to talk about it here, because it’s vital to keep our work for social justice and equality front and center. This is not a passing trend or just a current event.
Racism is abhorrent.
Humanity should know better by now. Obviously we don’t. Let’s stop this bullshit.
I’m not pretending to have any answers. I’m a white woman from Maine. I’m not going to detail the things I’m personally doing, even though this is my blog, because it’s tiresome, it sounds defensive – and this isn’t about me.
It’s about treating people with compassion and fairness. It’s about justice. It’s about this new society we’re building. It’s about using our magick and power-from-within to craft lasting change.
I’ve written about my feminism before, and how I’m a bit queer, but social justice is also a key part of the rebuilding. It’s a life or death matter for many of our fellow human beings.
I’m writing this post because back in May, some of my friends & acquaintances who happen to be people of color posted saying that white allies need to speak up and show up. I did it then, on social media – but I don’t think it’s a one-time thing.
This is ongoing work. It’s a team effort.
So – I’m here. I love you. I’m so deeply sorry that these horrible things are still happening.
I also wanted to share some resources that are useful if you’re new to this work or just need some fresh ideas:
A list of anti-racism resources for white people.
A thoughtful dialogue on anti-racism work.
An anti-racism reading list. More books and resources.
For my fellow Pagans, an online workshop coming up at the end of this month.
Sending big blessings your way!

On Memory and De-Fragging Your Brain

Since 1997, I’ve been chronicling my life with a short “daily log” entry in my journal. This habit started as part of a daily spiritual practice that went along with a study of the Tarot. It serves another function, though, which is to keep track of things that I find easy to forget.

I don’t have a good memory – or not in a traditional sense. I tend to live in the present moment, and also in my imagination, which doesn’t seem to leave room for much else.

I’m a Virgo, so I keep a lot of lists, and I’m good at organizing, so I can usually find the information I need. Actually, my former boss and mentor used to think I had a great memory, because I could answer his questions about when a particular radio show started or when we hired a new music host – but really I was just good at looking up the answer in my comprehensive filing system.

Over time, I’ve let go of seeing my “poor memory” as a liability. I think it actually helps my creative process.

Because I don’t bother trying to retain the details of where we went last summer or what I was thinking in 4th grade or when we purchased what vehicle, I have more brain space for new ideas and creations. When I think of some task I need to remember, I immediately write it in my bullet journal, so I don’t have to hold it in my head.

When I forget to do that, and try to hold a bunch of random things in my memory, I feel cluttered.

It’s like the “defragging” of a computer’s hard drive. Have you seen this? It’s visually very appealing. All the little bits of data scattered around the computer’s mind get organized (by color! – or that’s how it looks on the screen) and filed like books in a tidy library.

This leaves a whole bunch of open space for…whatever arises. I love that feeling. The spaciousness of mind encourages creative thoughts to flourish. 

Writing down my daily activities (capturing the past) and tasks yet undone (preparing for the future) makes room for this present moment, right now – which wise teachers say is the only real time that we have.

Besides writing things down in order to free up mind space, daily meditation also helps encourage mental spaciousness. It brings the ability to focus in the now, and the non-attachment to the monkey mind’s chatter.

Releasing our default mode of focusing on the past (whether from nostalgia or regret) and the future (whether fearfully or in excited anticipation) frees us. It allows us to connect more deeply with our inner source. That’s where the wellspring of creativity resides.

Looking for more mental energy to use on your creative projects? Try de-fragging your brain.

Starcat’s Favorites: Magickal Staycation

As much as I love to travel, I’m currently not minding having to take a “staycation” this week instead of a more traditional vacation (thanks, 2020). Why?

Well, first of all, I love summer in Maine. I’m so blessed to live in a place of natural beauty, with easy access to beaches, lakes, mountains, and other gorgeous places. The weather is even cooperating!

Also, I’m taking this WEALTH alchemy course that’s rocking my world. I have a stack of books, a new Tarot deck, and lots of (live and recorded) workshops at my fingertips. Part of me just wants to camp out in the hammock and read and study. Seriously.

