When Is It Time to Give Up on an Old Project?
In the fifth installment of our Tarot + Craft column, Sarah Elaine Smith gives advice to a writer who is growing tired of working on their manuscript.
’re a queen. In fact, you’re the Queen of Wands: creativity and passion are your domain. Which means that, as much as the question presents you as a hapless trudger, you are actually a sovereign working within your realm.
’s exactly a simple matter. Queens have power, but they are also subjects of a literally toxic lineage. There is no room for self-definition if the circumstances of your birth have the first and final word about who you are and how others see you. And you may find it difficult to get good counsel because, well, nobody tells a queen what to do! That’s the good of it and the bad of it. If you’re surrounded by toadies, you'll hear “yes” over and over again, even if it isn’t the right answer.
’t queenlike to do with your own hands what someone else could do for you. Power isn’t always freedom, especially if it’s granted by stratification.
’s why so many of us find it soothing to work with our hands when our minds won't stop spinning. A hand isn’t like a thought: It can only touch something that is right there within reach. Hands can’t do hypotheticals. They can’t hold worries. They can hold carrots and babies and pine cones and chopsticks. They can speak and they can pull air quotes, but unlike our minds, they can also scratch an itch without thinking about it.
’s the difference between an empress and a queen? Way less clothing, it seems! Way more frolicking. Rolling around in the pastures of teeming life with all the other creatures. It looks less dignified, I suppose, and there are probably not that many petit-fours on the table, but who cares when you’re having fun?
’t possibly be allowed, can it? So we’ll only let ourselves enjoy writing if we also have to earn it somehow. We make rules to up the stakes. We make up stories so we can punish ourselves if we don’t do something the way others tell us we should.
WHAT TO DO
’’s an example of the ways old work can be meaningful even if it isn’t Le Book.)
’’’waggling their butts’re busy dancing. They collaborate with flowers by finding them and showing others where to go. You can do this, too! And it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to collaborate with another writer (although you certainly could). You can collaborate with your shadow, with the moon, with a knock-knock joke. Show us where the flowers are! Waggle your butt!
’s interesting to see the mirror image of the hands in the Nine of Wands and the Eight of Pentacles. The mood of this reading is to question how valuable notions of power, completion, and product are when compared with process, so it’s fitting to see a hand placing the final block on top of a pyramid, a royal structure which codifies power and wealth. But pyramids are also, in some way, passages to the world of the dead. They bridge a materialist sense of power and influence with an esoteric sense of power and influence. My hunch is that, for you, the resolution of the stuck feeling will ask you to find a way to bridge earth and ether.
’re overdue for some fun, so why not play a game of equivalencies? How is a raven like a writing desk? Who is sharper, the arrow or the cobra? If you ask yourself any impossible question, the empress will always answer. So ask away!
MUSIC AND POETRY Rx
Sarah Elaine Smith was born and raised in Greene County, Pennsylvania. She has studied at the Michener Center for Writers, UT-Austin (MFA, poetry); the Iowa Writers' Workshop (MFA, fiction); and Carnegie Mellon University. Her work has received support from the MacDowell Colony and the Rona Jaffe Wallace Foundation.
Smith is the author of the novel Marilou Is Everywhere (Riverhead Books, 2019), as well as the poetry collection I Live in a Hut, 2011. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she teaches Here Be Monsters, an online novel-writing and creativity workshop.
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