Thursday, March 6, 2008

What's In a Mood?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

A mood is a relatively lasting affective state. Moods differ from emotions in that they are less specific, often less intense, less likely to be triggered by a particular stimulus or event, however longer lasting.[1] Moods generally have either a positive or negative valence. In other words, people often speak of being in a good or bad mood. Unlike acute, emotional feelings like fear and surprise, moods generally last for hours or days. Mood also differs from temperament or personality traits which are even more general and long lasting. However, personality traits (e.g. Optimism, Neuroticism) tend to predispose certain types of moods. Mood is an internal, subjective state, but it often can be inferred from posture and other behaviors.
I've always heard that writers who let their mood affect their writing or dictate when they write are not considered professional writers. Yet I look at my "old friend" Sylvia Plath, remember her journals and letters home, and I know her mood dictated much. Read one of her poems and you'll probably guess what kind of mood she was in when she wrote it. Okay, Sylvia might be a bad example. I think she might have always been in down mode.

But what about your mental disposition? How does it affect your writing? When you attack your novel, are you always in the same mood? When you read through your story for the first time--in it's entirety--can you see mood swings? I'll bet you can if you try. Look at the pace of your book. Does it drag in spots? I wonder what kind of mood you were in when you wrote that portion of the book?

Does this make sense?

The reason I'm examining mood is because I recognize it in my own writing. Especially my non-fiction. I queried an editor regarding an article on writers and depression. I'd made all my notes, done much of the research and was really gung-ho about the article. Four months later, I received a letter from the editor:

Thank you for thinking of the (name of magazine). I apologize for not responding to your query sooner, but I really wasn’t certain how I felt about an article on depression. After much thought and discussion with several (name of magazine) board members, we decided to pass on this subject at this time. However, I will let you know if we reconsider.

By the time I received this rejection, I'd lost my zest for the article. Sure, I could have still written it, but the tone would have been different because my attitude toward the my subject--my mood?-- wasn't the same as when I originally queried.

Tell me how your mood affects your writing. Are you consistently happy and on top of the world? Are you pretty hum-drum all the time, moving even-keel into each day and each chapter? When you receive a rejection, does it knock you into darkness until something/someone tosses you a life jacket of encouragement?

I find mood interesting. And sometimes, unfortunately, my mood is the boss.

Quote of the day:
I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.
~Dr. Haim Ginott

Says it all, doesn't it? Makes me realize that in my writing. . .I am the decisive element.

1 comment:

Erica Vetsch said...

Interesting. I don't think I've ever read my work looking for my mood at the time of writing to emerge. Now I'm almost afraid to...though I must admit, as professional a procrastinator as I am, I don't usually write when I'm feeling blue. I find something else to do instead. :)