Creativity Tips – Buy a Tarot Deck

For those of you who have been following this series of post, you’ve read about lateral thinking (which I also call fruitful non sequitur) and de Bono’s Thinking Hats (a way to trigger lateral thinking).  For those of you who are willing to try some unorthodox and creative creativity techniques, I want to introduce you to the power of tarot cards as a trigger for writing and lateral thinking.
I know it sounds weird. Humor me, I promise it’s worth it!


Rider-Waite Tarot - Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel of Fortune represents the array of available choices. Decisions yet to be made. It encourages development and announces surprises.

A Little Bit About Tarot
Tarot exists since the mid-15th century. Once solely used to play games, it eventually became the trademark of fortune tellers. Today, it exists in an array of variations from the widely spread Tarot de Marseilles to HR Giger inspired imagery. There really is a tarot for everyone.
Typically, a tarot is a deck of 78 cards made of 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana. Some variations might have slightly less or more cards. Modern tarot-inspired decks, called Oracles, present a greatly diminished number of cards and, usually, simpler symbolism.
The Major Arcana present archetypes or “greater secrets”. It talks about the big forces of the universe and the faces of man. The Minor Arcana focus on more precise situations or “lesser secrets”. Their lessons apply to daily problems.
Here ends the nutshell explanation of what the tarot is.



Rider-Waite Tarot - The Devil

The Devil isn't necessarily evil. He's a selfish materialist that embodies instincts and warns us against the ties of negativity.

To understand why I recommend having a tarot deck handy, we need to dig into the cards themselves. Fundamentally, each card represents a concept – or a philosophical message, if you prefer – we can easily relate to. Instead of perceiving them as the medium for truths from the great beyond, we can consider them as writing prompts. See where I’m going?
From a creativity standpoint, each card is a bite of context to expand upon. As such, it may spark a story like a random word from the dictionary. However, since tarot talks about people and life, it relates more directly to characters and plot.  

Still with me? Let’s take this a step further.

You know how sometimes we are too close to a problem to solve it? The moment we step back and watch it from a different angle the solution jumps in our face. Tarot pushes us to do that AND think laterally.


Rider-Waite Tarot - Temperance

Temperance is synthesis. It brings opposites together so they can transcend their individuality to reach a new state of harmony.


Let’s say we’re in a plot knot and can’t make sense of anything. We take out the tarot and draw one, three, ten or whatever number of cards we feel like (there are several ways to read tarot cards but let’s not get into that). 

The tarot cards hold the solution to your problem.
Yup, it sounds like a crazy statement. Keep humoring me for a bit.

We have our story problem seared in our brain. Then, we have the seemingly unrelated story told by the tarot cards. These are two trails of thought, two lanes in our mind. Mesh them. I don’t care how separate they seem. I swear we can mix them together. That is a forced lateral thinking process.
If we assume the tarot card are talking about our story, we force ourselves to view our plot knot with a new set of eyes. It distances us from the problem a bit and helps us find a solution. 
Granted, it’s the point of view of an inanimate, arbitrary chosen object. But seriously, doesn’t that definition apply to any type of trigger?
Compared to browsing Google image, the tarot has the power to surprise us and, more importantly, the combination of cards tell endless, unforeseeable stories about life and people. 


Nowadays, tarot comes with little instructions manual that details the meaning of each card. They’re rather cheap and, as I said before, come in a variety of imagery. Find one that speaks to you and give this quirky creativity tip a try.
I personally use my tarot deck to fight off writer’s block and to feed me when I hit a rough patch in a story. From plot twists to character personas, the cards inspired quite a few surprising things.


About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

10 responses to “Creativity Tips – Buy a Tarot Deck

  • Dave

    “Once used to play games,?” Correction, tarot is still used for playing games, mainly in countries such as France. The French now use a different kind of deck for the tarot game which has the same suits as the poker deck. See the wikipedia article on the “tarot nouveau”

  • Jenn

    Wow, this is great advise. I can see exactly where you are coming from. I used to do word searches & circle the words that spoke to me instead of crossing them out. I figured one day, they might help me write a quick little story..I might have to go back to that as well.
    Thanks for the advise!

    • Aheïla

      Yes. Word searches, random sentence generators and other tools providing instant concepts are good tools as well. However, I find that I often have to sort through the prompts when I used those methods while what my tarot shows always spark something.
      Of course, that also has to do with my personal preferences. I like the pretty drawings. 😉

  • Rebecca

    I LOVE this idea, so much so in fact I might go out and buy some tarot cards tomorrow. It seems like something that would work really, really well with the way my mind works and the types of stories I like to write. Thanks for this post, it’s fantastic!

    • Aheïla

      I’m glad this technique resonates with you. My tarot deck helped through some heavy plot problems. For me, it’s a good alternative to getting external idea from a friend. Except that the tarot is always free and never gets sick of hearing you talk about your book. *laughs*

  • scribadiva

    Great advice! I used Tarot when I was your age (I am perpetually 39 now,). I like the feel of the cards, but in the early ’90’s, there was a freeware program that did the same thing. And there are variations on how you use it.
    I’m glad you mentioned what the true meaning would be; it gives the user other ways of thinking about the cards. Every one freaks out on the Death card, but, just like the Mayan Calendar expiring next year, it doesn’t mean the end of the world. Death is merely a transition.
    Another useful tool is the I-Ching. I prefer the Wade-Giles translation, but any of them for a creative person thinking laterally, any would do. Great post, and uplifting too.

    • Aheïla

      I suppose there still are programs that can be used to emulate tarot cards but just like you, I like the feeling of the cards. Also, it’s easier to move the ones you picked around to create different scenario. 😉
      I almost used Death as one of the examples but finally decided to go with these three because they somehow relate to what I’m saying in the post.
      I never tried I-Ching. I should look into it.

  • Irfan

    Your advices are….. great 😉

  • Creativity Tip – Speculation | The Writeaholic's Blog

    […] some of my other Creativity Tips (especially the one about brainstorming alone and the value of a tarot deck), this post can help you get over your hurdle and keep the word count […]

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