A Matter of Style and Substance

I enjoyed a long, productive career as a technical and legal writer, generating text to be read by a range of intelligent and talented people, from technicians to engineers to managers to government functionaries. Cultivating precision, clarity and economy in writing style was uppermost in importance. But my first love, derived from many hours spent reading fantasy novels in my youth, is writing fiction (with a little poetry on the side). Certainly in some quarters the practice of divination is viewed as an exercise in “fiction,” so it could be said that I’m right in my element here.

As tarot readers, we are dealing with 78 segments of discrete data, each carrying its bit of intelligence that must be synthesized in smaller subsets with creative flair to yield convincing stories that make sense to our clients. The permutation calculators tell us that there are several million different ways to combine any ten cards out of a population of 78, so the number of narratives is virtually limitless. Astrology is even more complicated since all of its numerous “moving parts” are in play all of the time, so the temporal snapshot it embraces is even broader and deeper. One must be a judicious organizer of information first and an interpreter second.

Therefore, “what” I write on the subject of the divinatory arts must share the spotlight with “how” I write it. Now that I’ve been liberated from the constraints of technical communication, I choose to inject imagination and humor into my style, one of the reasons I’m so enamored of using metaphors, analogies and, to a lesser extent, allegories in my material. Some of us struggle with presentation, but that has been the least of my problems; knowing when to shut up and let my reader (or, in a “”live” situation, my sitter) process the details I’ve already presented is my personal bugaboo.

A comfortable, “conversational” style coupled with engaging substance is the “Holy Grail” of the tarot writer’s – or for that matter, any writer’s – art. Well-written fiction, with its focus on entertainment first, is a good model on which to establish an approach that is both instructive and enjoyable. One of the most inspiring compliments I’ve received lately is that mine is both “comfortable and readable.” Now that I’m spending a good deal of time putting together published works from my blog posts,* I’m losing the thread a bit on my daily output. This post is mainly an attempt to keep my hand in; thanks for your indulgence!

*Stay tuned for the next one on the subject of “Hermetic Tarot Fundamentals.”

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