Don’t Write Alone | Columns

When Is It Time to Give Up on an Old Project?

In the fifth installment of our Tarot + Craft column, Sarah Elaine Smith gives advice to a writer who is growing tired of working on their manuscript.

This picture shows the same tarot spread described above
Photograph courtesy of the author


re a queen. In fact, youre the Queen of Wands: creativity and passion are your domain. Which means that, as much as the question presents you as a hapless trudger, you are actually a sovereign working within your realm.

s exactly a simple matter. Queens have power, but they are also subjects of a literally toxic lineage. There is no room for self-definition if the circumstances of your birth have the first and final word about who you are and how others see you. And you may find it difficult to get good counsel because, well, nobody tells a queen what to do! Thats the good of it and the bad of it. If youre surrounded by toadies, you’ll hear “yes” over and over again, even if it isnt the right answer.

t queenlike to do with your own hands what someone else could do for you. Power isnt always freedom, especially if its granted by stratification.

s why so many of us find it soothing to work with our hands when our minds won’t stop spinning. A hand isnt like a thought: It can only touch something that is right there within reach. Hands cant do hypotheticals. They cant hold worries. They can hold carrots and babies and pine cones and chopsticks. They can speak and they can pull air quotes, but unlike our minds, they can also scratch an itch without thinking about it.

s the difference between an empress and a queen? Way less clothing, it seems! Way more frolicking. Rolling around in the pastures of teeming life with all the other creatures. It looks less dignified, I suppose, and there are probably not that many petit-fours on the table, but who cares when youre having fun?


t possibly be allowed, can it? So well only let ourselves enjoy writing if we also have to earn it somehow. We make rules to up the stakes. We make up stories so we can punish ourselves if we dont do something the way others tell us we should.


s an example of the ways old work can be meaningful even if it isnt Le Book.)

waggling their buttsre busy dancing. They collaborate with flowers by finding them and showing others where to go. You can do this, too! And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to collaborate with another writer (although you certainly could). You can collaborate with your shadow, with the moon, with a knock-knock joke. Show us where the flowers are! Waggle your butt!

s interesting to see the mirror image of the hands in the Nine of Wands and the Eight of Pentacles. The mood of this reading is to question how valuable notions of power, completion, and product are when compared with process, so its fitting to see a hand placing the final block on top of a pyramid, a royal structure which codifies power and wealth. But pyramids are also, in some way, passages to the world of the dead. They bridge a materialist sense of power and influence with an esoteric sense of power and influence. My hunch is that, for you, the resolution of the stuck feeling will ask you to find a way to bridge earth and ether.


Picture of the 7 of Swords tarot card, which shows a snake and seven arrows
Photograph courtesy of the author

re overdue for some fun, so why not play a game of equivalencies? How is a raven like a writing desk? Who is sharper, the arrow or the cobra? If you ask yourself any impossible question, the empress will always answer. So ask away!


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