Your Moods Are Your Enemies

Your moods are your enemies.

At least they are if you are writing. This is something you should always bear in mind if you want to write professionally. There are people who say they can only write when they feel inspired. I think they are making a mistake. Here’s why.

Your mood has nothing to do with what you write.  The way you feel has very little to do with the way you put sentences together. It’s about the way you feel, end of story. The two things are not connected. The way you feel about what you have written is particularly dangerous because you get feedback between your overall mood and the way you feel about your writing.

To give an example, let’s say you are hungover (what are the chances?) and this leads to you feeling a little depressed and slow when you sit down to write your daily 1000 words. Chances are you will look at the text you have written and think, by God this is awful, where did I leave the paracetemol? You are likely to feel the same way if you are depressed by the way the bills are piling up on your shelf, your significant other fails to appreciate your genius and for many other reasons.

On the other hand, you may be having a lovely day. You may have just fallen in love. You may just have reached your goals in dieting or got a promotion at work or thrashed your regular opponent at Warhammer. This will colour the way you look at your text. In none of these cases will the judgement be a fair  or an accurate one. The time to judge what you have just written is not when you have just written it. It’s a few weeks or months down the road when you can come to it cold and look at it as if it was written by somebody else.

I’ve written stuff that at the time I was writing it I thought was trash. I’ve written stuff I thought was brilliant. When I came back to it later, it pretty much always bore a strange resemblance to my normal daily ration of prose. Who knows why I felt the way I did about it at the time of writing? Maybe I had bellyache. Maybe someone had written a nice review on Amazon. It does not matter. What matters is that the writing got done and is published.

My advice is simply to set yourself a target and set aside judgement. Write. Write whatever mood you are in. Write when you feel sick. Write when your heart is broken. Write when you’ve just won the pools. Write and don’t judge till at least a month later.  If you still think it sucks, by all means, bin it then. You don’t have to be inspired. You just have to do the work whatever mood you are in.

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4 Replies to “Your Moods Are Your Enemies”

  1. Hey Bill,

    I think the biggest newbie mistake (or at least the one I made the most), was waiting until I was “inspired” whatever the hell that means.

    Now I know that the crap is just the stuff that comes out before the good stuff. If you force yourself – and it’s not always pretty – it usually comes. It should be the first thing everyone tells new writers: write all the time, even when you don’t want to, even when it’s crap.

    I’m not 100% there. I still can blow things off when I get stuck or when I’m grouchy. But I’m getting a lot better.

    And what comes out the other hand has little bearing on the struggle it took to get on the page. It can flow out, and you can feel great, and you will end up cutting it all. Or each word can be dragged out and it can be good.


    1. Absolutely. I look back on stuff I wrote a dozen years ago and I can remember nothing about the mood I was in when I wrote most of it. I do know it was published though, and it was published because I actually sat down and typed. Without that simple action, there would be blank pages.

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