Help! Should I Write What I Want—Or Should I Try to Make Money?
In the third installment of our Tarot + Craft column, Sarah Elaine Smith gives advice to a writer who wonders if their style is too weird for readers
This is a dark, serious spread. In each one, a human figure is using a sword or a spear: for balance, for burden, for protection. Even death waves an arrow. There’s a sense that the underlying question really has to do with your relationship to your materials. Are you using them rightly? Are they using you? Is mastery possible—or even desirable? As the mood of the reading, the King of Swords indicates that the way to find grace with a tool—or a weapon—is perhaps to not need to use it. The king walks in a sideways sky and holds a sword down at his side. There’s no need to brandish it when you know you could level anyone if you wanted to. After walking in darkness, the moon will rise for you.
WHAT TO DO
Every idea and mindset you’re willing to cast aside will become the fodder for some strange, beautiful flower, some wonderful fruit. Even if it is odd, it will be loved by its audience for the simple reason that it is bright in a bleak world.
The Hanged Man
MUSIC AND POETRY Rx
“Rich Girl Mood” by Dounia
The Malady of the Century by Jon Leon
Thanks for reading, and welcome to this column! Each installment addresses a craft question with a tarot spread and interpretation.
I know that “craft” usually means diction or dialogue or some other mechanical aspect, but here’s the thing: Writing is actually the art of risk. It’s a risk to write anything down, a risk to let anyone read it, and a risk to say what you really want to say.
As such, there are lots of little wars we all have to fight on our way to the blank page, not to mention the doubts and fears we battle when we get there.
Do you have a question for Braindoggies? We would love to hear it! Please send your writing conundrum to Eliza Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, “Dear Braindoggies”
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.