Monday, January 23, 2012

Are You Growing as a Writer? Week 20 with Tarot's Fool

If you're not finding at least one of the following: new ideas, improved approaches to your craft, different ways of looking at character development or scene development or story itself, you're not experiencing growth as a writer. If you're not experiencing growth, you're in danger of getting trapped in stasis, which can be a comfortable and even a profitable place to be for a while, but inevitably leads to death of the imagination and of the career if you don't break out of it. Sounds extreme, doesn't it? And not very user friendly, either. But that's the reality of life in any creative, dynamic field, and that's what the Fool has been showing us all these weeks and months. This is the way to the golden fleece.

Remember when the Fool looked like this? Ah, youth! It's beautiful in its naiveté. And it's also exactly where we want to be when we start our quest, because we need the energy and belief and excitement that comes with beginnings. Since the beginning of his quest, the Fool has matured tremendously, and at times has dealt with blows and challenges so severe that he's looked more like a wizened old man when he's emerged than like the champion of truth, honor, love, and joy that he is. But he's persevered, and as we saw last week, it's finally beginning to pay off big time for him (The Sun: Week 19). Not only has he developed wisdom and strength of character, but he's been given his own authentic voice back, which he'd lost for a while along the way. It's the voice that propelled him on his journey in the first place, but he, himself, is so changed now that his current challenge is to figure out how best to use this precious gift to fulfill his new and fuller promise.

It's not easy, even now. All the old tapes are playing in loops in his head, because there's assurance in familiarity. Every time he puts out a foot to finalize his journey, his feet want to take him onto familiar ground, to the places he's been before. Fire-breathing dragon? Unsheathe your sword! (the crowd cheers) Maiden in distress? Rush to defend her! (the audience hangs on every move). But if he's learned anything in the first nineteen weeks of this journey, it's that life is almost never black and white. Sure, some dragons are evil and must be slain, but there are others that look just as scary but bring wisdom and glory with their fire. (Week 15: The Devil) That maiden in distress? When he got to her he saw that she was doing just fine. In fact she was taming a ferocious lion to her will (Week 8: Strength). Now the Fool has reached a point, he instinctively understands, where he needs to incorporate this evolved knowledge into his steps. His hero status is not in question any more, and he has a chance to experience the power beneath the surface.

He suddenly feels himself being swept aloft, like a feather picked up by an updraft and sent spiraling, to land who-knows-where? And then he sees her, a fiery angel, beautiful and terrible.

This is Judgement. "You are right," she says to the Fool, reading his thoughts. "You have only one last step on your journey. But you cannot take that step until you lay your past to rest."

What?? The Fool doesn't say it out loud, because the angel is pretty intimidating, but what the heck, this can't be right! "But," he says to her, "I've left it behind me—all of it."

"There's no way to do that," she says. "Remember, each step you've taken wore down your shoe, just a bit, which shaped the next step you took, and so on. Your past is always under your feet. You can never put it behind you."

"Then how can I put my past to rest?" the Fool asks, humbled.

"Call it up. Come to terms with it. Are you willing to do that?" She holds out a small trumpet for him to take.

The Fool looks with despair at the trumpet. He's already been through so much. But he gets hold of himself and thinks. He didn't brave that river of no return two weeks ago for nothing (Week 18: The Moon). That was a pivotal experience, one that taught him that when he's faced with a personal crisis of this magnitude he must let go and trust himself to the universe. This is a final decision, either to go forward, or stay where he is. He lets go of all expectations, reaches out, and takes the trumpet.

He blows the trumpet and the air and trees and sky around him, the very Earth, seem to crack open. Memories rise from beneath his feet. Images of his whole journey up to now pass before him—his innocent youth, challenges, loves, failures, losses, success, disillusionment and wisdom. For the first time, he doesn't try to forget them or put them in a tidy place behind him, he simply accepts them. They hold no fear for him any more, and he realizes they are gone to everyone but him. He alone carries them into the present. The moment he realizes this, they vanish. They remain in his mind, but he is free of them. He is fully in the present.

When you live in a world of ideas, as we writers do, what does this mean? It might be as simple as letting go of an idea that wasn't working for us. It might be as monumental as embracing change at such a basic level that our writing can't help but reflect a profound disruption to our previous style. In either case, or anywhere in between, our reward is that we can now harvest the newfound fruits of our mind. Are these newfound fruits—these realities of the present— actually "correct?" Will they lead us to our golden fleece? The only way to find out is to use them and allow them to help us. When they become second nature to us and we no longer identify with an ideal or a model, but with them, our insight will unfold. The result? Open sesame. The curtain is rising on your next Act.

The Fool will find out what that means for him next week. He'll have a hint or two for us, too.

~ Linda
Links to Fool's Journey posts:  0—The Fool1—The Magician2—The High Priestess3—The Empress4&5—The Emperor, and The Hierophant6—The Lovers; 7—The Chariot8—Strength9—The Hermit; 10—Wheel of Fortune11—Justice12—The Hanged Man13—Death14—Temperance; 15—The Devil; 16—The Tower17—The Star18—The Moon; 19—The Sun

My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey is long-established 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. Linda, another wonderful post for the fool and our journey. My first thought was... can't we buy new shoes?
    This is beautiful. The past is always with us, and part of our growth. Have I grown as a writer? Oh... it's amazing. I find this growth more amazing than learning to fly a jet in a week. Scary. Fun. And I only slept two hours awake to write again. I forced another couple hours of sleep, but had to get up.
    Can hardly wait to find the fools meaning next week.

    1. LOVE new shoes! Some of us have tried everything from the geographical relocation fix to an entire new wardrobe, but dang! It only works a little. New shoes, new path? Not so much. sigh. Eventually we figure out, as you have, that life stays interesting when we face our challenges eyes wide open. (A little shut-eye now and then can help, too, though, for processing if nothing else :) )

  2. Yes, we must always grow and improve, so important! Right now I'm growing by recognizing my favorite (repetitive) words in my work and cutting them out. Also, sentence structure and variance is finally making sense to me!

    1. That's fantastic Heather! Isn't it incredible when you make those kinds of discoveries? Life stays interesting!

  3. When are you opening up a Tarot reading for writers shop? These are always so fascinating. I love how you apply it to writers' challenges.

    1. Heh, Lydia, it would be fun. The Fool writes his own scripts, so easy, too! Thanks.

    2. I would love that too! Linda, this would be outstanding. How about Hawaii? You can teach us.