Index Card of Power

Hi, everyone! It’s Stacey here, with fellow pub-crawler, Stephanie Garber to talk about surviving the grueling journey that is known as publishing.

Getting published is an exercise in patience and perseverance. It is a punishing, bone-wearying journey comparable to climbing up a fog-covered mountain. Each step is an effort and though you know you will eventually reach the top, you don’t know when, or whether you will run out of juice before you get there. (And even when you do reach the top, you might find that the view up there isn’t enough, and that there are even more mountains to climb beyond.)

Stacey: Fifteen years ago, my older sister shared with me the power of the index card. At the time, she was single, thirty-ish, and had been looking for Mr. Right for a long time. At church, her pastor gave a sermon on how God wanted us to have the things we wanted. He suggested listing these wants on an index card, in specific terms, and then letting God take care of the rest.

So my sister wrote down ten things she was looking for in a Mr. Right, qualities as specific as “a healthcare professional,” “Chinese American,” “patient,” and “at least four inches taller than me.” Hey, if you’re going to wish, might as well include everything. After writing them down, she tucked away the card, and stopped worrying.

Within the year, she was engaged to a man with all ten of the attributes she had listed.

Because I am a skeptic and generally a suspicious person, I chalked it up to luck, and thought nothing more of it. I was just happy for her and her new husband (who, it should be noted, is an amazing brother-in-law.)

Fast forward. When Under a Painted Sky went on sub, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy journey. My agent informed me that it would take a year to sell if it sold at all—editors weren’t clamoring to buy historical fiction. As rejections piled up, I happened to have lunch with a friend, who was finally in her third trimester of pregnancy, after a decade of unsuccessful fertility treatments.

When I asked her how she had come by this miracle, she revealed that she had gone to this new-agey seminar about the power of the index card. To my surprise, she told me she had been advised to write down, in very specific terms, her wish. She wrote that she wanted a baby girl, and stopped worrying.

Within two months, she was pregnant. With a girl.

I decided maybe there was something to the power of the index card that seemed to work for both believers and non-believers alike, and even if there wasn’t, what did I have to lose? It was better than fretting over something that was out of my control. I took out an index card.

The best part of the index card is that it gives you the power to let go of something not in your control to influence (and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have to be on an index card). True, my sister couldn’t just sit at home and wait for Mr. Right to dig her out of the sofa, just as my friend couldn’t give up on doing that deed that leads to babies if she wanted to conceive.

Stephanie: Stacey told me this story last fall, when I was struggling with my writing.

I was on submission with a book I knew wouldn’t sell, and it was killing my creativity. I was putting all kinds of pressure on myself to produce something really good that would totally sell when I went on submission again, which is a terrible way to write.

So, after listening to Stacey’s story about the magic of the index card I decided to give it a shot. Instead of stressing over my hopes and dreams for this book I wrote them out on a piece of binder paper, and just that act alone taught me something interesting.

As I expressed all my hopes and wishes for this book, I didn’t say that I wanted to write a really good book—because really, what does that even mean? Instead I found myself writing things like, I hope to write a story that feels magical and mysterious. I want to keep readers guessing and sweep them into another world. I want this book to feel big and bright like Baz Luhrmann movie.

I’m not even sure I knew that I wanted to write all of those things until I put them on paper, but once I did, it was as if all my creativity flooded back. For some, I think using an index is an exercise in letting go. But for me this activity ended up showing me what I really wanted, and my true desire had nothing to do with pleasing editors and everything to do with writing a story for the sake of creating a certain type of experience for the reader.

Have you ever tried something like this? And if you haven’t, it might be worth giving it a shot.

18 Responses to Index Card of Power

  1. Marc Vun Kannon Aug 28 2015 at 6:00 am #

    I have not, but my wife does, frequently. Rarely does a day go by without me hearing, “Honey, can you help me find–oh, wait, nope, I found it.” Once she calls in the big guns, whatever she was looking realized the jig was up and revealed itself. Similarly, I have often been asked to keep an eye out for X as I go about my day and sure enough I trip over an X just lying around.
    Unfortunately this power I have over the Universe only works on behalf of others, and only for small things. I have yet to trip over that diamond necklace she keeps mentioning.

