See the Cripple Dance: The (in)tangibilities of writing, dreaming, & trusting

Writing a book is a very real accomplishment.

Yes, with all the millions of endless books in the world, it’s still a big fucking deal. And it’s tough to validate myself for achieving this particular goal, which is why I want to take a moment to do just that. Because I finished writing another fucking novel. And each time I finish a project, each time I’m invited to contribute to a project, each time somebody tells me my writing has helped keep them alive, I remember that I am one of the ones who was not expected to survive.

I spend a lot of time contemplating intangibility, invisible processes, and internal worlds.

The Eight of Pentacles, for me, often represents the act(s) of giving these thoughts form, language, and physicality. As a writer, I associate this card with typing, scribbling, editing, photocopying. The physicality of fingertips on keyboards, ink smeared on the edges of hands, sealing envelopes and walking to the post office. Focus and precision, care and devotion. Tedium and repetition that is hopefully worthwhile. Deciding on a fair price or exchange for the art/work.

Reversed, the Eight of Pentacles is a reminder to practice patience, move slowly if that’s what you need, strategize around preventing burnout, and consider what it is you want your art/work to provide for yourself and your communities.

While my second novel, We Are the Weirdos, is a work (and it’s taken many years of work!) of fiction, much of it is influenced by my own experiences of growing up poor, of body and gender dysmorphia and dysphoria (before I knew those words, or the differences between those words), surviving neglect and violence, bullying, and not-being-believed. Being arrested, charged, and incarcerated multiple times in my early-teens contributed to my later diagnoses of complex-(p)TSD, borderline personality disorder, and fibromyalgia, as well as chronic feelings of alienation and isolation.

I wrote this book for myself, yes, and for other weirdos, misfits, and outcasts. Being a high school dropout as well as someone who accumulated multiple charges and sentences as a teenager is still, at the age of thirty-one, something that often makes me feel quite separate from potential queer community/ies and literary community/ies. I wonder where folks like us end up. It may be a cliché to say that we write the books we wanna read, we write the books our younger selves were looking for, but that really is what We Are the Weirdos is. Back then, and even now, I found very, very few stories that felt even vaguely representational of what I went through – the way(s) I struggle(d) with alienation, not-belonging, bodies, gender, loneliness, and isolation. I’m still searching for them. I’m still writing them. There were many times when I thought I would die writing this novel, but I didn’t wanna leave an unfinished draft behind.

Let them praise with a garbage can for all who are cast out.

Anne Sexton, O Ye Tongues

In the Everyday Witch Tarot, we see a witch concocting a series of potions, eyeing the bottles with an expression that conveys concentration, power, and mischief. How long has it taken to gather these magical bottles, to create the perfect recipe? And who will the final potions be shared with? How will they respond? How long has this witch been at their work table, measuring and tinkering, daydreaming and test-tasting? Have they had any witnesses beyond their familiar?

In Thea’s Tarot, we see somebody with their sleeves rolled up, holding onto a hammer, sitting upon a gorgeously detailed wall, or boundary, presumably one that they have built. Again, their expression displays that same mix of concentration, power, and mischief. Their sleeves are rolled up and their hands rest on their knees. In the background, we see a clear path leading to a small home, with smoke drifting from the chimney. Have they built the fire themself, or is there somebody inside waiting for them, caring for them? What is the purpose of the wall they’ve built? How long did it take them to draft a blueprint, develop carpentry skills, choose the perfect place for their boundary? When did they realize the wall was finished, and now they could rest?

Click here to support We Are the Weirdos! We’ve been able to raise about half the funds needed so far, with two weeks left for the rest. You can also read more about the process of making this magical collaboration, as well as notes on the Tarot cards that helped me write.

A friend of mine asked me how I knew I was finished my novel.

They’d been with me for the entire process of this writing project, and seen me through the times when I was too triggered to write, when I felt so much rage that I was afraid of killing myself or somebody else. They were also with me through each revelation I made in my own recovery through the process of writing We Are the Weirdos, and the connections I made between the violence I experienced when I was young, and the way(s) the feelings I had to suppress back then were manifesting in my life in adulthood. I thought for a moment, and realized that I knew the novel was finished because it felt incomplete. It might not be a story I ever feel a sense of closure on, a story I can leave in the past, but it is one I can finish in some odd, artistic way, wrap it up in the boundary of a book jacket, and move on to something else. There are many situations in my life that feel incomplete, and I’m learning to accept this and see what I’m capable of within those feelings.

While the Eight of Pentacles shows the physical side of art-making, the Three of Pentacles shows the spiritual side. It’s labour with meaning, art with purpose, writing with spirit. In the Everyday Witch Tarot, we see three witches pausing to inspect a mural they’re working on. More than one witch is holding onto wet paintbrushes, so we know that this is a collective project, though we might assume the witch closest to wall, the one with the pointy hat, is the one who is the most deeply involved, the one investing much of the patience, care, and faith that is needed to complete the project. How did these witches gather and choose to work together? Who is the artist and who is the audience? Do they trust one another? How will they know when the painting is complete?

In Thea’s Tarot, a figure is posed at their writing desk, holding onto a pen, concentrating on the work before them. The desk appears old-fashioned and well-designed, perhaps a piece passed on through family or community, or stumbled into at a junk store. We can’t see what they’re working on, but we can imagine. They seem to be dressed comfortably and feeling at home with themself. Maybe they’re writing a diary, or the outline of a novel, or a manifesto.
When you draw these cards, ask yourself if the projects you’re working on are bringing meaning to your daily life. Ask yourself what you’d like to devote more time and care to. Ask yourself which ideas and actions give you a sense of purpose and connection.

Decks shown in this post are Thea’s Tarot, the Everyday Witch Tarot, the Radiant Waite Tarot and the After Tarot.

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