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Tarot for writing

Creating content, with a (not really) spooky twist

Header for the MeetUp Meeting with the title "In the Cards: Using Tarot to Guide Your Content Projects"

Last night I attended a Philly Content Strategy meeting where we used the storytelling of Tarot cards to build content campaigns.

Content Strategist and Tarot enthusiast Jess Ryan broke us into groups to devise campaigns for different products. My group was tasked with coming up with a story line for a mindfulness app’s new landing page and newly-available lifetime subscription. We had a big group, so we didn’t get the whole campaign together, but the drawing of just three cards really got the ideas spinning.

As any content creator (or creative director) knows, coming up with ideas is HARD. When you do it day after day, sometimes your creativity abandons you. Your brain falls back on the same stories over and over. You begin to hear the same responses in the creative room, too.

“We did that topic two weeks ago.”
“We already wrote a blog post on that in Dec. 2017.”
“You always go straight for the harried mother trope.”

Ms. Ryan knows the grind. She’s a content creator herself. Right now I only write copy, but people like Ms. Ryan often work for an agency and are tasked with coming up with artwork, animation, taglines, logos, art direction, copy and more. After that’s all done, some are even responsible for finding placement in local and national advertising outlets.

All of these obligations can tax the already spread-thin creative brain. Enter Tarot, a card game (yes it started as just a card game), that is rich with character development, plot, challenges, emotions and any other part of a human’s story. Each card (of 78 cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the common deck used in Tarot readings) carries with it its own character, meaning and action. It also has an alternate interpretation in what are called “reversals” – different (not exactly opposite) meanings to be used when the card is drawn upside-down.

Sometimes one only needs a tiny bit of light to break the darkness. The Tarot offers thousands of idea sparks. Just pulling one card can chase away the dread of a blank page.

Our layout assigned to us for the mindfulness app campaign was a three-card spread: MIND BODY SPIRIT. 1 card would be pulled for each place in the spread. I brought out my deck (I have a deck. That’s a story for another time) and had 3 different team members pull a random card. We paid attention to how the card was oriented when it came out of the deck – upside right or upside down.

a medieval white male servant in plain clothes is struggling to contain a bundle of large, straight branches that tower over his head. Set against a blue sky.
Ten of Wands

The first place on our spread was designated to “MIND.” The next card we pulled would be used to address our customer’s state of mind. We pulled the Ten of Wands. Ms. Ryan gave us an app called Mystic Mondays, a Tarot app that holds extended explanations of the cards and their reversals. We looked up the Ten of Wands. Mr. 10 0′ Sticks came up right-side-up, so we looked for his standard meaning. The app has a LOT of info. To make it short, we picked out two phrases we thought could help us design the story funnel for our mindfulness app customer: “unburden yourself” and “you’re not in this alone.”

A naked white woman with bared breasts, holding two batons out to her sides. She is floating in air and a drape swirls around her and covers her genitals. She is framed by a large laurel wreath
The World

The second place in the spread was “BODY.” This would address the customer’s physical habits and behaviors. We pulled a “major arcana” card (the “face cards” of the Tarot deck), The World. Our bodies are our worlds, right? Or at least our bodies are how we see and interact with the world. The World card came out of the deck upside-down, so we looked up both the standard and the reverse meanings. Standard meaning for this card centers around wholeness and unity. The reversal meaning concentrates on taking action to make things happen, to not give up on one’s goals even though the goals are taking a long time. As a group, we thought the reversal meaning was pretty significant to someone who may want to make an entire life change, not just some silly New Year’s Resolution that might disappear by February. Notice, too, how the reversal defined the customer “problem” or “need to be filled” more closely than the standard meaning. I have a bit of experience with Tarot (which I’ll explain later) and I find this to be consistent. The reversals are where the “sales funnels” are. That is where you’ll find the challenges people face.

A white woman with dark hair sits on a religious throne surrounded by draperies and many religious symbols of every major world religion. She holds a scroll. There is a black column to her right emblazoned with a B and a white column to her left emblazoned with a J.
The High Priestess

The third and last place in the spread was “SPIRIT.” Like the rock-n-roll creative DIVAS that we are, we pulled The High Priestess. Here is where some controversy struck – we had some disagreement on whether or not the card came up in reverse. But because the reversal meanings are where all the “tea” resides, we looked up both the standard and reverse meanings of this awesome, female energy card. The upside phrases we picked out are “inner voice,” “serenity” and “Look inside you” for “expanding intuition.” The reversal, and where the problems for the customer really hide, had phrases like “imbalance,” “2nd guessing,” and you’re never “too busy” for “wisdom.” A big meaning that came from The High Priestess card was “get in touch with your higher self.”

All in all, I think our spread ROCKED. It is chock full of ideas for a mindfulness app’s storyline. There were tons of “pain points” a marketer could use to sell a lifetime subscription to the app in these three cards alone.

The night wrapped up quickly but the lessons lingered. I downloaded the Mystic Mondays app today. It may prove very useful indeed. At a later date I’ll expand a bit on what I know about Tarot and how the major arcana cards tend to follow me around (including last night: 2 out of 3 cards Major Arcana). In the meantime, check out Tarot for sparking some creativity in your work. Sometimes all it takes to light a fire is a tiny spark, and with each Tarot card comes a bright world of story.

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