Tag Archives: Ros Saunders

How NOT to write a book…thanks, progressed Mercury retrograde!

I blame that bout of tendonitis in around 2015.(i) I had been running no less than three blogs ( yes, mad, I agree…) since launching myself on the Web in 2008, had had one print book and four e-books published,  when it struck. The only cure, which took quite a while, was to severely lay off writing, working mainly through a dictation app. NOT recommended if you wish to remain moderately sane, by the way…

I am left handed, which did not help the problem afflicting my left arm and wrist. In the end, I had to make a decision – a hard one, since by then I’d begun the research for book number 5. Either proceed to carpal tunnel syndrome, enduring the rest of my life with it and related arm and wrist unpleasantnesses – or confine myself largely to short pieces from then on. So I chose the latter. This mostly took the form of weekly pieces for only one blog at a time, writing columns (at one point I had three, deadlines falling in the same two weeks every couple of months!) and continuing to send out longer essays and articles to a wide range of magazines and journals – something I’d been doing for around twenty years already. 

The result, half a Jupiter cycle later? I have actually arrived at book numero 5 anyway, albeit a very different one from originally envisaged: contents sixty published essays, columns and articles of mercurial variety. (btw I have a third house Jupiter square everything in the twelfth house, so this planet has been just a tad influential). Not only does this accidentally arrived at book have a title ie ‘Postcards to the Future’ and a subtitle ie ‘mercurial musings 1995-2021’ but it has also generated a small publishing company ie Writing from the Twelfth House Publications, and brought together a really experienced, talented production team, headed up by one V Olliver as editor. 

And boy, has he been editing to within an inch of my sanity these last few weeks…but I jest… Compared to my last venture into having a print book published ie ‘Jupiter Meets Uranus’ by Arizona-based American Federation of Astrologers in 2009, it has been a breeze. Although I got on very well with the AFA editor, ease of technological transmission between Scotland and Arizona was much less flowing then than it is now. And I didn’t know her at all when the process began. I was just about on my knees, not to mention cross-eyed, by the time that edit was completed. 

This time, the esteemed Victor has been editing my work, mainly through this column, for the last five years. We know each other’s literary weirdnesses. Not that I have any, of course…so book 5 edit has actually been a pleasure (well, mostly…) 

It’s an interesting business, writing short pieces to deadlines. Here’s a flavour,  extracted from one of my columns for the much-missed Dell Horoscope magazine, which you will find in ‘Postcards to the Future’ :

‘…Anyone who has ever written a regular column will know that there are times when inspiration is – not to put too fine a point on it  – notable by its absence. At other times, so many ideas are flying around that catching one by the tail to pin it down is, to say the least, tricky. And – you never know, as the last deadline is met and you can now relax for a few weeks –  which set of conditions is going to prevail the next time.

So, Reader, there I was, new deadline appearing over the horizon, and…nada. Nix. No–thing. At all. Braincell dry as an old chewed-up bone. In this situation there are generally two options: blind panic – or blind faith. I have six fiery planets. This is often a curse, let me tell you, but in the matter of column deadlines, it is a blessing. So, armed with nothing but blind faith, I headed for the office…(ii)

In the end, you simply have to have  confidence and faith that your topic will appear from SOMEWHERE…in the above example, it appeared via a random phone call on the bus journey to my office  – on the very day of the latest deadline. In the case of longer, more in depth subjects, the process can be rather different. As I put it in a recent AA Journal column: ‘…The idea usually lands in my mind either days or weeks before the deadline. If it refuses to go away and bother someone else, I know it’s mine to tackle…’

My approach is simple. The third time the idea drops into my mind and refuses to go away, I give in and start work. The last essay in ‘Postcards’ is titled Waning and Waxing Crescents: Windows to the Future and was published in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of TMA. The idea refusing to go away was that of linking the horoscope of Mary Shelley, born in 1797 during the waning crescent phase of the 200 year traverse of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions through the Fire element, with that of Greta Thunberg, born in 2003 during the waning crescent phase of the 200 year traverse of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions through the Earth element. What emerged and grew from that idea drove me hard for some weeks – but the end result was truly fascinating to me, and hopefully to my readers.

The subtitle of ‘Postcards’ ie “mercurial musings 1995-2021” offers clues both to the author’s horoscope – Mercury Ruler: conjunct, square, semi-square and sextile just about everything! –  and the book’s subject matter. The hardest part for me of the whole editorial process was choosing the sixty pieces which were eventually included. (Let’s face it, Victor has by far done most of the other work, since I told him I’d rather pour hot melted butter into my left ear in the dark than have anything to do with anything technical…) 

The range is indeed mercurial: from topics which deserve serious treatment ie ‘What is my job as an astrologer?’ , through a whole long section on planetary cycles, my current preoccupation, all the way to the quirky, ie ‘My Mary Shelley obsession: It has never gone away’ featuring unique synastry between a famous human (Mary) and a dead sheep (Dolly). Then there is a whole section titled ‘ Interviews: Featuring the Bacon Sandwich Motivational Technique, Plus Other Arcane Delights’. And lots more endless mercurial variety. 

As I write this column, we are almost there…it’s now over to Ros, our  meticulously Virgoan book designer, and Cat, hard at work on what will be a brilliant cover. Well, it’s all Victor’s fault, really, apart from the tendonitis. He is largely responsible for luring me out from behind that twelfth house sofa…

Endnotes

(i) ALSO: this is a collection of sixty selected essays etc going back to 1995. My students and more than one astro-colleague began suggesting that it was time for me to go back through my large stack of varied writings and put a collection together…yes, in 2018, the very year progressed Mercury, sitting stationary on top of my restless third house Jupiter, turned retrograde. Pretty apt, eh what?!

(ii) from ‘Fate, Uranus – and the astrologers’ degree…’. 

(This post is an edited version of my 36th Not the Astrology Column featured in the July/August 2021 Issue of the UK’s Astrological Journal, edited by Victor Olliver.)

1250 words Copyright Anne Whitaker 2021

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