Writer in Residence

How Tarot Can Help You with Your Writing

By Liz Worth

I was 13 the first time I tried to see the future in a playing card.

I’d been at the grocery store with my parents, and in the checkout line was a small rack of books. I was immediately drawn to one called The Little Book of Fortune Telling. For a mere 89 cents, my life would be changed forever.

I spent that summer studying the section on cartomancy – divination using playing cards – while Sally Jessie Raphael and Jenny Jones chatted on in the background. Needless to say, it was a great summer.

But the curiosity I had towards that little book never left. Throughout my teen years I was continuously drawn to the occult and the supernatural. In a Grade 10 business class, my entrepreneurship assignment was to come up with a business plan. I proposed an occult shop. The teacher gave me a B on the assignment because she “didn’t believe in it, and so wouldn’t invest.”

I was inspired, though. It was the best idea I’d come up with and it was something I could actually see myself doing for a living one day. That teacher’s comment was an important lesson to me: To follow what feels good, regardless of what other people think.

It wasn’t until 2008 when I started get serious about learning tarot. At the time, I was thinking of it in much the same way as I had approached those playing cards I’d dabbled in so many years before. I saw tarot as something like fortune telling. I never thought to equate it with writing.

But the more I learned about tarot, the more I realized how deeply we can go with it.

Sure, some of you might be at the point where you’re thinking: Is this girl really going to tell me to go out and buy a tarot deck?

Well, maybe I am.

I think anything that pushes us to look at something in a whole new way, or that challenges our assumptions, or that simply opens us up to a different perspective feeds our creativity. And one thing I learned about tarot over the years is that it is an incredibly powerful tool that you can use for so many things. Because it relies on intuition and imagination, it’s perfect for finding some creative inspiration.

Here are some ways tarot can help with your writing:

1. Prompts. Some writers I know like to pull a tarot card when they feel stuck on a story, or when they just feel like they need to get their creativity flowing. Using one card as a prompt can help trigger so many questions: What’s happening in the card? Who are the people? What are they talking or thinking about? What are they feeling? Why does the sky look stormy, or sunny?

2. Experimenting. Grace Krilanovich, author of The Orange Eats Creeps, used a homemade deck of cards to create her surreal, frenetic debut. Tarot can be used in much the same way with a piece of writing by allowing the cards to decide what happens next.

3. Readings. Tarot is not restricted to fortune telling at all. If you have a deck of your own, you can use it to understand more about your writing.

Asking questions like, “Where do I need to focus my attention this week?” “What do I need to know about the manuscript I’m working on right now?” “How can I get past my creative block?” Can all be helpful ways to use tarot to help support your creative work.

What are some unconventional ways you stay inspired and connected to your work?

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.


Liz Worth is a Toronto-based author. Her first book, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond, was the first to give an in-depth account of Toronto’s early punk scene. She has also released a poetry collection called Amphetamine Heart and a novel called PostApoc. You can reach her at http://www.lizworth.com, on Facebook or Twitter.