Pardon the Hanged Man

By Melanie Harris

I’ve heard it and read it countless times:  “Distance yourself from your writing when you proofread and edit.”  The basis of this truism is the same reason why it’s easier to read the Tarot for a stranger than for a friend, the same reason why reading the cards for oneself is nearly always an unproductive exercise in narcissistic obsession.  If we’re too close to something, too involved with it, we see only what we want to see, only what we expect to see.  

I feel like I do a fairly good job of applying this principle of distancing to my writing; I’m no kinder with the red pen on my own work that I am on other people’s work that I edit.  And yet, it amazes me that I can read over something I’ve written a good 10 times or so, and still overlook an obvious error.  

I recently made an embarrassingly stupid mistake that left my face bright red for a solid hour once I realized what I had done and was able to stop laughing about it.  I was querying a real estate company, asking if they would hire me to write copy for them, descriptions of homes for their brochures, short biographies of realtors, and the like.  I included a writing sample in my email that read, “With John Harris, you’ll get more than a home.  You’ll get PIECE of mind.”  Besides this statement being incredibly cheesy and trite, I of course meant to say, “peace,” rather than implying that not only would you get a great house, but also there just might be a piece of a brain sitting in the living room as a happy bonus for you…Yuck!  Needless to say, I haven’t heard back from them.

This incident got me thinking, though.  How do we manage to be so utterly blind to our own errors?  How do we fail to see the truth glaring at us, when the subject in question is our own self or someone we care about?  I think it has a lot to do with the rigidity of mind that comes with pre-conceived notions, and it also has a lot to do with plain old-fashioned denial.  

Forget the reasons, though.  What I want to know is how to break through it, so that my Tarot readings, and my judgment of my own writing, will be truly objective and unbiased.  Perhaps the truth is that it can’t be done, at least not while we’re being ourselves.  

In order to be fully objective, we must forget what we already know, lose ourselves and our opinions and expectations, and pretend that we really are someone else.  When we read the Tarot for a friend, we must imagine that we are reading for a stranger.  When we are evaluating our own lives to see where improvements should be made, we must pretend we’ve been cast as both the host and the guest of the Steve Wilkos talk show, ready to have our dirt put out there in plain view, served up on a platter of shame for all to see.  Just as a good actor must become the character in order to portray him accurately, a good Tarotist or a good writer knows how to become who they are not.  

When I read my cards, or check over one of my articles for idiotic phrases and typos, I’m going to step out of my own character and become a stranger, not wavered by my personal beliefs and desires.  I think today is the perfect time for a Tarot reading to take stock of where I’ve been and where I’m headed.  Hopefully, I can distance myself enough to get some value out of it, to see the actual truth as it stands cowering behind me.  Now, there’s just one problem, though.  Where did I put that fake mustache?  

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2008 

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