TarotTool: Answer Mining Template

Written by Mark McElroy

See more in every card with the Answer Mining template.

Calling all brainstormers, writers, artists, and other creative types! Even if you know nothing at all about Tarot, drawing a single card can generate dozens of options, insights, and answers. All you need is my patented (ha!) Answer Mining Template.

You can read on for instructions, or download the Answer Mining Template for free.

Why Should You Be Answer Mining?

Answer Mining is a fast, easy process that makes it possible to dig dozens of options, insights, and answers out of every single Tarot card. I came up with the tool as a way of helping:

– Brainstormers. If you need the maximum number of ideas in the minimum amount of time, Answer Mining is the visual brainstorming technique you’re looking for. With it, you can generate ten to twenty new perspectives on your problem … in ten minutes or less!

– Writers and Artists. Looking for a way to break that creative block? Want to explore your feelings about a theme before committing pen or paint to paper? Need a unique way to alter your perspective and see old material in a new light? Answer Mining can do this … and more … in minutes.

– Tarot readers. You didn’t think I would overlook the faithful members of the Tarot tribe, did you? (Of course not — you’re my favorites!) You don’t have to deal out a ten-card spread to glean dozens of insights for yourself and your clients — a single card draw can yield more associations than fifty Celtic Cross spreads.

What to Do

1) Download the Answer Mining template.

2) Define the question you want to answer or the situation you want to explore. As an example, I’ll use the question, “What’s stopping me from completing my first mystery novel?”

3) Get out any deck of Tarot cards (preferably one with a detailed picture on every card).

4) Shuffle the cards … and draw just one.

5) With your question in mind, take a few seconds to look the card over. Perhaps you’ll draw, as I did, the Five of Wands: Strife.



6) Giving yourself no more than a minute per question, fill out the answers column for questions 1 – 6.

What elements do you notice in the illustration? In plain English: when you look at the card, what do you see? List anything and everything: colors, expressions, numbers, keywords, titles, objects, characters, tools, implements, anything! For the Five of Wands, your list might include: five men, odd clothes, dancing (?), fighting (?), wands, a little brown hat. Write your answers in the Answer column.

Which element stands out to you the most? Pick one item from the list you just made. Tonight, I chose the word “dancing.”

What numbers are associated with your card? In my case, five.

What text, titles, or keywords appear on the card? You can’t see the titles in the little picture I posted here, but the title of the card is Five of Wands, and the keyword I use with this card is “Strife.”

What emotions do postures and expressions suggest? The postures suggest anger, but the faces lead me to believe these guys are playing a sport or executing some kind of dance.

What meanings have others assigned to this card? Many Tarot readers associate tonight’s card with disagreement, fussing, heated debate, and confrontation. In A Guide to Tarot Card Meanings, I assigned the keywords “confrontation, disruption, distinction, objection, strife.”

7) With answers in place for Questions 1 – 6, it’s time to list the associations I can make with each answer — thoughts, feelings, ideas, memories, and moments from my own experience that relate to these answers in some way. As I come up with them, I write them in the association column. For example:

– I associated the odd clothes and dances with those awful folklore shows I’ve seen on bad cruise ship excursions. You know the ones: a bus company drags you to a bad restaurant, and, while you gnaw on an overdone chicken leg, men in straw hats and white stockings prance around to recorded “cultural music.”

– I associate “dancing” with freedom. I grew up, you see, in a church that didn’t like dancing. The result? As an adult, I can’t dance a single step. Seriously — the one time I ever took to the dance floor, people were wounded. (It’s worse than Elaine’s Dance from Seinfield!) For me, then, dancing represents a degree of personal confidence and physical freedom I haven’t yet achieved.

– My associations for the number five include: the “Five Golden Rings!” from that holiday carol, the phrase “take five” (meaning “take a break”), and the total number of Rocky movies. (Thank goodness they stopped with Rocky V. You don’t want to take a franchise like that and, like, run it into the ground.)

– I associate the word “strife” with with a memory of a fight I witnessed back in my high school days: the sudden escalation to violence, the sound of fists smacking faces, the urge to help, and the helplessness. (And no, I wasn’t in the fight, just nearby.)

– I associate anger with procrastination. I get really angry with myself when I don’t produce as much writing as I expect to produce each day. I associate sport and dance with practice … the need to do something over and over in order to be able to do it with grace.

– I associate disagreement and debate with my recent indecision about which fiction project to complete first. The mystery novel? The science fiction novel? The final draft of Family Thais, the first novel I ever drafted?

8) Now I fill in the applications column. To create applications, I link my associations back to my original question: “What’s stopping me from completing my first mystery novel?” In this case, I’ll make each association into a hurdle that stands between me and a finished mystery tale:

Those folklore shows. Instead of the elegant and gripping story I imagine it could be, I’m afraid the actual novel will be as painful to read as folklore shows are to watch. (Ah hah! Self-doubt! Fear of judgment! The inner critic at work!)

Freedom. I keep taking on other projects instead of allowing myself the freedom to focus on fiction. (Failure to prioritize!)

Take five. When I start working on novel-length fiction, something always comes up to “break” my flow. I end up “taking five” — and then ten, and then taking thirty … and, before I know it, a month has gone by, and the novel’s muse has grown silent. (Distraction and procrastination! Lack of clear goals!)

Helplessness. I’m allowing myself to be a helpless victim, beaten up by my schedule, instead of accepting responsibility to control my own schedule and take actions accordingly. (I need to move from “whining” to “why-ning.” I need to get to the root of the challenge and identify the changes I need to make.)

Procrastination. I keep putting the mystery novel off to finish other projects … so it never gets done. (Failure to prioritize — again!)

Disagreement. I’m still not totally dedicated to completing ONE of my fiction projects and sending it out into to Big World. (It’s odd — I easily choose and complete non-fiction work … it’s only fiction that I dither on about so!)

9) At this point, you can answer the rest of the questions on the template. They’re pretty straightforward, so I won’t cover my answers here.

My favorite remaining question, though, is the one that asks you to imagine what text would appear on the inside of a greeting card illustrated with your chosen picture.

When I opened my imaginary Hallmark Five of Wands card, I saw the greeting: “Pick a novel. Any novel. Beat it into submission … and then write the next one.”

10) When you’ve filled out the form, you’ll have generated dozens of possible answers, options, and insights. All that remains? Scan the answers for common themes or options that catch your attention … and give the winning strategy a try.

In my case: working through this process has called my attention to the fact that I’m using endless deliberations (“Which novel?”) to keep myself from finishing any novel. If I can infinitely extend the delibaration over which novel is most commercial, or most nearly complete, or most likely to sell quickly, I can avoid the possibility that the novel won’t meet my expectations — or, worse, that it will never connect with readers who will love it.

What’s stopping me from finishing my mystery novel? Just my good old friend, Resistance, dressed up in fresh new clothes. Thanks, Answer Mining!

And we know how to beat Resistance, don’t we? By putting butts in seats, placing our fingers on the keyboard, and just showing up to do the work. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Ain’t nothing to it but do it.”

What insights, answers, and realizations will Answer Mining lead you to today?

I’d stick around for your answer, but I’ve got some writing to do. 😀

Leave a Comment