Saturday, 13 February 2016

On Eating Humble Pie

Just a little over a year ago, I was an anti Star Sign kind of astrologer who spent an awful lot of time telling other astrologers why Star Signs were stupid and a complete waste of time. Until then, I never thought I'd see the day when I would give in and begin my own Star Sign column. I guess the impetus to give the old Star Signs a try came with the realisation that I didn't even know what it was like to actually spend some time writing a column. So I decided to take the Star Sign challenge which you can read about here. And the results here.

I can clearly remember thinking that I was setting myself up for a very big piece of humble pie but at the time, this was preferable to being the kind of person who runs her big mouth without actually knowing what she is talking about. It was as much a surprise to me as it was to anyone else that I'm still writing a Star Sign column every day--for free.

This is not to say I enjoy writing the daily column. Oh no--most days instead of jumping out of bed (a-hem) and hitting the keyboard doing something useful, I am drinking 3 or 4 cups of tea, playing on Facebook and bracing myself to write 2 sentences for each star sign. I can procrastinate with such pathetic skill that a full hour can pass before I feel ready to get on with things. And most days I think I have something better to do than write them.

But here's the thing:

My blog viewing stats before and after the star sign column
I can't argue with how much traffic the column brings to my other work. I easily get at least 100x more visits to these pages with links to my "real" work than I did when I wasn't writing them. This means that about 10,000 good people who stop in to read their Star Sign written by me have access to the external links to full articles, workshops and other things that I get up to: in other words, they are exposed to "real" astrology far more often than if I didn't write the column.

And what on earth is "real" astrology anyway? If you had asked me before I started writing the column, I would have told you that "real" astrology was a beautifully written piece demonstrating the functions of every planet, every aspect and every technique in astrology. In other words, articles loaded with obscure references that no one was going to take the time to read--not even fellow astrologers. And to be really honest, it was stuff I wasn't writing anyway. And if I did have the time to write these articles it would appear to be just as much bullshit as any Star Sign column.

So I'll bet you're wondering why I'm so touchy about this today.

Last night, I received my first ever criticism for writing a Star Sign column from a fellow astrologer. It was a moment I had been anticipating for some time (given that I had made myself such a big target by being anti Star Signs for so long) so I thought I would been prepared for it. The other astrologer said my column was "tacky" and that it undermined all my other good work and credentials.

I mean "ouch".

But how many times I have wondered, being highly qualified in the teaching profession, the value of saying again and again "a lot is two words", the differences between "there, their and they're" and the value of reading a "real" work of literature?  I have probably said something along these lines to my eager pupils at least once every lesson--and that is a very conservative estimate. I mean, why should I, having so heavily invested in my education, stoop so low as to even waste my breath on these ignorant heathens? Shouldn't I be showing off my in-depth knowledge of the Complete Works of Shakespeare or something? The answer is because the kids I teach just don't know any better and they aren't going to understand Shakespeare until they understand the basics of the English language. I know better and so I can teach them. It's what I do--and what every other teacher on the planet does. And I feel exactly the same way (now) about the Star Sign columns. Yes, I have more important things to do--but there is nothing more important than putting oneself in the front line by providing non astrologers with the opportunity to learn something. So it goes with the column: here's the Star Sign stuff and here's a way to find the more important stuff.

Another point is on the topic of practice. Writing a daily column essentially forces me to pick up an ephemeris and look at it and work with it and to put the meaning into every day language to be understood by a non astrologer. It's a bloody hard skill. But by the Great Goddess I got better and faster at doing it.

It's not unlike being a trumpet player--which I've been for 40 years.  I dislike practising scales--but if I don't do it, I wouldn't be much of a trumpet player. And if I don't do it often, I become a bad trumpet player very quickly. So I get out the Arban's (that's the trumpet Bible) and make myself practice. It's not the only way to become better and it certainly isn't fun to listen to or to do but it's efficient and effective. Ditto for the star sign column.

So I have faced up to being wrong about Star Sign columns for all but one of the 30 years I've been an astrologer. And I have to eat a big old piece of humble pie. But I'm going to wash it down with the fact that it's better to realise one's mistakes sooner rather than later.


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