Thursday, August 19, 2010

Writing astrology columns

As many of my regular readers know, for the last couple of years I have been writing an astrology column for the student newspaper of the Community College of Denver (CCD): Campus Connection. And today, I am starting my fourth semester of being a professional astrological writer (using the olympic definition of professional---if you ever got paid [even once] for the work, then you are a professional).

When I first accepted a position on the newspaper staff, the astrology column was not even a glimmer in my eye. I was in a literature class with Sarah Stover; and when she got the job of editor-in-chief, she remembered that I mentioned that I occasionally did some freelance writing. I agreed to work for the newspaper, then discovered the very next week that I needed to do a last minute transfer to the University of Colorado at Denver if I did not want to lose a whole semester worth of credits (I was just short of a single class, a science class, for my Associate degree when I transferred). Sarah did not care that I was going to a different school; as long as I was taking classes at Auraria campus, I was still qualified to work for Campus Connection.

It was not until October that the thought of an astrology column arose. I was doing a piece on Wicca and witches---which is how Sarah realized that I knew a lot about the esoteric traditions---when the thought occurred to her that I might be capable of writing an astrology column. Every writer meeting after that, she would mention how she loved astrology columns (hint, hint). I basically ignored the hints because of a slight difficulty that the format of the student newspaper presented.

Campus Connection comes out every three weeks (five issues a semester). This means that doing a predictive column was close to impossible. The very first semester I was there, I discovered a two year-old issue on one of the stands---an issue long forgotten by everyone. This caused me to have to figure otu a way to write an astrology column that was as fresh (useful) on the last day that the issue was on the stands as it was the first day.

It took me three months to figure out the solution. In fact, I figured out the solution the very last week of winter break. I cobbled it up and sent it in. The first column was about How Your Sun Sign Might Affect Your Study Habits. It got published, and the rest as they say is history.

The original format of the astrology column included an introduction which discussed some aspect of astrology and introduced the theme of the month. Based on the feedback from readers I talked to, the introduction section was abandoned when the next editor-in-chief started (it was part of the changes needed to keep the column in the paper---his opinion of the column was not exactly favorable---ironically, all the changes were ones that I wanted because of my feedback research). There was also some artistic changes done last year (including the removal of the background artwork).

But despite the changes in format, the way I write the column has been stayed the same. A month before writing any particular column, I have an idea. A couple of days before the column is due, I abandon the original theme and start working on a completely different theme. The revised idea for the column tends to be something I dreamed up while in the shower. Coming up with the idea is probably the hardest part of the process (in terms of how long it takes me to come up with a viable idea).

Then I start with the easiest signs for that idea and work my way towards the harder ones. The easiest signs to write about are those that I have a real life model for (often I am joking about how a certain Virgo and Gemini react). Then I progress to the harder ones...for the ones that I am unsure about I open up one of the many astrology books that I own (most often Rex Bills' The Rulership Book). Due to the nature of the column, I end up writing bits of it whenever I have a few mintutes to spare (lightrail, standing around waiting on my wife, etc.).

And a few months after the issue is off the stands, I reprint the columns on the internet. The astrology column does not do well on the internet for various reasons, but I do like to have them available online for my non-college friends to read. (The last four columns I wrote have yet to be posted to the internet which says what type of summer I had this year.) So here is to another year of writing astrology columns. May you enjoy and learn as much about astrology as I do while writing them.

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