The Bardo, the Bridge, and the Shadow from Kim Krans Wild Unknown Archetypes

Inspiration

Daily writing practice is great, but what happens when you don’t have an idea? Or there are too many ideas competing to get on the page and your brain locks up? A lot of writers turn to prompts: a word, a phrase, sometimes an entire scenario that can help you get started. This makes it easy to jump on that early momentum and keep going.

I like cards. I don’t know where the obsession started, but the ritual of mixing and drawing and turning over cards is powerful for me. I have several tarot decks, a set of moon cards, and round archetype cards; each provides a set of images, stories in their own right, that can be used for inspiration.

One card can be sufficient for a writing prompt, but on days where I have a little more time and energy it can be fun to take several cards and weave their meanings together into a larger story. The images are rich enough that we can leave the guidebooks aside and focus instead on what is happening in each picture. If you can’t see anything coherent, try moving cards around. Be as simple or complex as you like. As soon as you feel any sort of idea moving in your mind, start writing and see where it takes you.

If you are a seasoned card reader, use the meanings you have learned to your advantage. Lean into any personal connections you have with individual cards, let associations carry you away, and get as much of it onto the page as you can. Practice is allowed to be messy! I have to fight my overwhelming urge to scratch neat lines of cursive into my notebook, but my scratches and misspellings tell me where I had the most energy, where my ideas outpaced my pen.

No cards? No problem! There are endless prompts available online, and communities on social media that offer regular writing challenges, so you can practice while fostering connections and friendships. I’ve also found another great bit of advice in Writing Down the Bones: Goldberg suggests taking down any interesting ideas you have for prompts and keeping them in your writing notebook, to give yourself a jumping-off point if you find yourself blanking down the road.

Another good idea is to commit to a specific time limit. It doesn’t have to be much, you can start with a few minutes to put yourself at ease. This encourages you to put a bit of effort into it; without a time limit, we might get out a few sentences, decide it’s too hard, and go make a cup of tea. Better yet, bring the cup of tea to your writing space, set a timer (on your phone, web browser, or get a cheap one to keep on your desk), and don’t stop until it goes off. When it does, you can stop to consider the writing, or you can take a short break and set another timer for yourself. Repeat as long as you have time and energy, find out what time limit you can commit to and how frequently.

The important thing is to write and see what comes out. A lot of my notebook lately has musings on the past (I am working on autobiographical fiction), complaints of boredom, and one interesting daydream about a plum. That might become something later. If you write nothing but FUCKFUCKFUCK or I don’t know what I’m doing, there is still value in it! You have conquered the blank page and transferred words from your mind to the physical world, and there is magic in that.

Nine of Cups: Happiness

I have written a few hundred words of Destiny over the weekend. It’s not a brilliant start, but it’s something, and I’m proud of it.

I wanted to give myself a chance to try something else. A little diversion that could become a regular way of practicing without necessarily adding to a long-term project.

I have a deck of Tarot cards (the Thoth deck) and I enjoy the imagery of the cards and the meanings behind them. Tonight, I decided to pull one and use it as a writing prompt. I drew the Nine of Cups: Happiness. I went with this line of the meaning: Happiness almost perfect but perhaps temporary.

nine of cups

Here’s what I came up with:

Vera raised the champagne flute to her lips and sipped delicately as the crowd burst into applause all around her, then raised their own flutes in a toast of her victory. She lowered the glass and took her seat next to Edmund, patting his knee. He replied with a warm smile and leaned to whisper in her ear, “They all love you, you know.”

She brushed her lips over his cheek and whispered back, “Only so long as the drinks keep flowing. I should go check–”

Edmund clapped a hand to her back, swiftly but gently. “Dear, you have done enough work. Sit back and enjoy your celebration, please. You deserve it.”

Vera frowned, but acknowledged his point. “Shall we dance, love?”

He rose and took her hands in his. “Anything you like, dear. It’s your night.”

They spun and whirled about the dance floor, exchanging pleasantries with couples as they passed. They swayed to the strings, letting the melodies carry them across the checkered marble.

“What next?” he asked her as they shuffled their feet to a more jaunty tune. “What new conquests lie in store for you?”

“Oh, Edmund,” she said, “do you honestly think I’m already plotting my next move?”

He took her hand and they spun around one another. “Not at all. You’re always three moves ahead, my love.”

She smiled beatifically at him as they turned, back-to-back, performing mirrored movements out of sight of one another. When they turned to face one another again, she gave him a quick peck, barely breaking the rhythm of the dance.

“Wait and see,” she said, “and you’ll be as surprised as everyone else.”

“No one will be surprised if you take another enemy down.”

“An alliance, then,” she replied blithely, “or a resignation.”

Edmund laughed heartily. “You would never,” he declared.

“Sometimes I dream up radical moves and imagine the look on everyone’s faces,” she whispered, leaning close before rushing away again. Then, the players reached the end of their song, the last notes echoing through the hall before dissipating into the corners.

“Worry not,” she said as Edmund took her arm and led her back to their table. “I would not do anything to shock you too terribly. Surprises are meant to be fun, for you at least. My opponents less so.”

They gazed out over the crowd as the next song began, amusing one another with anecdotes and stories, Edmund always rewarded with the clear sound of her bright laughter, Vera by his light touches on her hand or shoulder or knee. They took to the floor a few times more, retiring after several pieces to sip more champagne and nibble at delicacies. The drink flowed on, the trays passed by, and the floor was a sea of smiles.

Until the stranger appeared.

The doors at the other end of the hall opened as the strings died down. A tall man, immaculate in a tuxedo and leaning on an ebon cane, limped into the hall. His pale eyes were fierce, his jaw held at a proud angle, as he made his slow way through the crowd, the partygoers shuffling to make way for him.

“Vera,” he called as he approached the table, “we must talk. Alone.”

Edmund squeezed her hand as the color drained from her face.