Pick Your Battles
or how the Five of Swords talked some sense into my head
I draw a tarot card every morning, and every morning I’m like “What’s this about? Why this card?”
This morning I picked the Five of Swords, and sure enough my reaction was “What’s this about? Why this card?” The answer always comes, of course. I just have to hang in there and wait for the reveal. In this case, it didn’t take long.
To me, the Five of Swords is the “pick your battles card.” It’s my favorite card of the deck. Every time I get it—and I get it a lot—I’m being asked to consider what’s worth fighting for and what isn’t.
I was supposed to post a story today. Why? Because I designated the third Wednesday of the month as Story Day. It was actually going to be my last free story. The next story I post—the one in June—will be behind the paywall. (I made this decision yesterday—prompted by yesterday’s card.)
These Substack newsletters have been a HUGE leap of faith for me, and weighing them down has been a ton of catastrophizing what ifs:
What if no one subscribes?
What if no one pays?
What if everyone hates my writing?
What if the sky actually falls and squishes me? (OK not really, but kinda?)
The thing about those particular what ifs is that with each post, they got less threatening. My hypothetical response to each one evolved from profuse apologies and complete and total mortification to “I’ll be OK.”
What if everyone hates my writing? I’ll be OK.
What if no one subscribes? I’ll be OK.
What if no one pays? I’ll be OK.
What if the sky—stop, you know that’s not gonna happen, and even if it did, your body might die, but you’d still be OK.
Yes, Catastrophe #9536 would totally, totally SUCK, but—I’ll be OK.
Putting up the paywall is that next leap. It’s me drawing a line and saying my work has value. My swords are ready, it’s time to wade into the fray.
So yes, according to my schedule, today I was supposed to post a story. I’d planned to write a brand new one for the occasion, but it wasn’t forming as quickly as I’d anticipated, so instead I picked one that was already written. Throw on a coat of polish, easy peasy, done.
Not so fast.
Do you really like that beginning? And this transition, what’s that about? That dialog is a little redundant, don’t you think? And what’s up with this flow?
Problems kept jumping out at me. The more that I fixed, the more that presented themselves. I didn’t expect this fight. Not only that, but the fixes were not that simple. Not dire, mind you, but there’s still some minor heavy lifting to do.
I suppose I still could have patched it and posted it. But would I be happy? No. I suppose I could also have wrestled the worst offenders into submission, and posted it. Again, would I be happy? No. The only reason to post it without a thorough rewrite is to serve this arbitrary rule in my head that said: The third Wednesday of the month is Story Day!
That’s fine if the sole measurement of value is punctuality. But it’s not, is it? At least not for me. That rule is a guideline at most. So what’s more important to me, that guideline or the value I’ve infused into my work?
The rules monster in my head says I’m quibbling.
The rules monster can shut the hell up.
In this instance, fighting serves no one: it doesn’t serve my readers and it doesn’t serve me. That Five of Swords was the reminder, that light tap on my shoulder, the gentle question “You sure you need to do that? Why?”
I’d much rather take another week to hammer out the dents and then post a story I like, instead of just posting a story I don’t like to check off the box marked posted.
I love the tarot, always calling me on my bullshit. Story next week!
Until next time,
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