Writing Totems

A few years ago, I worked one day a week at an amazing children’s bookstore in Ashland, Oregon—Treehouse Books. Jane, the owner, inspired me by populating the store with items that I’m sure represented the magical/mystical spirits that bless her life: fairies, gnomes, ravens, owls, trees, even the occasional piggie evocative of my own Rufus. Working there had a special kind of magic and it’s no surprise to me that the store has remained successful even during the pandemic years.

In February, I moved into a cottage in Ashland that would be home for my husband and I for the next few months. It was cozy and comfy, perched just above a gurgling creek, and tucked among artists’ studios. Bliss. Best of all, it had a name: Raven Cottage. Ravens, crows, jackdaws—all those black-winged callers of rain and night and mystery—are my totem animals. As I walked into the cottage, I felt creative energy sweep over me. Wherever my eyes lit: Ravens! Raven paintings and figurines created by local artists appeared in almost every room. The day after I moved into Raven Cottage, I started writing. I wrote day after day, almost every single day, something I hadn’t done in months. I couldn’t stop. If I did, one of those ravens caught my eye and gave me a nod. Pages! They seemed to demand. We want more pages!

After two months of writing bliss, I left the cottage for our tiny home/RV beneath a towering redwood up the hill from Ashland’s downtown. It’s cozy. Comfy. But not a single raven greeted me inside. And I stopped writing. Day after day went by, then a week…two weeks. It didn’t take me long to figure out what was wrong (besides just the moving-again blues). My experience at the cottage had taught me something vital: I need writing totems. I need their energy, their daily reminders, their bright knowing eyes looking into mine, challenging, even daring me to write.

Like Jane of Treehouse Books, I began to bring totems into my space. A crow figurine now perches on a bookshelf just to the left of my computer nook. The wall to my right hosts a postcard of a local artist’s painting, “Raven Dream.” I commissioned my artist daughter to paint me another corvid, her work has golden spirals of energy, bright red berries to feed the creative spirit, and—of course—a crow, bright-eyed, looking askance at my writing space as if to check if I’m there. And I am.

Words are coming again, and pages. If you don’t have a writing totem and need a fresh breath of creativity to flow into your space, find your writing totem. Animals have leant their magic to witches, pagans, tribal peoples, artists, writers, shopkeepers and more. Journal to find your animal totem or set the intent to dream of your totem as you fall asleep. Walk outside and see which creature shows up to speak to you. Will Spider spin into view? Will Coyote call from the canyon or Bear dig into your trash bin? When your totem appears, if you allow yourself to be open, you will feel it. Your next step is to explore the myths and symbolic meanings related to your totem animal. Then, find artistic representatives to place strategically in your writing space and home. Finally…get ready to be inspired!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. That’s so cool. I never really thought of writing totems before, but now I’m curious to go out and discover what mine will be. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Geez, I wish this would happen to me. I have a severe case of writer’s block.


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