On the Cusp of a New Year

It’s disheartening to see that my last post here was last July and then for the remainder of the year, I simply let the blog slumber. I have about five or so incomplete drafts of things that I wanted to write about this year, but somehow I can’t seem to pull them out or even begin again. Which perfectly summarizes my 2018: a year of waiting, of inaction, of allowing things to slide.

I think one of the things I learned (or rather, re-learned) this year was how to fail. I’ve never been very good at winning, but I was especially bad at failing. My competitive streak rarely surfaces, but I always feel it lurking beneath the surface. I take every disappointment very hard, but I also try very hard not to allow it to color how I view the world within various contexts, and as much as possible, I try to consider it as a path towards learning, towards doing better.

But man, 2018 was so hard, especially in applying what I theoretically knew about myself and the world.

I began the year with unfinished projects, and end the year with the same unfinished projects, which kind of tells you just how inactive I’ve been. I’ve experienced rejection on a number of levels: stories that simply didn’t work or live up to the expectations of myself and the editors, missed deadlines, proposals that failed, fellowships that simply sent a form letter rejecting my application or worse, putting me on a waiting list. (It feels like it’s worse because there’s still that tiny glimmer of hope that, dammit, you don’t want to have in the first place.) Even moments that didn’t reject me outright still has that whiff of rejection, of things that aren’t quite here or there, of a weight in the void: award-giving bodies that have rejected me, or have not yet released their results; a second book of short stories that, because of things beyond mine or my publisher’s control, can’t really be published this coming year; stories in limbo, waiting for acceptance or rejection; stories that refuse to be completed. I’ve woken up every single day with an anchor in my head, refusing my mind to move from place to place as freely as it used to be. I’ve collected books whose covers I’ve never opened, ideas scribbled dutifully in a digital notebook but never seeing the light of day, attempts at making something out of nothing that arrive at nothing. It’s not writer’s block, per se; perhaps it’s a writer’s void. A black hole which feeds on everything but does not allow anything else to escape its shadow.

One of the things I returned to during the deepest, most difficult part of the year was the tarot. I’ve been reading since I was 19, but I’ve set it aside for the past few years. I’ve recovered most of my decks from my parents’ house, but I’ve also begun using a deck designed by a local writer and tarot reader, Chinggay Labrador, who runs the Practical Magic website and designed the cards herself. My first reading using her cards (around May 2018), fresh from the mail package, was unerringly surprising – enough that I took note of it immediately.

The most basic spread is a three-card spread.
Here, it represents (L-R) Problem, Situation, Solution.

In a blank document, I wrote about the 5 of Pentacles: This card truly surprised me. The image is dominated by a young black boy, asleep behind his sunglasses, and surrounded by torn black-and-white photos of women as well as images of dried flowers. There’s a really heavy and almost defeatist feeling to the image. It feels like this represents my current position now, more that the RW interpretation, in the sense that it feels like I’ve given up. I’ve bitten off more than I can chew and now I’m just bloated and exhausted and tired. It’s also a very scary feeling because it makes me think that I no longer care about what my writing. (Which is not true at all!)

The 8 of Pentacles continues this feeling: This was timely advice in order to deal with the issue presented earlier. The card presents a lighter aura than the previous one. It depicts a pair of hands painting a bowl, with another paintbrush behind it, and cut-outs of shapes – one is orange and the other is gray, almost like a photocopy. It feels like the advice is very practical and pragmatic, and ultimately reminds me to work towards specific goals, to write often and to write more, and to make sure that I’m able to find a particular balance that will suit me. The fact that the first two cards are pentacles also grounds the interpretation towards a more career-oriented reading that forces me to focus on the fact that this is really a work issue, and not a self/mind/spirit issue.

Finally, the 7 of Wands rounds out the reading: This is perhaps a splash of cold water in my face because of the exhortation, just do the work. (Mostly because I haven’t been doing the work, lol.) Even the cards have caught on to me! It shows a young woman holding up a bouquet of flowers. She seems joyful and triumphant. Behind her are more flowers in bright reds and oranges, with a sun shining behind the flowers. This is a really clear and straightforward narrative: if I do the work, if I just keep on writing and powering through this creative block, then I’ll emerge triumphant.

But it’s only if I do the work.

(So even the cards keep on throwing me shade.) But beyond this kind of self-guidance — because, really, who do you talk to about these kinds of problems, especially when the world is simply CHOKING with problems that seem to have no solution in sight — I feel that I should try to embrace new beginnings, and new portents, and set my sights on new goals. Do the work.

So I’ve updated my 10-year goal list (advice heartily taken from writer Jeff Vandermeer) and I will try to escape this void of my own making, swimming against the pull of gravity, and hope that I can make it out alive… and post more on this blog.

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