Plus, we have three family birthdays this week to celebrate! So there’s birthday shopping and baking to do. The raspberries are ripe and ready for picking. There are plenty of tomatoes available to make a big batch of salsa.

So right now, a staycation is just the thing.

Here are some fun resources I’ve been enjoying this month. Happy reading!

Ooh, yes. I’m feeling this. Preach it, sister!

I like this take on the dangers of spiritual bypassing in this time of radical change. Also: you can trust your joy. These two articles, taken together, might seem like a paradox. To me, though, they’re just two sides of the same coin. You can help more people when you’re allowing yourself joy and pleasure than when you’re in a mode of constant anger and stress.

Gratitude can help in so many ways. This is my most recent guest post for Kind Over Matter.

Looking for something good to read? Here’s a list of black sci-fi and fantasy authors to check out. Also, reading is good for you! But we knew that, right?

How about some new recipes? These look so yummy…

Remember to grab a copy of my new book, Follow the Ebb & Flow: the Law of Attraction & the Tides of Life, co-written with BlackLion.

Enjoy the waning days of summer!

Writing with the Moon’s Phases

I’ve been keeping track of the moon’s phases, and how they affect me and my energy, for a long time now.

Applying it to my creativity in particular has been a more recent nuance that helps me plan my projects more effectively. It also makes writing more fun.

When you tap into the moon’s energy and flow with it, your writing (or other creative work) will be easier. It’s as simple as that.

You might have no problem with the common understanding that the energies are more frantic when the moon is full. But when you dive deeper, and begin to observe the more subtle phases of the moon throughout each month, you can take this wisdom further.

Here’s a brief overview of the moon’s phases and my experience with writing during them:

Dark of the Moon: This is the couple of days just before the New Moon. I find it to be a time of rest and reflection. I don’t normally write much at the dark of the moon – beyond some venting in my personal journal. My cup feels empty.

New Moon: I can feel the shift when the moon begins to wax once again. Fresh ideas begin to trickle in, but I’m still not in full-on creative mode.

Waxing Crescent: Seeing that first slim crescent moon in the sky inspires me! Now I’m more in the flow, and writing comes more easily. I’m back to my usual writing schedule.

First Quarter: This is a time of balance. I’m writing productively, but I also need to make sure I get out into the world and keep the inspiration flowing. It’s a good phase for making sure you get some time in nature, and visit with people who inspire you.

Waxing Gibbous: I’m on fire! The lunar energies keep me creating. I often add other types of creativity to my repertoire –  making new playlists, working on scrapbooks, taking photos. My writing is really moving forward.

Full Moon: This is my personal power phase. I’m able to write, play, work, celebrate – all the things! If I have a big project that needs my energy poured into it, scheduling blocks of time during the Waxing Gibbous and Full Moon phases is a smart move. Some people find the Full Moon’s energies too chaotic, but I like it.

Waning Gibbous: This moon phase is associated with communication, teaching, and learning. It’s a good time to share your work in progress, or collaborate with another creative person. My writing tends to be steady, but not as prolific as it is during the waxing phases.

Last Quarter: Again we’re at a balance point, but this time moving toward the ebb of lunar energy. It’s a useful time to take stock of how things are going with your project. I like to look over what I’ve written and update my outline to see what still needs to be added.

Waning Crescent: As we ebb toward the Dark of the Moon once again, my writing tends to slow down. I take this as a time to go inward and reflect. It’s also a good time to learn new things, read, and otherwise take in new input that will help you grow as a person, and thus as a creator.

A new aspect that I’ve recently added to my attention to lunar phases is to keep track of which astrological signs the moon is in, thanks to the WEALTH alchemy course I’m taking. It’s fascinating stuff. There’s a phone app called iLuna that makes it super easy to keep track of moon phases and astrological signs.

Want to know more about the moon’s 8 phases and the energies associated with each one? BlackLion and I wrote extensively about it in our new book, Follow the Ebb & Flow: the Law of Attraction & the Tides of Life. You can get your copy (paperback or ebook) on Amazon.