It’s 6am. The wind is blowing a total hoolie out there and the rain is lashing my boat – it’s almost deafening. I woke up two hours ago with a head full of thoughts, questions, worries, so I rose, stoked up the fire, made some coffee and sat down with a blank sheet of paper.
I journalled. Mind mapped. Bulletpointed. Poured out some feelings and added up some numbers. These are things I’ve done many times before, but today, they came out different. Ah, the strange and beautiful clarity of a small-hours brainstorm, beating six months of planning hands-down.
Back in April, I launched the Alternative Tarot Network, a social network for all you weird and wonderful tarot lovers and learners.
For six months I’ve been saying that, come autumn, there would be a charge. Sites like this cost money to run and lots of time and effort to look after, and I felt that a (very small) monthly subscription was the way to go.
My reasons were solid: sustainability (as in, I get paid, so I can eat, so I can carry on running it), commitment (people tend to value the things they pay for), and development (I’d like to hire a developer to make about ten million improvements to the site because, as members will know, it’s buggy as hell!)
I’d sat with that plan for months, fleshed it out, bought software, announced it semi-regularly to members, and aside from one charmer (whose email pretty much read “LOL UR CRAZY LOL” – gosh, thanks!) I’d heard only supportive noises from the community. I was confident that this was the right move.
Well, on Monday, that came into effect. After a truly wonderful six month trial (and seriously, it’s been so much fun) I installed a system that would allow members to pay $1, $3 or $5 to continue using the site.
And you know what? The moment I did it, it felt wrong. So, so wrong. And I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed and squeamish and just plain bad about it all.
And now it’s Wednesday, less than 48 hours later, and I’ve totally changed my mind.
Which feels incredibly embarrassing! Little Red Tarot is a labour-of-love-turned-business built on community, honesty and vulnerability, and one of the tricky old things about that is that my mistakes are public, just as much as my successes. 50,000 people read this blog each month. 2000 people receive my emails, 700 people are members of the network. This isn’t one of those mistakes where I can quietly backtrack and pretend it never happened.
So I’ll do what any good blogger should: blog about it, explain what’s happening, put things right and move the heck on.
Here’s the thing: The Alternative Tarot Network should be free to use.
Never mind the monetary cost of running it or the time and effort it takes – this is not where I’m going to get paid. I knew it in my heart the moment I installed that software, and that feeling of ‘wrong’ has only grown stronger over the past 48 hours.
Well, yesterday, at just the perfect moment, my Earthbound Oracle arrived (more of that another day!) I was sitting at my desk, trying to process the grim feeling I was having. And then these cards appeared, calling themselves an ‘oracle’, and asking me to shuffle them.
Obviously that’s just what I did. “Give me a sign, lovely new cards!” I said, and I lay down three cards. Here’s what I found:
Labour. Yep, this takes work. I love the metaphor of a beehive and honeycomb for a social network, for co-operation. This card me reminded me that the best work is done for its own sake. Where’s the reward? In the wonderful things we all share in the network, the amazing conversations, the connections, the peer-to-peer learning, the geekery, the warmth and the supportive atmosphere we all create. It’s about honey, not money.
Creativity. This is what I’m here for. For the past month I’ve been going through a process of defining my work, and each time I write down my goals, my aims, my day-to-day tasks, one word comes up: creativity. Creating resources, inspiring creativity, getting creative with my cards. This is what works. This is what my work is.
Gift. Give it away. Make a gift of the network to all who want it. Give it freely and with a full heart. Make the network a safe, welcoming place where anyone can come and connect with other tarot lovers. Make it central to my offerings, a gesture of love and welcome.
Yes, I need to make a sustainable income if I want Little Red Tarot to continue. Earning a living is a pretty regular concern for people and I’m no different. I’m figuring out how to do that as this blog and community grows and grows and develops and often, I feel as though Little Red Tarot is a runaway train and I’m running along behind it yelling ‘hey, wait up! What’s happening? How can I make sure this all works?’
I guess part of that is making mistakes.
Right in front of you – the people who read and comment and share and support this community. Hi! I’m Beth! I got something pretty damn wrong this week! …and now I’m going to fix it.
It’s 7am. It’s getting lighter, and the rain is easing up. Cally-dog is nosing at my lap, and I think it may be walk time.
When I get back, it’s back to the drawing board. I’ll remove the subscription system and the Alternative Tarot Network will be available for all to use once again. If you’re an existing member, you’ll be able to log in as normal. If you’ve already paid for your membership, don’t panic! You’ll get a full refund this week.
If you’re not yet a member, hold tight. Make sure you’re on my mailing list and you’ll get an email in a few days letting you know how you can join!
And that, for now, is that.
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.