Minding the Sky | When Mercury is in Retrograde ​

Posted in Blogs, Literary

Oct. 22, 2014

The Fall is finally falling.  The shadow of Summer was still golden in the trees as recently as last week.  Remember? Unseasonably warm, with almost sirocco–like winds, it felt like another country around here.  I’m glad I got my gutters done before the rains started, though, and, no, I didn’t fall off the roof in the process.  (At least not yet, knock wood for another season!)

Mercury went retrograde around the time I finished the task, so I might have been pushing my luck. I tried to keep a low profile, following all the rules of what to do when you can do nothing.  Here’s a partial list of the kinds of things that can go wrong while that fleet-footed stranger dashes backwards across our skies:

· Deadlines are unwittingly missed
· Snail mail is lost or misdirected
· Emails disappear into cyberspace or get stuck in the outbox
· Computers crash
· Smart phones act dumb
· Travel is delayed, interrupted, or unreasonably complicated
· Contracts signed go sideways
· Appliances and/or cars fall apart
· Verbal misunderstandings are rampant
· Expectations are shattered
· Writer’s block is likely

In short, if it can go wrong, it will and you can blame it all on Mercury!  It sounds grim, doesn’t it?

What can you do at times like these?
You can:
·Clean the closets or organize your office
I know that sounds boring but remember that old adage of mothers?  If you don’t know what to do, clean something—you’ll feel better and your confused mind will be transformed with the order you’ve wreaked under the sink!

Or what about:
·Review, revise, edit, and complete
If you can’t think of something new to say or do, take a look at your own slush pile.  If you’re like me at all (and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone), you may have started more things than you’ve finished. Now is a good time to pick one from Column A and another from Column B and make those two things your priority until one or both are done.  What a relief it will be! The utility drawer in the kitchen will finally close, after removing a summer’s worth of corks; the short story started in 1999 may finally have a finish!

Should the author contemplate her slush pile?

Should the author contemplate her slush pile?

And don’t forget to:
· Research, read up, mentally prep, and then WAIT.
Whatever it is you want to start—like a business, or website, or novel, or remodel project—don’t.  Prepare to start it; read all about it; get your supplies in order; get your packets of information from whatever business bureau or county clerk involved, but don’t file the papers yet, don’t install the software yet, don’t launch something big and important to you in your life when Mercury is in retrograde.  The outcome will be different than you want or expect. Believe me—been there! Done that! Ouch! Best to nestle in with the investigative work and capture stuff on 3 x 5 cards or your iPad, or even make an outline, but refrain from actually beginning, formally, until you’re past the shadow of Mercury, which usually lasts until a week to ten days after the thing goes direct.

In our case, at this juncture, Mercury went retro on about the 4th of October; it goes direct on the 25th, but we’re not out of the shadow until well into November.

Or should she tackle her Room of Doom?

Or should she tackle her Room of Doom?

I know that sounds bad but actually, it gives us all a kind of break—plenty of time to deep clean the corners of our minds and mental cabinets, prioritize what we are trying to do before everything falls to mayhem once again, when pumpkins melt into turkeys and turkeys don Santa caps and we once again play beat the clock to holiday meltdowns.  Forget about it! With mercury in retrograde, best to focus on the mess you know, rather than the one to come, wrapped in heaps of shiny paper.  The best you can do, at transition moments like this, is just do the best you can under the circumstances, and wait a little, because just like the sky, it will change, whatever is holding you back, down, out, or under will change.  And that’s a promise you can take to the polls!

While we are waiting out the mercurial bounces of astrological backdraft, my husband David Ossman and I will be teaching a session at the Whidbey Island Writer’s conference which takes place in Coupeville this weekend, October 24-26.  While we will be dealing with “found” poems and discovered texts, as well as the performance aspect of a writer’s repertoire—there are so many different sessions to choose from this year, I don’t know how anyone will decide!  From how to write a book proposal, to how to create a villain on paper—it’s all there, with plenty of opportunities to mix with the authors, agents, editors, and experts in the fields which intersect in the 21st Century writer’s life.  Full weekend registrations or Saturday only passes are still available.  Check here for the full details: http://www.nila.edu/wiwc/

Judith Walcutt is a writer, producer, and director living on Whidbey Island. She recently completed the manuscript for her work of fiction, The Painter’s Girl, and is currently collaborating with her husband David Ossman on a revised edition of his book, The Sullen Art, based on radio interviews with poets in New York circa 1960-61.  The book will be published in 2015 by the University of Toledo Press.


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  1. Great blog Judith,
    I managed to get the book published just before, phew! I actually always feel very nostalgic during this time…out come all the old photos and home movies….:-)

  2. Just finished the article, then immediately cleaned and bleached my refridgerator. I’ll call it a retrograde refridgerator rampage. Lovely words and wisdom. Thank you Judith! Xo

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