I learned about object writing from the books of Pat Pattison, who teaches songwriters to evoke memories in the listener by involving all the senses while writing. Writers tend to get too much in the head and forget about the body, and this exercise reminds you to ground your writing in the physical.
The idea is that you write about a physical object using all of the senses. Pattison says we have seven senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, and he also includes body and motion. He defines object writing as “timed, sense-bound writing usually done first thing in the morning.” He likens it to free association. The rules are simply to write, focusing on your senses, and to set a timer and stop after ten minutes, so that you don’t burn yourself out with long writing binges followed by droughts of not writing at all.
The Tarot is entirely symbolic. The only things included on the cards are things the artist put there and the reason they were included is because they symbolize something. If you include object writing into your Tarot journaling, you get a treasure trove of material that involves all of your senses in the cards.
For example, you write for ten minutes about a red rose.
What does the red rose look like?
I mean, it’s red, and it’s a rose. Sure. But we’re going beyond that. Is it still a bud or has it unfolded? Are the petals starting to darken around the edges? Are any of them falling off? Is the stem upright or is the weight of the blossom causing it to droop? Does the sight of the rose remind you of the elated feeling you had when a dozen red roses where delivered and you thought they were from Brian. Joy! But then you read the card and they were from Toby. You didn’t feel that way about Toby and now you had to tell him this, and, furthermore, Brian didn’t feel that way about you.
What does it smell like?
Do you enjoy the scent? Or is it too cloying like the time the smell of all the flowers on the casket and around the room at your grandmother’s funeral overwhelmed you and you had to go outside and breathe into a paper bag.
What does it feel like?
Perhaps you can still feel the soft velvet of it on your cheek that time you stayed at a hotel the same weekend there was a wedding and the wedding party left dozens of flower arrangements behind and the guy at the front desk said you could have them, they’d just be thrown away, so you and your lover took a single leftover rose back to your room.
What does it taste like?
Does it remind you of the rose petal chicken with pomegranate that your roommate made for her boyfriend but he broke up with her over a text so instead you ate it with her while you drank all night and listened to her talk about how much men suck (only for her to get back together with him the next day!).
What does it sound like?
Do you hear the snip of the bypass shears as your grandmother trims the rose bush that she grew from a cutting she brought from her mother’s garden when she got married?
Try to fit as many sense memories as you can into your Tarot journal before your ten-minute timer goes off. Next time you flip over the Magician and see his red roses, you won’t just know they’re supposed to mean something. You’ll feel their meaning in a visceral way. Better yet, you’ll have a personal relationship with the symbol rather than trying to memorize what someone else said about its meaning.
This is a partial list of symbols commonly found on Tarot cards that you could explore in object writing. There may be other symbols on your deck. Flip through your cards and make your own list of the symbols you see depicted.
Tarot Symbols for Object Writing:
Here are some bonus words.
These are less tangible, as in you might not be able to hold them in your hand, but you can still come up with some associations for them.
Not quite objects bonus words: