Like many a creative project or endeavor, the writing of Aspects has been a journey, during which I have learned as much about myself as the art and craft of astrology.
The book started out with case studies of six famous people who had been through transformative experiences. I was curious about how people change, and what this would look like through an astrological lens. In writing and researching the book, I found that there was often a core aspect or configuration that provided the alchemical fire for growth. Gandhi, the father of passive resistance, had a combustible t-square between Mars, Pluto, and the Moon that powered his growth from bumbling, tongue-tied lawyer to worldwide spiritual leader and teacher. Katharine Graham, the Washington Post publisher who shepherded her newspaper through the Watergate crisis, had a conjunction between Venus and Pluto. During her 20s and 30s she was a mousy housewife afraid to speak at company parties. When she died at age 84 she had become one of the most influential women of the 20th century.
Something else I learned while writing Aspects is that although conventional wisdom teaches that hard aspects (squares, conjunctions, and oppositions) are difficult and soft aspects (trines and sextiles) are easy, those lovely, flowing soft aspects are not always as soft as they appear. Consider the chart of Kurt Cobain, the Seattle grunge rocker who committed suicide at age 27. Cobain had a grand trine in water (between Jupiter, Venus-Saturn, and Neptune), an exact trine between the Sun and Mars, and yet another trine between Mercury and the Moon: easy aspects all! Martha Stewart, the one-woman industry who recently emerged from five months behind bars, has a trine between the Sun and Mars—both in ruling signs! She has another prominent trine between Neptune and Uranus-Saturn.
What we learn from these and other cases is that while soft aspects often bestow gifts (Martha Stewart's business acumen, Cobain's electric stage presence) they can also induce complacency and, in extreme cases, grandiosity.
There is one final lesson I learned from writing Aspects, and that is the importance of a "third thing" to the process of transformation. One's natal chart is a wonderful, even wondrous, tool, but in and of itself it is not enough. In every case I studied, from Gandhi to Lance Armstrong to Katharine Graham, a third thing played a pivotal role. For Lance this third thing was cycling, for Katharine Graham it was The Washington Post.
There is never any guarantee of "transformation," of course—even when we undertake a thorough study of our natal charts and devote ourselves to a practice. In the final analysis, it might be that process (and the mindfulness that hopefully accompanies process) is just as—if not more—important than any end result.