    • Stacey
      Stacey Aug 28 2015 at 12:51 pm #

      LOL, thanks for sharing, Marc. I know who to ask next time something goes missing. And another reminder how good it is to have people to look out for us. 🙂

    • Stephanie Garber
      Stephanie Garber Aug 29 2015 at 2:43 pm #

      Nice super power to have, Marc! And I hope you do find that diamond necklace someday. 😉

  2. Maribeth Aug 28 2015 at 8:23 am #

    I’ve never done the index cards but I fo journal and often write down my hopes and wishes within the pages I think I will try this method. Thanks 🙂

    • Stacey
      Stacey Aug 28 2015 at 12:53 pm #

      Oh great! Hope it works for you, Maribeth. If you can let the ‘worry’ go – that’s half the battle. 🙂

      • Stephanie Garber
        Stephanie Garber Aug 29 2015 at 2:44 pm #

        I totally agree with, Stacey! And I also think as a writer journaling is a really healthy habit to have–I need to back into that habit. 🙂

  3. Dottie Graham Aug 28 2015 at 11:46 am #

    Years ago I used to write out my hopes and dreams for my growing business, but for some reason, as a writer, I haven’t expressed myself in that way. Thank you for the reminder. Now where is that pack of index cards, I have hopes and dreams to jot down?

    • Stacey
      Stacey Aug 28 2015 at 12:54 pm #

      That’s cool that you did that for your business, Dottie. Yes, go reclaim your power! xo

      • Stephanie Garber
        Stephanie Garber Aug 29 2015 at 2:45 pm #

        Good luck, Dottie! I hope you discover new hopes and dreams as you write. 🙂

  4. Julie
    Julie Aug 28 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    GREAT POST! I love how you both shared ways that index cards can open you up and change your thoughts/focus. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    Favorite Stacey line: “The best part of the index card is that it gives you the power to let go of something not in your control to influence (and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have to be on an index card).”

    Favorite Stephanie line: “I’m not even sure I knew that I wanted to write all of those things until I put them on paper, but once I did, it was as if all my creativity flooded back.”

    Of course, I also loooooved the reference to a Baz Luhrmann movie. 🙂

    • Stacey
      Stacey Aug 28 2015 at 12:54 pm #

      XO Julie!

    • Stephanie Garber
      Stephanie Garber Aug 29 2015 at 2:40 pm #

      Thanks, Julie!! And yay for another Baz fan! <3

  5. JJ
    JJ Aug 28 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    I love this post. <3

    And...not gonna lie...I'm probably going to do this exact thing when I get home. 😉

    • Stacey
      Stacey Aug 28 2015 at 12:55 pm #

      Go JJ! <3

    • Stephanie Garber
      Stephanie Garber Aug 29 2015 at 2:42 pm #

      Yay!! I hope you have (or had) fun!

  6. Natasha M. Heck Sep 1 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    When I was a teenager, my parents gave me a glitter globe with a unicorn inside. Every new year, I would write down all the things I saw for myself and would tape it to the bottom. Then, a year later, I would read all that I imagined for myself. Most of the time, every item would happen in some way. It might not have been how I imagined it, but it was a great feeling.

    I’ve replaced this by writing down goals and not looking at them on my blog or journal, but now, I do think about them. Maybe there’s something to the “out of sight, out of mind”. After a rough year with my health that ended in heartbreak, I think it’s time to do this again. I’m feeling like myself again so this is a helpful reminder. Thank you!

    • Stacey
      Stacey Sep 1 2015 at 5:12 pm #

      Natasha! I love that you did that with the glittery unicorn snow globes. (I think I’m going to have to get a glitter unicorn snow globe now that I know they exist). I’m sorry about the rough year and heartbreak! I’ll be thinking of you and hoping for a better day. <3

      • Natasha M. Heck Sep 1 2015 at 11:59 pm #

        Thank you, Stacy! I’ll have to find my globe (probably with my other unicorns, haha) and I’ll post it on Twitter. 🙂

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