©2009 by Donna Cunningham
I’ve been writing about astrology for close to 40 years now—my first articles appeared on the newsstands in around 1969-70. After more than a dozen books and thousands of articles and columns, I think I’ve finally hit my stride. In just a couple of days, it will be my 6-month anniversary as a blogger, and I’m seeing that this is a natural medium for me, affording me a new creative freedom.
Throughout my career, I’ve done my level best to write like an air sign (through the intellect) or an earth sign (practical, problem solving tools). I’ve done so with some success…quite a few books in foreign translations around the world and a Regulus award for “Theory and Understanding.” But I’m a water sign Sun in a water house, with Neptune in the 3rd, the house of writing and communicating. Neptune is my only planet in earth, nothing to brag about.
For me to have written like an earth/air combination has been hard labor requiring intense focus and numerous drafts. I always say that I edit my work with a stiletto knife so that it’s as sharp and clean as possible. There’s little place for water in that—not for showing my truest feelings and darkest secrets and revealing depths that readers can identify with.
My regular readers will be protesting, “But you deal with emotions all the time in your books. It’s what you do.”
You’re right. But I deal with YOUR emotions, not my own. Mine, I keep hugged to the chest, working them through to completion before I set a word down on paper. That sort of processing is intrinsic to the creative arts and is part of what makes writing so demanding.
The painting here is by an old friend from high school, Delores Swanson. It shows in visual form what I imagine my writing would be like if it arose out of my watery nature. I’d be writing wet, not dry.
Doesn’t the image grip you? Maybe we don’t quite understand what’s going on, but there’s an intense vulnerability and an emotional power to it that no still life of a bowl of flowers can evoke. (If you’re interested in a print, BTW, write to me and I’ll pass your email along.)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m pleased with my body of work. My readers give me wonderful feedback about how much my words have helped them. One of my reasons for starting a blog, however, was that writing had ceased to be fun. I’d become a prisoner of my own success, writing to assignment and only doing pieces that would ultimately become part of a longer project. I felt hemmed in by the very system that had enabled me to create a series of books.
Meanwhile, I had a seemingly endless parade of alluring ideas for articles that never got written because they had no place on the outline for my next text. I even threatened to collect a dozen of those juicy topics and donate the package as a raffle prize or silent auction item at a major astrology conference. (I still might do it, if some group out there calls my bluff!)
After stewing about this impasse in my career for a few months, I dipped a toe into the blogosphere’s fast-moving stream. Six months and 84 posts later, I can see I was born to blog! This is my element—and a watery one at that. I needed for my writing to get looser, freer, and more creative. I needed to break out of the impersonal, somewhat academic style of writing educational pieces.
Most of all, if I were ever to write about something other than astrology for the mainstream media, I needed to write in an informal, personal way. I needed—and this is the really scary part, because I’m intensely private—to reveal more about myself in print. OMG!
Well, I’ve done a bit of that now. It started fairly innocuously, with Button Jar–A Memoir? and Important Spiritual Lessons Learned from Playing Solitaire. Then, after a conniption or two, I actually started revealing bits of my chart—a long-time bugaboo because of some seriously nasty things that people have done with it IN PRINT. The worst was the book reviewer who tore my chart to shreds in a national magazine because he was uncomfortable with my feminist perspective.
Still, Diddly Squat in Earth–Still Clueless after all these years was fairly innocuous. Self-revealing but still light-hearted was: On Being a Weeble at 67 . When things really got hairy was when I wrote Cancerians, Memory and Emotion and revealed what I’ve been hiding for years, the fact that my short term memory was damaged in a car accident back in the 1980s.
That part of blogging has been like deprogramming myself from Omerta, the Code of Silence. Still, blogging is a medium that fosters self-revelation, and it seems to be working for me. The feedback from people who know my work well over the years is that I’ve never written better. They say my style is looser, freer, funnier and more THERE. I can’t tell if they’re right or not, but it certainly feels more creative.
Most of all, I’m regaining my joy in writing and am reanimating the hope that someday I’ll be able to write for the mainstream… novels, maybe. A memoir would still be a stretch. A best-selling self-help book is certainly in the realm of possibilities. And perhaps one day I’ll realize my dream of dreams: to write—and publish—mystery novels that the public loves. In short, I’ll write wet, not dry, and will finally be in my element.
Note: If you’d love to write like a pro, see posts in the category The Skywriter’s Apprentice—tips from my writing seminars. I also have an email course on writing articles for the web here: Email Course–Writing Articles.