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Moods and Writing

Angry, tense, distracted, depressed, blocked, anxious… there are a lot of moods that can make writing difficult or impossible, or at least there are if you’re like me and a number of other writers I know.

If you are one of those who is not afflicted with moodiness, I pat you on the back, but this post isn’t for you. For those of you who do get depressed, or anxious, or angry, or sad, or distracted, or whatever–how do you deal with writing and your moods? Do you have techniques to keep up your writing? Are you like me, and need to just throw in the towel sometimes?

Inquiring, moody writers want to know.

  • Hi, I'm Rachel! I write science fiction and fantasy short stories. I've won the Nebula Award twice, and been nominated for the Hugo Award, the World Fantasy Award, and some other things. My seventy or so short stories are available around the internet as well as in print, and many of them are in my latest collection, How the World Became Quiet. I have a masters degree in fiction from the University of Iowa. I have five cats. I like my cats, but strongly suggest one stops at three. Or two. Excuse me, I have to go take care of cats.

4 thoughts on “Moods and Writing

  1. Actually, to get started on a project, I usually need to not be content. I don’t know what it is: I need to be in a mood to kickstart a ms. Once that’s done, I can usually get into the routine of writing. Probably it would be better if I never got out of the routine of it. But hey, the real world (jobs, etc.) like to get in the way.

  2. I’m also surprised this is so quiet.

    If there’s something specific that’s bugging me and I’ve got a block of writing time, I force myself to write about the something specific for the first half hour. Around the 20 minute mark, I’ve written everything I need to write on the subject. By the time I get to 30 minutes, I’m so sick of the thing that’s bothering me that I’m relieved the time is up. Sometimes that results in being in a place from which I can write, sometimes it doesn’t. It generally staves off the thing bothering me, rather than curing it. If it’s nonspecific moodiness, though, that’s tougher. I try to work toward angry because of its specificity, but that has its own pitfalls.

    Throwing in the towel sometimes is not a bad thing. It’s good to get a glimpse of the world from what seems like a non-writer point of view.

  3. these days, my primary mood while writing is a mixture of disgust and disappointment, with rare cycles of mild euphoria.

    over the past ten years or so i’ve gradually come to a stance where i don’t particularly trust my thoughts or feelings, given my propensity to slip in and out of states that i’m not in full cognizance of. i aim for a 200-day moving average to filter out the blips and fluctuations. in that regard, i’ve come train myself to write through or despite the disappointment and disgust, and to appreciate the euphoria with the caveat that it in no way reflects the quality of writing being produced. even though the latter is my most productive state, a piece only becomes well-formed through apathetic iterations of day-to-day revision, usually consisting of minor tweaks that over months have a snowball effect.

    i suppose the conclusion i have reached over the years is that the moods and feelings i have during writing and, in general, with regards to my writing are more often than not (or, very often) counter-productive to writing, or flat-out undermine the productive impulse. and so even though i allow myself to feel the moods/feelings/thoughts i don’t take them as seriously anymore, i allow them to exist without interfering in what i would like my actions to be, namely, engaging in some meaningful (or a semblance thereof) activity. of course, like yourself, there are times when the towel needs to be thrown in, when the will is sapped and the mood-state is given free reign of the grounds. at such moments, i try to remind myself that the will is taking a necessary respite and when having recouped and regathered will eventually re-emerge from retreat to do its thing, to take hold of the wheel and steer the vehicle away from the oncoming traffic of the mind. i guess most of the time my goal while writing is simply to not cause too many accidents, while allowing myself the desire to keep moving, to stay in motion, to participate in the kinetic flux and so not resemble the entropic terminal of stasis–to not disappear just yet.

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