Writing Weird – Tarot & The Hermit

TarotThere’s a deck of tarot cards near my writing desk at all times. It’s not the usual sort of deck, like the one pictured above (which always makes me think of Jane Seymour as Solitaire in Live and Let Die). My tarot is the Voyager Tarot. It’s a beautiful deck of photo-collage art with images from many cultures and religions.

I don’t keep it here to give readings (though it has made a few appearances at social gatherings with a select group of intimate friends). It’s not here to guide my love life or any financial decisions. I use it to help me write fiction.

Aside from my MacBook, notebooks and pencils, I believe this tarot deck is the most useful tool in my writer’s toolbox. It helps me build multidimensional characters with complex motives and desires. It’s a wonderful tool to play with plot structure and character arc. I have a few other oracle-type decks with some gorgeous artwork, but it is always my well-worn Voyager cards that help me sort out my worst plot problems and/or reignite my relationship with my characters.

To do this, I don’t shuffle and lay out the cards randomly hoping the universe will send a message about my current project. I tend to look through the whole deck, pulling the cards with images that seem to apply to the particular character or plot issue I’m working to resolve. Then I’ll arrange and re-arrange my selections into patterns until something clicks. And something usually clicks pretty quickly.

One Google search for “writer’s tarot” proves that I am not the only author who does this. There’s even a book called Tarot for Writers and Beth Barany has created a Writer’s Tarot Deck. That said, there are probably plenty of people who would think I’m twisted and weird for plotting books with tarot…and maybe they are right.

Speaking of weird…I told you all of the above so I could tell you this next thing.

Sometimes the tarot deck does freaky things. For example, last month the same card kept “jumping” out of the deck over and over. When I pulled the deck out of a desk drawer, the card fell on the floor. Later, while shuffling and sorting through the deck, the same card fell into my lap. It wasn’t one of my favorite images and it didn’t seem to have any relevance to my plotting questions, so I stuck it back into the middle of the deck and set everything aside. Thirty minutes later, Zoey jumped up on my writing desk to make a nuisance of herself while I was trying to write. Frustrated that I refused to quit typing to pet her properly, she deliberately shoved about 1/3 of the tarot deck off my desk. All of the cards landed face down except for one…yep, it was the same *bleep*ing card staring up at me.

The Hermit…

Hermit Type Photo

The Hermit – soul-searching, introspection, inner guidance

Which always makes me think about a certain “strange old hermit” who lived out beyond the Dune Sea (a.k.a Obi-Wan Kenobi). In the traditional tarot images, The Hermit could very well be a mystical Jedi Master…or a wizard…or a monk. It is one of the few traditional tarot images that I prefer over the Voyager version. So I took the time to research the card online.

Now I won’t get into all of the mystical, magical interpretations for this major arcana tarot card (because, honestly, I don’t remember most of what I read). The gist of The Hermit’s message is all about “going into the cave” to meditate, reflect and re-energize. At the time this card kept presenting itself to me, I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. The details are unimportant, but I needed to unplug. And it felt like this silly little card with its three appearances in one day was giving me permission to do just that.

So I unplugged from just about everything that wasn’t absolutely essential for one month. And it felt soooooooooooo good!

Here’s the thing. This “going into the cave” routine is another important writer’s tool. For me, it is even more essential than the MacBook or notebooks or writing utensils. I know that all of the marketing wisdom is dead set against this hermit-like behavior. Oh well. Sometimes it is a mental health necessity.

During my month of unplugging we finished moving into our new house and I set up a new writing room. I created a 5 x 4 foot chalkboard (more on that another day), read lots of books, took some online writing tutorials and worked on Snowflake Plotting. Now my writerly batteries feel recharged and ready to go.

What do you do to recharge your batteries?

photo credits: ukslim via photopin cc & h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

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Empathy – An Essential Tool in Life & Writing

This video is aimed at professionals in the health care industry, but I think it’s a wonderful reminder for each and every one of us. Fair warning: It makes me cry every time I watch it.

I’m posting this video for two reasons:

  1. The world always needs love…and more empathy!
    • Imagine what a wonderful world it would be if everyone looked at their fellow humans this way. What if that grocery store clerk who seemed rude is actually fighting through a migraine headache? What if that guy who cut you off on the highway is actually rushing to the hospital to hold his newborn for the first time? What if that waiter who messed up your order just learned his fiance is cheating on him with his best friend? Most of the mundane stresses and annoyances that suck the joy out of our daily experiences would pretty much disappear with a liberal dose of empathy.
  2. This video perfectly depicts my favorite way to build fictional characters; it’s how I walk around looking at the world every day.

Which is not to say I’m some omniscient being who casts my eyes upon mere mortals and immediately KNOWS what is happening in their lives. Nope. I make it all up. Walking through life in my little writerly, Walter Mitty-esque bubble, I assign the most outrageous, twisted, heart-wrenching stories from the darkest depths of my imagination to perfect strangers.

Some people might believe this practice to be rather sick and wrong. I believe it’s the perfect way to build a huge arsenal of complex characters.

What do you think? Am I the only one who does this? Or is there anyone else out there who endures a long checkout line by dreaming up weird and wild stories for everyone else in the line?

I Think I Can, I Think I Can…

“You can have anything you want if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose.”

Abraham Lincoln

Bumblebee with Paper Flower

photo credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE via photopin cc