Posted by: Donna Cunningham | June 23, 2009

A Water Sign, in her Element at Last—Writing Wet, not Dry

©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 processingangelinthought-dorrie 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.

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 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.


Responses

  1. Donna,

    After stumbling into your website, I find your writing fascinating! I have always wanted to learn more about astrology, and I am very visual hands on type of gal, my mercury is in Gemini and I just beginning to discover the joy with being a twin thinker. Your information is wanderful to digest! DOn’t stop your passions of guiding and teaching keep them coming.
    Karen

    • Hi, Karen, I love it when people stumble on this site by accident…I’ve done a good bit of stumbling myself and have gotten to know some fascinating bloggers that way. I have Mercury in Gemini too, part of what keeps me writing. Donna

  2. Hello Donna, It is true you have never written better and with such depth or you might feel more comfortable with the word different rather than better. This idea about your change in presenting the written word should never be expressed with a question mark which might denote disbelief. It is not in doubt for your readers Dearest and when we say these things about your writing we end the sentence with a large bold explanation point. All of us exhale with a sound close to joy and a resounding “Yes, at last the gold as Linda would say. Donna is mining the gold and it is coming up 24 Karat ‘” Don’t stop.
    Much love,
    Lynne

    • Aw, shucks, thanks!! Lynne’s a bit biased, folks, because she happens to be one of my dearest friends in the whole wide world. She’s one of my First Readers, those kindly folks who allow me to burden them with first drafts and writings that should never see the light of day. Donna

  3. Go, Donna!
    *standing up to applaud*

    • thanks–hope you’ve got water skis, as it gets really, really wet these days! Donna

  4. I love that I have wandered to your site by skipping rocks … you know, a piece of earth (Capricorn is my lean claim to the ground) occasionally touching a watery expanse.

    Reading your work now and not reading it then is perfect timing. Like you, I have found blogging is just my cup of tea. Water, water and fire, fire, fire. Thanks so much for putting it down this way. After all the energetic jackhammering, I took myself on long walks along broad moving river water. And, now to blog.

    • Hi, Mokihana, I have to laugh because I’d forgotten all about this process myself, having done it about a year ago. I guess what I learned from your learning about it is that we are all Creators and we can create negative thought forms as readily as we create positive results, whenever we become too enamoured of the Glamour of powerful emotions. thanks for reminding me and sharing your own work with the idea. Aloha!! Donna

  5. I just found your page but I am LOVING it so far. Keep on writing!

    -Lindsay
    http://thedailyawe.com/

  6. Love your blog!

    I found blogging to be lots of fun. Although I love astrology (which is how I found your blog), I decided to write a blog about Balkan and Bulgarian folklore. Must be my Venus-Uranus sextile (venus rules 2nd and uranus 12th). Must be memories from another lifetime….
    BTW I also have Mercury and Pluto in the 5th…(the 5th ruled by Moon in Sag)

  7. Hi Donna,
    Although I’m a 9th house Leo Sun, I’m intensely watery, with Neptune sitting on top of my Scorpio Ascendant and a Moon, Saturn and Chiron conjunction in my 4th house Pisces. I couldn’t help but respond to your comment above about how you hold your emotions closely and process them before you write, as this is precisely what I do. With my Plutonian/Neptune nature (Mars in Libra is in my 12 house too!) , I often feel as if I need to allow myself to sink as far as I can before I return to the surface to express myself. I’m feeling especially soggy now as my literary agent and writing colleagues are pressing me to shift my book proposal into a predominantly memoir form. This may well be the hardest thing I ever have to do. Thank you for your insights and honesty.

    • A whole book as a memoir? That IS brave!! I recall a whole issue of Writer’s Digest memoir dedicated to the memoir maybe a year ago that was excellent. You can find back issues in the public library. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Writers’ Digest book club has a book about it. When writing is difficult, I always find it helpful and comforting to read what other writers write about it. Anne Lamont, Bird by Bird, is a wonderful collection of essays on her writing process.

      Trust me on this, however. Your agent wouldn’t suggest you write memoir if you weren’t doing a powerful job of it! That fact that, given today’s market, you even HAVE an agent is a sign that you’re a good writer. Best of luck! Donna

      PS. You helped me–I’m really in a writing slump, unusual for me, so getting down my Bird By Bird and a couple others to give you the right title has reminded me that I ought to reread it now!


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