The Hyphen: Mercury in Bloody Retrograde

Hi friends—

Hope all is well,

According to Astrology Zone, about three or four times a year, Mercury speeds past Earth, and that is when we experience a ‘Mercury Retrograde’ period. “The turbulence and disruption Mercury creates when it retrogrades can affect what we feel on Earth in our everyday lives.” This current period is one to look out for: October 13 to November 3, 2020 (begins in water-sign Scorpio, ends in air-sign Libra — no I have no idea either). People tend to say “don’t make any big decisions” during a retrograde period, because things usually feel off. (For other, very obvious reasons, too).

If you hate astrology chat, then look away now.

I must admit, until recently, I didn’t actually know what this retrograde business meant. I would just blame my misfortunes on it. I would occasionally go on THIS website, a simple tool to check if Mercury is in fact in retrograde or not. (At the moment it says: “YES! That may account for the weirdness. Make sure you have a plan to vote since we all know how Mercury likes to interfere with communication.”)

I love having something astrological to blame bad luck on. As everything seems to go pear-shaped and my brain turns to spaghetti, I check my calendar and realise: I have the answer! It’s not me being rubbish. MERCURY IS IN RETROGRADE. Like clockwork, I am spooked by how obvious it is because the energy has shifted and everything I am working on suddenly goes completely to shit. I like feeling as though there is something bigger, out in the universe, causing me to drop a plate, or forget my keys, or accidentally delete 8,000 words on Microsoft Word, or send a text that got taken the wrong way by the recipient. If we want to blame everything going completely wrong on a set of arbitrary dates, what’s so wrong with that?

Of course there are many reasons why we are feeling out of sorts at the moment, but this Mercury Retrograde business really does knock me off my feet every year. My friend Shola described it as feeling “topsy turvy”. Many people have been in touch saying their laptops have suddenly died, or things haven’t saved properly, or calendars have gone skewiff, or works gone missing, or they’ve had major communication breakdowns with people.

To me, it is totally besides to the point as to whether this is “actually a thing”. If it gives us something to blame things on: let us have it. (And yes: Covid too.)


On that note, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the podcast episode I did with sociologist Martha Beck and her analogy about how we are all in little boats, barging into each other and blaming each other for colliding. We think we are steering the boats and controlling where the boats are heading. But if we were to let go and realise we are one with nature, we would realise that we are not actually steering our own boat, it’s the water that is steering us. She describes the water as representing our cultural conditioning. When you get out of the boat and into the water you can start to see order and comfort in this, things will start to feel like they’re happening for you and not to you. ⁣(Thank you to @sarahmarshallcoach for paraphrasing this so well in your Instagram caption of the episode.)

At this point, I feel food, blankets, astrology chat and long-winded life analogies are the only things getting me through the day. What’s getting you through?

Feel free to drop me a line to say hi or with what you’d like to see more of in this newsletter at

Emma xo



What’s New on Ctrl Alt Delete Podcast?

My literary agent interviews me for a special episode.

This episode is a slightly different, and special one. I am interviewed by my beloved literary agent Abigail Bergstrom, head of publishing at Gleam Titles. This episode includes how I pivoted from non-fiction to fiction: how I wrote the first draft of Olive, how I developed my characters, my writing inspirations and how it all happened, the highs and the lows. Hope you enjoy! You can listen here, or any other pod apps.


Things I’ve Consumed This Week:

My Three Fathers by Ann Patchett
— June Sarpong: ‘I don’t have the luxury of being mediocre’
— How did creativity become an engine of economic growth?
— I Had No Idea What Depression Felt Like – Until Suddenly, I Did
— The United States of Dolly Parton
Me and my Trolls
Childless or child-blessed?
— Beyond talk therapy
— Reading Too Much Political News Is Bad for Your Well-Being
— How Work Became an Inescapable Hellhole
I’ve piled on weight during lockdown. Will I ever feel attractive again?


I love this clip of Liz Gilbert talking about how the obsession with work/life/family ‘balance’ is bullshit. "The idea of achieving 'balance' has become a weapon against women. Balance doesn't exist. You get moments of balance, and then you're knocked over again. It's better to embrace the glorious mess."

I loved this conversation on the Squiggly Careers podcast with bestselling Slay In Your Lane author Elizabeth Uviebinené on confidence and the new brilliant new book Loud Black Girls. You can listen here.

Jamie Windust’s book In Their Shoes: Navigating Non-Binary Life is out next week! Described as ‘frank, funny, and brilliantly feisty, this must-read book is a call to arms for non-binary self-acceptance, self-appreciation and self-celebration.’ I can’t wait to receive my copy in the post!


I am the guest on Grazia’s pod this week

I am on the Grazia life advice podcast talking through my six pieces of advice (caveat: I actually don't like dishing out rogue "advice" as there is so much bad advice floating around the internet that no one asked for.) However. Here are my 6 pieces, that I expand on in the episode:

1. Comparison is futile... when we compare ourselves to *that* person all the time we are actually comparing ourselves to our own Made Up Version of that person.
2. Follow your gut. You know more than you think. Question everything.
3. Just get started. Everything is crap at first. Your future self will be glad you just started.
4. Don't create for everyone. It's not about reaching the biggest audience, but reaching the right audience (the ones that care).
5. Forget passion, having "a passion" is so intimidating - but just stay curious. (Inspired by Big Magic).
6. Invest in yourself, not one company.


P.S. My latest non-fiction book SABOTAGE: Quieten Your Inner Critic and my debut novel OLIVE are both available now!


Click here to join 60,000+ students by signing up to my Skillshare class! "5 Exercises To Build Creative Confidence"


Thanks for subscribing! I'm Emma, the person behind this newsletter. I am the bestselling author of The Multi-Hyphen Method, SABOTAGE, my debut novel OLIVE (a no.1 Apple audiobook!) and creator of the hit podcast series Ctrl Alt Delete. You can also follow me on Instagram here, and Twitter here.

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