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August 18, 2013

On Giving My Ideas Away

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 6:18 pm

This morning, I asked my Tarot of St. Petersburg a question about what’s going on with my writing and it gave me probably the clearest, most useful response I’ve ever gotten from those cards. I think I might’ve finally figured out what that particular deck is for. Each of the decks I use regularly has a sphere or focus area that I find it most helpful for. My Art Nouveau deck is about personal relationships. Dakota’s Revelations Tarot is best for questions about my own psychology. Our Shapeshifter deck is, unsurprisingly, about transformation and change. I use the Thoth deck when I specifically want to talk with the tarot about magic. And I like my Whimsical Tarot best to do readings for other people, because it’s all about telling stories. Sometimes, especially when I’m in need of some extra gentleness, I use it to tell myself stories also. Given that my modus operandi in life is to write and build relationships and that, of the three decks I personally own, one is about relationships and the one is about storytelling (which is the fusion of writing and relationships), it makes sense that the third deck’s sphere of focus would be my writing, my creative self. (And, for various reasons, it seems obvious that the writer’s deck and the Russian deck would be one and the same.)

The reading I did looked like this:

Image

 This is a spread maymay came up with that I really like. It’s called The Missing Piece and it’s conceptually based on the Shel Silverstein book of the same name. I think of the positions like this:

ImageThe sixth card, at the top right, is one I added at the end as a kind of an, “Okay, so what now?” advice type of card.

 Here are the cards I got:

 What do I already have a lot of… 

…in the Material realm: THE HERMIT. [Knowledge. Circumspection. Withdrawl. Reflection. Contemplation. Reclusiveness. A period of peace with little to no interruptions.] It’s true. I’m pretty much just hanging out in Stillwater for the next couple of weeks. Dakota’s at work all day and I haven’t met very many people yet and I’m just spending a lot of time at the library. Except for a small handful of logistical loose ends, I have very few demands on my time right now that require engaging with the outside world. In material terms, I have everything I could possibly ask for in terms of solitude, space, and contemplative time to write. Turns out that’s not enough, though. (Notably, in this deck, the Hermit is surrounded by stars — inspiration — but they are all tiny points of light twinkling in the background and he is looking the other direction.) 

…in the Psychospiritual Realm: THE SEVEN OF SWORDS. [New plans. Wishes. Fortitude. Perseverance. Endeavor. Hope. Confidence. Fantasy. Partial success.] Swords are the suit of the mind. Thought. If swords symbolize ideas, the guy on this card looks very much like how I feel. He’s got so many that he’s having trouble carrying them all. He holds a bunch of swords precariously in his hands, others are leaned up against him or falling on the ground, and he’s sort of stuck way out here, far away from either the city walls or the soldiers’ encampment, because he’s got so many swords that he can’t actually go anywhere with them. The imposing city might symbolize the traditional institutions I’m trying to attack with my ideas and the warm, inviting-looking little encampment might be a community of camaraderie that I’m hoping to arm with them. But I can’t get there

What’s missing from…

 …the Material realm: THE ACE OF SWORDS. [Great determination. Initiative. Strength. Force. Activity. Excessiveness. Success. Deep emotional feeling. Love. Conquest.] It’s true that I have all the time in the world to write, but I don’t really have anything driving me to do right now so beyond a sort of vague sense of obligation. Anyone who knows me well knows that feelings of obligation, especially ill-defined ones, rarely motivate me to action. Instead, they operate as the worst kind of stop energy, making me both averse to the source of the obligation (in this case, writing itself and the notion that “a writer ought to be able to finish things”) and angry and frustrated with myself for being a failure. Thing is, I do WANT to be writing. I love writing. I love the feeling of it. It’s what keeps me alive. But I don’t really want to be writing my way through a backlog of old, unfinished projects just because “they’re good ideas and it would be a shame to throw them away.” They ARE good ideas and it would be a shame to throw them away. But I’m missing some kind of material, pragmatic purpose that drives me to do something with them. 

…the Psychospiritual Realm: DEATH [Transformation. Clearing away the old to make way for the new. Loss. Alteration. Abrupt change of the old self. A new era.] I love the Death card. It used to make me uncomfortable. I imagine it makes most people uncomfortable in the beginning. But, as every deck and every book and every tarot reader will reassure you, Death is not about the permanent ends of things, it’s about the pause before a resurrection. For me, Death is “hitting the reset button.” Interestingly, in this deck, Death is a huge skull sitting on a field with swords scattered around it. I had mixed feelings when showed up here because of the aforementioned “it would be a shame to throw away my good ideas,” but, ultimately, seeing Death in this position brought me relief. It seems obvious to an onlooker but probably unfathomable to the man in the Seven of Swords that the solution to his problem of having too many swords is just to drop all of them. This doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t pick some of them up again. But he’s never going to get ANY of them where he’s going if he keeps trying to carry all of them simultaneously. I have a huge list of unfinished writing projects that I’ve been slowly working through over the past few months. Except that I’m not actually working through them, slowly or otherwise. What I actually have is a huge list of writing projects that have been staring me in the face for months like the ghosts of dead things. In fact, many of them are literally summaries or epilogues of parts of my life that are over now. What’s missing might be a burial. 

