At the end of March 2023, I attended the NZSA Roadshow in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was a series of workshops and panels for writers (not readers). It had been some time since I had gone to one of those events, and I knew that part of my 2023 reconnection was to also reconnect with the writing community.
So, I went with an open mind, not quite sure what I would take away from the day. And it was within the first session of the day that I was blown away and brought to tears (in a good way).
The day started with an interview discussion with Witi Ihimaera. I know the name won't mean much to my readers (the name didn't mean much to me either), but as I listened to this 80yo writer, listening to his philosophies towards creating a writing life that you can feel proud of, there was one theme that ran through everything that he was talking about. He did it in a way that was true to who he is as a person… and he's still learning and growing and still trying to stay true to who he is as a person.
He's doing it his way.
As that session ended, I just looked up at the ceiling. "Okay… okay… I get the message."
And even as I write this, the tears are flowing because the message is so loud and clear. In moving forward within my writing career (and within my life), I have to do things my way.
Let me set the stage for the significance and importance of such a profound message.
Tarot readings with the same message for weeks
I do tarot. I've been a student of tarot since I was a teen, getting my first deck when I was fifteen or sixteen. I will also admit that there was a long time (while my kids were young) when all things occult were in a box in the garage. I was too focused on the mundane world to worry about the spiritual world—trying to get food on the table and making sure my kids didn't kill one another. Every so often, I would pull the cards out again, but it was never really anything serious… until recent times.
Approximately two years ago, I encountered an article that talked about using tarot cards to plot out a novel and to use the cards to create a character. Intrigued by the idea, I went out to the garage, dug through the boxes and pulled out my cards. And as I started playing with the idea of using them to draft my novels, I just stared at the readings—and saw the messages for how to manage the negativity that was in my everyday life.
I went back to doing tarot regularly, like I had before my kids were born. It became a daily practice, with weekly big spreads. They helped me to process how I needed to manage some really sticky situations over the last two years, and now they are helping me to reconnect with myself and the world around me.
And over the last few weeks (month really), every single spread that I have done, even my card-of-the-day draws, have all had the same group of messages.
- I have all the tools and skills that I need.
- I have all the knowledge that I need.
- I just have to learn to trust in myself.
- I need to move forward into the next phase of my journey.
- I need to examine the true source of my self-doubt… and challenge it.
- I need to be true to who I am as a person.
- And I need to do things my way.
I will gladly admit that the self-doubt monster is constantly threatening to strangle me. I keep pulling out the bat and beating that Self-Doubt Monster back into submission and tying the beast up—but he keeps escaping his confines and regroups with Envy, Frustration, Irritation, and Impatience.
But when you keep getting the same readings over and over, you tend to take note.
And in my case, I also started to question some of the choices I've made over the past few years, wondering if they really were my choices.
The little voice that wasn't mine
The Self-Doubt Monster is me. I'm not going to deny that. Any writer who tries to tell you that they don't have self-doubt moments is lying. But for the past… five years?… there has been this other voice sitting in my head that actually wasn't me. I thought it was. And many of my decisions from the past five years were driven by that little voice. But when I started seeing the same message over and over in the tarot, that I needed to do things my way, I started to wonder if I really was doing things my way or someone else's way.
And I heard that little voice again… and I was finally able to identify whose voice it was. I wasn't mine.
I'm not going to go into great detail as to whose voice it really was, except to say that the person in question is no longer in my life. No, they haven't died, but I no longer associate with them. And shedding the little voice that wasn't mine was the last step that I needed to take to regain my control over my life and my future.
When that little voice was finally gone, I heard my mom again… and I heard her favorite saying.
Turn "can't" into "Watch me!"
She would say it to me nearly every day growing up. She said to my children at every opportunity she could. She lived by it. Even her work colleagues had their own stories of witnessing her favorite saying in action.
Whenever someone told my mother that something couldn't be done, she would find a way to make it happen. And because this philosophy was so strong in the house that I grew up in, I too had developed the subconscious attitude that when I heard the word "can't", I did! (Much to my detriment at times.)
But somewhere in the last five years, I had lost that passion and subconscious drive. I spent too much time listening to a voice that wasn't my own, and I started to become narrow-minded as to the options available to me. I would still hear the word "can't" and I would subconsciously want to do, but I wouldn't exhaust every possibility available to make things happen. Instead, I had become focused on a single path.
Then the tarot cards and their message… Then mom's voice and her favorite saying… Then the session with Witi Ihimaera…
Why listening to Witi Ihimaera reiterated the message
So, here I was, already getting this message that I need to do things my own way—not that I have a clue what my own way is—but there were so many things that Witi Ihimaera said that all resonated with the same passion and energy… and the same message.
(Not all of the following are direct quotes, but the messages were his.)
- You have to decide on an identity for yourself… what you want to achieve… and how you are going to get there.
- As writers, we have to be as opportunistic as we can.
- When you finish editing, you have to ask yourself, "Does this work reflect who I am?"
- Go as far as you can—then go back to previous drafts where it wasn't perfect, because that is your true voice.
- You have to stand in front of your work, and you have to stand up for your work.
- Don't be afraid to set the impossible goal, because by setting the impossible goal, it means that sometimes you have to "push" yourself.
- Walk the walk, and talk the talk.
- Before you set on a journey, be sure you know the stars.
If you look at Witi Ihimaera's career, which spans over more than fifty years as a writer, it is obvious that he lives by his words. He wants everything that he does to reflect who he is as a person, and he is not afraid to push himself. He believes in his work wholeheartedly. And there is no doubt in my mind that he does everything his way.
My way will not be the same as his way, but that's because I'm not him.
I don't know who I am. I thought I did, but somewhere along the way, I had lost a portion of myself—an important portion of myself—the portion of myself that wouldn't let the word "can't" get in her way and would just make things happen. I've found her again, but I still have to reacquaint myself with her.
But the important part in all of this, once again, life (and writing) is an adventure. I know where I want to head, but I have no idea how many twists and turns I'm going to need to take as I travel down the road. But isn't that part of the fun?
I know what I want. Watch me! as I make it happen.