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Over the years, I’ve noticed a distinct change in my behavior during times of Mercury Retrograde. Put simply, this is when the planet Mercury “reverses” and appears to go “backwards”. Mercury rules communication and travel, and tends to go retrograde three times a year.

In the past, I have usually found out that my bad mood coincided with Mercury Retrograde after the fact. But now that we’re approaching the first retrograde of the new year, I’ve reminded myself to consciously embrace this astrological imbalance. (Maybe it was today’s new moon that got me back on this topic; between the moon and the retrograde, now is a perfect time to step back, reassess, and be gentle with yourself.

At first, when I would realize that I was in the midst of Mercury Retrograde, I used that knowledge as permission to be lazy. Oops, I can’t work on my book, it’s Mercury Retrograde. Oh, I shouldn’t start any new projects, it’s Mercury Retrograde. Booking our summer vacation? Not until Mercury goes direct, thank you very much.

But over the years, somewhere between the crutch and the grumpiness, I found a quiet place of peace. This is a great time to turn inward, to journal instead of crafting new fiction, to write and read things that fill your soul. Whenever I approach phases of retrograde consciously, I’ve found (knock on wood) that I have fewer hitches and hang ups, and more healing peace. A bonus: now that I pace my writing differently instead of trying to power through retrograde, I’ve found that not only am I restored, I’m more productive, even if on the surface I appear to be moving at a slower pace. It’s a win-win!

This has given me a new perspective. Instead of hitting the next Mercury Retrograde aggressively (it starts tomorrow, January 21, and goes until February 11), I’m planning to use that time for retreat and reflection. I can use this time as a break from my usual pace, focusing on soul work and personal writing. I love crafting worlds of fiction, but sometimes, it’s exhausting to dwell so fully on the page. Mercury retrograde has become a time for me to set my characters aside to simmer while I explore myself; no shitty first drafts this month, thank you very much!

However, since I’ve learned that I can’t ignore my craft entirely without dipping into insanity, I’ve begun discovering ways to align my ebb and flow writing cycle with natural occurrences, and given it’s regularity, Mercury Retrograde is a nice opportunity to do this. It’s a good time to revisit old projects, so I’m planing to get some editing done in the coming weeks; revision requires a totally different mindset than drafting, and it’s a methodical approach that’s actually well suited to the quiet, inward energies of Mercury Retrograde. This would also be a great time to experiment with the “Spell for Positive Procrastination” in my book Goddess Spells for Busy Girls if you’re looking for some structure to keep you focused in the coming weeks.

My tips for surviving Mercury Retrograde as a writer?

  • Don’t try to work fast right now

  • Focus on quality over quantity

  • Read A LOT (more than usual, if possible)

  • Avoid first drafting for the next three weeks (if possible)

  • Schedule time to journal and focus on personal writing

  • Edit a project that you haven’t worked on for awhile

  • Do what you need to do to restore your creative well: take a walk, visit with friends, drink tea in a sunbeam, meditate, etc. Anything that makes you feel whole and calm is good to explore now (and, honestly, all the time!)

Don’t worry if you’re still not ready to embrace Mercury Retrograde. The best thing about this astrological occurrence? It will pass. And when it does, I’m sure I will reenter the world at my usual frantic pace. But for now, I will read and write thoughtfully, relishing the silence and the space to move “backward”.

How do you find moments of silence? Do you consciously choose to have “me time”, or does the universe seem to force it on you unwillingly?

(Parts of this post originally appeared in 2012 on my first blog, Displaced Yankee)