 What’s connecting all of these pieces together: THE FOUR OF SWORDS [Respite. Rest after illness. Repose. Replenishment. Solitude. Exile. Retreat. Abandonment.] I like the placement of this card because it allows for so many different relationships between the cards and causes me to consider them in terms of a common theme. In this card, a young person lies resting in what appears to be a secluded tower, swords floating above their head like dreams. If I consider writer’s block a kind of spiritual sickness, to me this card speaks of convalescence. The fever has broken, but there is still a process of returning to full strength. Becoming mentally unstuck means dropping my many unwieldy projects and focusing on one firmly held idea. Coming out of my hermetic retreat requires letting some of my ideas die, or acknowledging that they have been dead for a while, and honoring that as the beginning of something new. 

How? THE EIGHT OF CLUBS [Swift activity. Sudden progress or movement. Speed. Hastily made decisions. Rapid advancement.] This card depicts eight wands being hurtled across the sky, arcing over the distant city and upward into the night. I imagine them, perhaps, as having been thrown from the window of the tower by the formerly-sleeping person, who has awoken with a new perspective on that about which they dreamed. All the other suit cards in this reading were Swords but this one is Clubs aka Wands. What were formerly solid, weighty mental objects have been transformed into lightweight, flexible arrows of inspiration shot out into the world. 

 So, what does this mean in practical terms? Starting tomorrow, I’m going to give my ideas away.

There were a lot of things I wanted to write this summer. I got some of them finished. Fewer than I would’ve liked. I was about to say, “But I didn’t get much of anything done” except that’s not true. I actually got a lot of things done: I moved across the country once and completed all the preparations to do so again next week. I introduced Dakota to New York. I helped Maymay buy a car. I coordinated a lot of travel logistics around and beyond those trips. I applied and got accepted to massage school and then I coordinated a bunch more physical, social, and financial logistics around that. I reconnected with August in some ways that feel important to me. I deepened my relationship with Lilly and got to hang out with Athil. I journaled and meditated and exercised and ate and slept more regularly than I ever have in my life. I successfully retrained my body to wake up at 7:30 every morning. (That’s probably my biggest accomplishment.)

I actually did quite a bit of writing even if I didn’t get a lot of writing “done”. I published Why I Just Gave a Bunch of Old White Dudes Five Hundred Dollars, Your Kink is Not My Kink but Would You Like Some Doritos?, “BDSM” is Kinky Sex for Rape Apologists, Anarchists are Like the Frat Boys of the RevolutionWhole People Make Better Allies Than Parts of People: My Review of Savages. I said a couple of thoughtful things on Tumblr. And I had a lot of good ideas. 

 Common sense says that there’s nothing wrong with just leaving a bunch of projects on the backburner until whenever I’m inspired to work on them again. But common sense is wrong. I know they’re there and right now I feel like I have about 50 open tabs in my brain. They’re distracting and emotionally loaded in a way that blocks me until I’m sick. I want to close those tabs so that I can focus on one thing. Specifically, I want to focus on massage school — not because I want to “be a massage therapist” but precisely because I’m building a life in which writing can be my vocation without ever having to be my job. Learning as much as I possibly can in massage school is a key piece to that puzzle. Does this mean I’m going to do no writing or other creative projects over the next seven months? Holy fuck, I hope not. It just means I want to hit the reset button. Free up cognitive space. Clean slate. 

The material, pragmatic inspiration that drives me to “do something” with my existing ideas is wanting to have all those tabs closed by the end of the summer. But, originally, I told myself that meant I’d just write whatever I could get written before September and let the rest of it die. But the fear of simply losing all those ideas I was excited about caused me to feel rushed and frustrated and hopeless and stuck and made it harder to write anything at all — even the spontaneous, off-the-cuff, quick-response stuff I’m best at. Also, it’s impossible. I can’t just drop them like they never existed. It won’t work. I’ll just continue to perseverate on them and then trip into guilt-trigger-land when I do. I know. I’ve tried. And now I’ve reached what is essentially the last week of the summer. I want to do SOMETHING with them. Even if it’s just something ritualistic. I want to acknowledge letting them go. And the thing I want to do is not turn all of them into completed writing projects. The thing I want to do is give them away.

This is important: Giving my ideas away doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on them. The opposite, in fact. It means giving them a chance. I might even be giving them to myself. I might send them out as arrows of inspiration into the world and then be hit by one sometime in the future. But that’s different from having it burning a hole in the back of my skull right now. 

My experiment last week was to avoid using social media entirely. I was about…75% successful. I skimmed Facebook and Twitter a few times, liked some things, but didn’t post much. My experiment this week is to use Diaspora exclusively, since that’s what I want to be doing starting in September. So, starting on Monday, I want to spend an hour each day posting ideas on Diaspora. I don’t want these to be proto-drafts. I don’t want to get caught up trying to share every little thought and scrap and sentence I think is clever that I have so far. I’ll never get anywhere. So, I’m going to convert each discrete piece or project idea into a writing prompt, a few sentences, and post it as an individual status update with tags. Perhaps they’ll go out into the world and other people will find them and be inspired to write by them. Perhaps they’ll create something far better than whatever I would have done with that idea. Perhaps I’ll come across something they’ve done in the future and be inspired by it. 

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