I haven’t been able to write of late. I type and delete and type again and delete again. I’m not sure it’s writers block – I know what I want to write about – it’s just that the writing feels bad. I’m trying to recycle a bunch of old essays, using old materials, old ideas. My writing feels clunky and forced, as if I’m dragging my feet through mud. (I have a sudden insight as I write this blog post that maybe that’s also part of the problem. Maybe I need to throw it all out and start anew. Maybe I need to metaphorically kill myself as well as my darlings so I can move on).
The subject isn’t helping either. It could be so fantastically interesting but only if I succeed in touching the perfect notes, which, needless to say, I am currently not (can you hear my falsetto mingling with tears of frustration?). The subject is so deeply personal and potentially controversial that it feels unattractive right now even for me. I too want to escape from reality, just like the rest of the world. The deeply personal and potentially controversial experience was originally going to be used in a work of fiction, but I was not enamoured with it. Not one bit. After a conversation with a friend over coffee (just in time before the lockdown no. 2), I decided to flip it and turn it into a memoir (after all, that’s supposed to be my speciality, right?). About a week in, I managed to bore myself to death (despite the deeply personal and potentially controversial element).
Trying to get into the flow and to keep my frustration in check, I’m writing my ’morning pages’ religiously. I even started making these writing mantra cards with encouraging statement that say things like ’You are exactly where you need to be,’, ’Trust the process’, or ’It’s not your job to criticise the work, your job is to do the work.’ Nothing seems to work.
But a true writer is open to synchronicity and when two different articles on the subject of tarot reach me (one via email, and the other one via the We Transfer website – did you know they have a selection of interesting articles to read while you wait for your files to upload?), I decide to follow through. (After all, curiosity leads to inspiration, as Elizabeth Gilbert says). My friend Elena and I used to read our fortune in tarot when we were students, so I have a vague idea of the meanings for the major arcanas. I don’t own a deck but I do a quick google search and find plenty of websites where one can shuffle and pick cards online. I’m starting to get repeat cards. The Hermit and Temperance keep showing up. The Hermit is about isolation (COVD19-related perhaps?), spiritual pursuits, and introspection, while Temperance is, well, it does what is says on the tin: keeping balance, ying and yang, that sort of thing. So maybe my only duty right now is to stay grounded and introspective? Easier said than done, when I’m desperate to write. (Write every day, they say. I personally think that’s bullshit! Nobody can write every day unless they have at least some vague idea what drives them to write. I also know from personal experience that forcing yourself to excrete some very bad writing just for the sake of writing every day can be even more damaging that not writing at all – you’re better off letting your mind enjoy some other activity – but that doesn’t spare me from feeling guilty anyway.)
I do not feel like I’m making progress and this may be because of Mercury and Mars retrograding together for the first time in donkey’s years (I hope you noticed the subtle transition I made into astrology here).
Dipping further into the occult online world of tarot readers, I realise that I’m feeling pulled towards fantastical stories. I am attracted to myths, magic and the supernatural (I have compiled a list of best magical realism books of all times and I’m going to indulge in them). The need to escape reality is so poignant these days, magic feels like necessity. Will Donald Trump win the US elections, I ask myself, as I draw another card: Justice. ’The Justice card means that an imbalance will be righted, a bad situation made good, a crooked road made straight.’ For a fleeting moment, I feel better.
’So here’s my weird bit of advice’, says Elizabeth Gilbert. ’If you’ve lost your life’s true passion (or if you’re struggling desperately to find passion in the first place), don’t sweat it. Back off for a while. But don’t go idle, either. Just try something different, something you don’t care about so much. Why not try following mere curiosity, with its humble, roundabout magic? At the very least, it will keep you pleasantly distracted while life sorts itself out. At the very most, your curiosity may surprise you. Before you even realize what’s happening, it may have led you safely all the way home.’