Get a group of writers in a room together, and--unless everyone is boozy and feeling pretentious--you'll generally hear something like this:
"I just couldn't get it together today. My word count was, like, 25."
"I can't write anything but fucked-up torture porn the past few days. What is wrong with me? I'm supposed to be an inspirational romance writer!"
"All I wanted to do today was organize my filing cabinet."
"I swear Wikipedia has more gravity than the rest of the universe combined. I sat down to work at 2PM, and I looked up at 5PM, and I'd spent the entire time reading about cocktails and the Jazz Age."
Sometimes these irritations are ongoing, but most of the time these concerns are petty moods that last no more than a day or two. Yet, they derail us far more than seems right.
The standard advice for writers dealing with these annoying moods is to practice discipline: Head down. Butt in chair. Hands on keyboard. Do the work. Meet your word count no matter what.
Sometimes, discipline is what's needed to get through a mood, but if you understand the psychological forces underneath the Wikipedia binges and cleaning sprees, you can learn to work with them instead of fighting against them. And, after awhile, you might even learn to predict them.
So, what are these moods, and how do they work?
Lunar Transits: Irrational Writing Moods
In The Inner Sky, Steven Forrest defines the Moon as the unconscious emotional needs that motivate our behavior. We all have emotional patterns that come up over and over again. These are represented in astrology by the Moon in the birth chart, and these habits, mood patterns, and preferred comforts make up an important part of our personality.
But the Moon wasn't fixed in the sky at the moment you were born. It moves and continues to move. As the Moon moves through the signs of the Zodiac, we are influenced by the personality of each sign. It's a bit like how your behavior changes depending on whether you're visiting with your formal Great Aunt Liza or reconnecting with a wild and crazy friend from high school.
Sometimes the personality of a sign is contagious. We find ourselves laughing more than usual, for example. Other times it feels more awkward. Your response to the energy of a sign is a reflection of your unique personality.
No matter how you respond, when irrational internal forces--moods--keep a writer from writing, the reason can often be understood by looking at lunar transits.
Lunar transits are the Moon's position in the sky at any given time.
In astrology, transits follow a general rule: The slower a planet moves through the sky, the more powerfully you feel it. Most of us have one or two really slow moving planets transiting sensitive places in our charts most of the time, so, unless we have the time and patience to study an ephemeris almost continually, most of us don't need to give much thought to the swiftest moving planets. As Paul Richard likes to say, if you're camping, and your campsite is invaded by a big, angry grizzly bear, you're not going to be worried about the mosquitoes.
Mercury, retrogrades aside, takes only three weeks to pass through each sign, but the Moon (which is a planet in astrology, if not in astronomy) moves faster still. It goes through the entire Zodiac in approximately 27 days, spending only 2-3 days in each sign. Lunar transits generally last only a few hours at most. If Mercury is a mosquito, the Moon is a gnat!
And yet, because writing is thinking work, writers are extremely sensitive to subtle psychological forces. Understanding the Moon's movements through the signs can help a great deal with our work.
The Moon in the Signs
Aries. Aries is the sign of heroic epics, war stories, and adventure stories. It is the part of us that needs to dive into the unknown and be brave. When the Moon is in Aries, it's a good time to do something new that scares you. Tell a story in a genre you've never attempted before. Reach out to an expert in something you want to write about and ask them for an interview. Better yet, become your own expert in something you've been too afraid to try.
Taurus. Taurus is the sign of Tolkein-esque fantasy, lyrical poetry, and food writing. After Aries' adventures, Taurus transits are a good time to slow down. Fill your house with the smell of warm bread. Buy an indulgent coffee drink. Take some time on your lunch break to draw your surroundings or visit an art gallery. After you've spent some time with your senses in the real world, return to your current WIP and see if can't bring that sensuality to what you're writing. Or, take a page out of George RR Martin's book and describe the food your characters are eating.
