We were in one of those phases until few days ago, you know. Mercury was retrograding in the earth sign of Taurus until May 22. Then it stopped and stayed frozen for a while, before starting to move forward again.

As much as I prefer not knowing what Mercury is doing, and despite my stubborn refusal to believe in astrology or read too much into it, I’ve learned to recognize certain unmistakable signs of Mercury butting into my life uninvited.

Backpedaling-Mercury Mess

When several things coincide and persist, making me feel like suddenly everything and everyone conspired to make my life miserable, it most often turns out that Mercury has entered another retrograde phase. Like right now.

In my work it usually reflects in the following (in no particular order):

  • A Client from Hell
  • All new projects biting the dust or collecting dust and rolling with tumbleweeds
  • PC, laptop, tablet, mobile etc. crashing – one of those, or several in a row
  • Software breaking down
  • Repeated and continuous rejections of submitted work, inevitably accompanied by the silliest, most enraging and entirely idiotic explanations
  • My own web site inexplicably crashing, i.e. waking up to a white screen with filthy black letters saying something like: You have no permission to view this page, over my morning coffee
  • Internet outages that last (some major repairs for no-one-knows how long)
  • Can’t access my email
  • Tons of effort and work > no reward
  • Paying for stuff to be fixed and not getting them fixed
  • Even the simplest tasks I could do in my sleep now take forever to accomplish, because of all of the above, or a myriad of other issues that crop up

Preserving Sanity

It took me years to learn that the only way to cope in this situation is the counter-intuitive one: back off. Shut it all down. Stop whatever you are doing and trying to do, step back, move away and go do something completely different.

Go plant something in the garden, or plant some rosemary and thyme for your windowsill. Take your dog for an extra-long walk and bring his favorite toys for a whole afternoon of play. Spend a day playing hide-and-seek with your cats. Take your kids to a park, or a nearby lake for a day. Bake a cake. Buy your favorite magazine and go to that cute coffee shop around the corner for cappuccino. Spend an afternoon browsing the bookstore. Visit an art exhibition. Do something – anything – other than what you’ve been doing while being pounded to a pulp.

Revisiting & Reviewing the Abandoned Projects

Alternatively, you may want to revisit your old projects, those you started awhile back and never finished or launched.

Noticed how this blog has been dusted off and resurrected in the midst of Mercury retrograde phase? That’s the kind of thing to do. Go back to those seeds you planted some time ago, water them, and watch them start to grow when no new endeavor can take hold.

The image above this post is also one of my old projects. I spent a lot of time trying to create watercolor look with pure vectors, something that is almost impossible to achieve, due to the very nature of vector crispness, precision and clarity. At some point I decided it’s not going the way I wanted, scrapped and forgot about it. It seemed way too complicated.

Now, however, when I looked at it with fresh eyes, I realized I’ve been very close all the while, rolled up my sleeves and got back to it. A week later, I managed to achieve exactly what I was striving for. I now love what I’ve created and use it in my work to get that nice handcrafted feel with 100% vector output.

Perseverance Within Limits

In my experience, when obstacles start piling up to the point of making the simplest tasks seem insurmountable, the first impulse is to grit your teeth and “keep trying until you succeed”.

Determination is a fine quality, except when it leads to an early grave.

When you buckle down and persist on pushing through at any cost, you tend to narrow your focus to the point of losing perspective. In that state, every issue, even the smallest hiccup, looks bigger than it really is and feels like a slap in the face. If you keep pushing regardless, the issues that are cropping up are adding up, until you become drained, frazzled and desperate.

Taking a break, clearing your head, moving away from a series of setbacks is a must, it is a matter of self-preservation.

Artistic Temperament or Too Much Love in Less-Than-Loving World

Any creative work you do is a labor of love – you invest so much energy, you take such care, you work entranced, falling in love and being in love with your product. You want the whole world to see it, use it and love it as much as you do. You are absolutely certain everyone would find it useful and lovable, almost as much as you do.

If, after all your effort and eagerness to share the joy in your work, no one pays any attention to what you’ve created, if no one notices, no one takes a second look or stops for a moment only to say: Well done!, it is only natural to feel disappointed and snubbed.

It gets much worse if your work is rejected and taken apart, or even stolen (and we all know there’s a lot of that too).

It doesn’t take much for artists to start sliding down that dark hole of sadness and disappointment, not because of the purported “capricious” artistic temperament or “infantile” emotions, but because we get so attached to our work. And because the world is generally a cold and hard place.

Unfortunately, Mercury retrograde makes it colder and more uncaring than usual.

Watch What You Say

One more thing to keep in mind: Watch your mouth when Mercury makes a U-turn and starts (seemingly) going backwards.

Narrowed focus + crashes & breakdowns + inability to move forward and break through + having to cope with an idiot or two = Rage, followed by the worst, most insensitive and entirely stupid things said you can never take back.

Knowing what I know and having quite a bit of experience in this line of work, you’d expect me to be a tad more cautious in times like these. I wish I was.

Less than a week ago I almost lost it. I was one-click away from telling my client he’s hired “a bunch of sadistic idiots who are also illiterate and silly little idiots who have no clue what they’re doing”. Illiterate, sadistic, silly little idiots… Exactly in those words.

That’s how exasperated, frustrated and enraged I was after wasting two weeks on futile attempts to communicate the simplest things. I almost clicked away and sent that message. Only the tiniest little voice, very faint, almost inaudible voice, from very deep and far within has made me pause for, perhaps, a millisecond.

Long enough to start some semblance of a thinking process and delete that message before sending it. Boy, would I have felt stupid ten minutes later if I had sent it!

Can’t do that, don’t do that.

Step away from the precipice, loosen that deadly grip on having your will win, let go. For now.