December 2018 archive

Sometimes, Don’t Write: Tarot Writing Advice

TEN DAYS AGO, MY BRAIN FELT LIKE TWO STONES RUBBING TOGETHER. That is to say, after meeting several breathtakingly rushed editing deadlines, I was exhausted. Or, the part of my brain that generally delights in pulling creative writing solutions out of my head like an entire warren of rabbits from an extra-tall magician’s hat? That part was exhausted. So, I was not surprised that the Four of Swords appeared during my daily draws that week.

Tarot speaks

As you can see, the Four of Swords suggests a time out, a long winter’s nap, a little chill-time—in a medieval crypt, if you can’t find any other quiet place to rest your noggin.

And since the tarot Swords suit relates to mental activity, it also suggests we writers may want to take a break from writing, in particular. Which I did. And, as this post attests, ten days later, I’ve hauled my concrete cranium off that sarcophagus, looked around, and discovered my writing mojo waiting for me to grab it—like the swords hanging over our maybe-dead guy’s (very pretty) head.

So, yeah, sometimes, if you’re exhausted and your pretty head needs a break, maybe don’t write. Maybe read, instead. Or watch a movie. Or go to an art museum and poke around. Whatever will refresh those gray cells of yours so they can happily get back to work on your novel … or memoir … or doctoral dissertation.

On the other hand, sometimes we need more than a vacation from our work-in-progress. Sometimes we need something along the lines of an epiphany—if not an entire paradigm shift. It may be that our story has stalled, not because we’re out of gas, but because we’ve lost hold of the invisible silken thread that’s been guiding us through the forest of our writerly unconscious. Or because we’ve suddenly recalled something we suspect will seriously upset one or more people who might read the memoir we’re drafting. Or because we’ve discovered something in the course of our research that completely upends the foundation of our thesis.

In all of those cases: uh-oh!

Then, rather than taking our cue from sleepy-headed Mr. Four of Swords, we might look to The Hanged Man for guidance. The Hanged Man’s reversed position allows him to see things differently. And the fact that he’s tied to that tree ensures he’ll be hanging out there until the needed insight dawns.

So. While no one here’s suggesting you strap yourself to a branch and swing upside down, sometimes, when your project’s come to a complete halt, don’t write. Instead, daydream, or talk with a counselor, or reconsider your understanding of your topic, to name just a few potentially illuminating strategies.

Then, when your own halo of insight lights up, you can haul yourself upright and put your refreshed perspective back to work on the page.

Thanks to U.S. Games Systems for use of images from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck.

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