Gemini. Gemini is the sign most directly connected to writing, but it is also the part of us that is infinitely curious and wants to know about everything. Pay attention to what face of the sign of the twins you're wearing during Gemini lunar transits. Do you want to bury yourself in research? Do you want to get out in the world and see things? Do you feel like you can write forever? If you can follow these impulses, do. They are all good for your writing and the mood won't last long.
Cancer. Cancer is the sign of memoir, generational novels, and journaling. The Moon is at home in Cancer, making it easy to tune into our emotions and intuition. These are good days for free writing and feeling into your writing.
Leo. Leo is the sign of children's literature, regal historical fiction, and unauthorized rock band biographies. Leo is associated with the Sun and the House of Creativity. The best way to honor the energy of Leo is to play! Entertain yourself and others. Party. Write something just because it's fun, and don't be afraid to show off a little.
Virgo. Virgo is the sign of health and wellness writing, lifestyle magazines, and tidying up. Virgo is the side of you that wakes up after Leo's bender and wants to do nothing but drink kale smoothies and do yoga for a year. Being in a Virgo mood can make you feel hypercritical at times. It is also the sign that is responsible for more writerly cleaning sprees than any other, but it is the most discerning part of your psyche. If you've had a bad feeling about something you're writing and haven't known what's wrong, today is a good day to look at it again. You're likely to know exactly how it doesn't meet up.
Libra. Libra is the sign of romance, poetry, and literary fiction. Libra is ruled by Venus, so beauty, harmony, and balance may be especially close to your heart. It is also the sign of the scales, so Libra lunar transits are a good time to step back from whatever you're working on and make sure that you're considering things from all angles. Do you understand the point of view of everyone in your story? Can you see the bad side of the good guy and the good side of the bad guy? This is also a good time to work on beautifying your sentences.
Scorpio. Scorpio is the sign of horror, dark fantasy, and mysteries. If you find yourself fascinated by the taboo or writing stories that are sexier, deadlier, and contain more Tarot cards and elder gods than usual during Scorpio transits, you are not alone. Scorpio is one of the most introverted and psychologically oriented signs in the Zodiac, and Scorpio transits are a good time for self-examination and studying psychology and character motivations. And if that doesn't appeal to you, researching your favorite haunted houses and serial killers may be a good use of that emotional pause, too--as long as you remember to clear your browser history.
Sagittarius. Sagittarius is the sign of space opera, road trip stories, and ideas fiction. If you have been feeling bored with the direction of your story, now is a good time to shake things up. Send your characters off on an adventure. Have your protagonist climb a mountain and bellow her personal philosophy to the valley below. If that doesn't appeal to you, Sagittarius lunar transits are a good time consider your own personal philosophy. Or, you know, binge watch Doctor Who.
Capricorn. Capricorn is the sign of personal growth, motivational and leadership books, and biographies. It is associated with Saturn the stern planet and the House of Career. It is the part of all of us that wants to be successful. When the Moon is in Capricorn we feel like taking care of business and moving toward things that take us closer to our goals--or we feel painfully aware of the ways in which we don't live up to our own standards.
Aquarius. Aquarius is the sign of cyberpunk, futurism, and YA. Aquarius is the part of us that needs to be authentic more than anything else. When the Moon is in Aquarius, we have no tolerance for phoniness in ourselves or others. These are good days to read over your current project and ask yourself: "Do I really believe this?" "Does this story express my personality?" (But only if you want to know the truth!)
Pisces. Pisces is the sign of spiritual literature, poetry, and beach reads. Pisces is the part of us that loves to sit with a cup of something hot and stare out the window, content to be part of the scenery. After a few days of Capricorn and Aquarius's intensity, spend some time getting in touch with your feelings. Stop pushing. Go with the flow. Allow inspiration to come to you.
Note: Versions of "The Moon in the Signs" appeared previously in Writerscopes in December 2015 and January 2016.