Monday, May 16, 2011

You Can Make Your Writing Work with Focus, Insight, and Understanding: Week 5 with Tarot's Fool

FoolThe Fool is movin' now. The Magician showed him his options, The High Priestess helped him pick one, and The Empress gave him an understanding of how to develop it. (Previous posts in this series are listed at the bottom of this entry.) The path is taking him forward.  He's working hard, and all his senses are on alert so he can pour the best of himself into his quest. His confidence is building and his steps are sure and strong (the pages of his first draft are flowing like a river!).

So now that he's got all this good stuff going for him, how will he manage it? It's never too early to plan (even for a panster). How will he make his journey clear and concise, make sure he has the right environment to achieve his quest and nourish the world with the fruits of his labors (make sure he gets the best agent and publisher who do what he wants)

Luckily for him, right there in the middle of the path now is The Emperor. Seated on a throne of stone, The Emperor's kingdom is clearly under his control. There's a buzz of activity around him as his people do his bidding efficiently and happily.  The Emperor is watching The Fool's approach with interest, inviting him to ask his question.

The Fool is in awe. "Everyone does exactly as you tell them," he whispers to The Emperor, his eyes wide. "How do you do that?  How can do that?"

"That's two questions," The Emperor says with a glare, "but I will answer." He smiles a bit and The Fool breathes out in relief.  The Emperor goes on. "To control the elements of your quest, you must be alert, brave, and aggressive."

"I can do that!" The Fool says. "Thank you, Emperor." The Emperor nods, and The Fool steps past him with renewed vigor, back onto his path. He only vaguely hears the Emperor add, "and you must understand the larger picture."

No more dreaminess, The Fool tells himself. No more questioning whether I should step onto a different path.  I know what I want, it's time to take control! (My draft is finished, it's time to query!)

He moves on with new purpose, clear directions in one hand (a copy of Literary Market Place), and a baton to orchestrate his determination and action in the other (his computer, where he inputs his query letter, and the names of agents into his contacts list). All he has to do now is go on stage, do his dance, grab for the Holy Grail (hit the send button).

He's so excited he's not even watching the path in front of him. But just in the nick of time, he looks down. Yikes! There's a wide open steel-toothed trap right under his foot!  Who put that there? He veers around it, stumbling. You'd think he'd be nimble at this sort of thing, but something about that trap was so shiny and alluring it was hard not to step into it (that subplot is SO cool, it might even be better than the main plot. It does sort of dominate the second Act of the book, but still, it's too good to change. Maybe he'll just tweak the query letter to let them know his next book is about this one's subplot! Yeah, that'll work.) Whew, that was close. Good thing he's mastered the suggestions of The Emperor.

But suddenly, The Fool is not just rolling along his path at a good clip, he's roiling. He's being assaulted from within. That trap brought him up short. What if there are other traps? (His finger hovers over the send button, but he's too scared to hit it.)  He's got his solid foundation to build his future on (his manuscript), but what if it gets taken away from him somehow? What if someone steals it? Or it just vanishes (his computer crashes and his backup drive implodes)? Or, what if the foundation he's built isn't as solid as he thought? What if it's not good enough? That's a horrible thought!

A post at the side of the road has a sign at the top of it, pointing off the path to a Holy Place. Hallelujah! The Fool dashes off the path to find the Holy Man who can help him.  This is The Hierophant.

The Hierophant is surrounded by acolytes, who listen respectfully to his wisdom and will pass on his teachings. The Fool approaches, and when The Hierophant says, "How may I help?" he pours out his story.  "I feel crippled by these fears," he says when he's told him all about it. "I'm too afraid to go forward, too afraid to make a mistake. How can I be free of these terrible fears?"

The Hierophant gazes at The Fool with sympathy. "The answer is simple," he says. "There are only two ways. You can either give up your quest, so that your fear of its loss no longer has any power over you, or you can go on in the knowledge that whatever happens, you will never lose what you have learned, what you have experienced, and what you have gained as a person because of these things."

"I see," The Fool says ("But I want to be published and rich and famous now!" he mutters, stomping his foot). Somewhere in his brain, though, it's as if there are rubber bands holding his ambition captive like the ball in a slingshot, pulled taut to the breaking point with the ball aimed straight ahead, and they have just been gently relaxed. "Ah," he says. "I understand." He looks at the ground for a while, letting himself get the feel of the earth beneath his feet, then looks back up at the Hierophant. "Thank you," he says humbly. Perhaps he will give some deep thought to the real meaning of his quest before he does anything rash (there's a great writing workshop coming up. Maybe he'll take a chance on THAT before he shares his masterpiece with the gatekeepers to publication). He leaves the sanctuary of The Hierophant and steps out to find his path once again, to face whatever challenges lie ahead with a clearer eye.

And next week he'll meet one of the most delicious challenges of all, when he comes upon The Lovers.

(Special Note: Don't miss Karlene's post on Book Country from Friday. Thanks to Blogger's mishaps she couldn't post until afternoon, but it's a great one—just scroll down!)

~ Linda

Links to earlier Fool's Journey posts:  0: The Fool1: The Magician,  2: The High Priestess, 3: The Empress

My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey itself is long-established information from a variety of sources.  Those I've relied on most heavily are: TAROT BASICS by Burger & Fiebig, AECLECTIC TAROT by Thirteen, and EVERYDAY TAROT by Fairfield


  1. Great post, and I loved your slingshot metaphor! I read that one a few times bc I liked it so much.

  2. Thanks, Lydia, The Fool and I are glad you liked it!

  3. This series is great! Nice work! :D

  4. Thanks, Laura! It's definitely fun to write.

  5. Ahhh, yes. This is so wonderful. I will have to check out earlier posts!!! christy

  6. Hey, Christy, glad to see you. If you check the posts you're bound to recognize someone you know—you're a writer, after all!

  7. Hi, Linda,

    So sorry i've been so scarce, but it's taking me a bit of time adjusting back to the cold and WIND. I've only been back a week and a half and I feel I've never left. But I'm still playing catch up.

    I love these posts. You capture all of our insecurities on OUR roads to publication. It's so nice not to travel them alone. We have a friend with us always...

  8. Nice to see you back, Michael. It's a strange spring this year, that's for sure. Hope the wind isn't blowing you off the sidewalks of Chicago (I actually saw a tiny little old lady picked up by a gust of wind when I lived there--she bounced off the wall of Saks. No lie!) Yes, if we stick with The Fool we'll be in good company. He gets all the best info and advice!