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Setting the Mood

April 24, 2014

Moody Writers Write Moody Words

by: Kevin Pyon

In the study of literature and writing, we typically associate the term “mood” specifically with the words already written on a page. We ask questions like: How does this particular phrase or word choice affect the way I read this passage? What type or range of emotions do they create in me as I read them? However, before this stage of interpretation can even occur, someone first has to write those (emotionally-charged) words on paper and that, as we all know, can sometimes feel like an almost impossible task in itself. So, in this blog post, I want to discuss some ways or strategies we can employ to get ourselves–as writers–in the right mood in order to be able to write those moody words which our readers can later read and experience for themselves.

Strategy #1: Location, Location, Location

In situations not even related to writing, one manner in which we attempt to create a certain mood–let’s say, for a romantic date or self-relaxation–is by carefully selecting an appropriate setting or place for the specific atmosphere we have in mind. For example, you probably would not want to attend a heavy metal rock concert if you wanted to be able to read a book quietly and peacefully. Moreover, this simple connection between physical location and personal mood certainly applies to us whenever we are faced with the (often times dreadful) task of writing. Practically speaking, this may mean that the comfy, luxurious, and wonderful setting of your bed may not be the best place to write that history paper on the birth of communism (if such an ideal place exists to write it). Rather, some people enjoy the public settings of a library, bookstore, or coffee shop when writing because they enjoy the lively background buzz of other people simultaneously studying, reading, or drinking a $10 cup of corporate coffee. Or it could be at your desk or kitchen table (where there is plenty of lighting) instead of the sofa or couch. Nevertheless, the point remains: sometimes the first (and perhaps the most important) step of writing when you just don’t feel like it is choosing where you’re going to write in the first place.

Strategy #2: Plan or Goal Setting

For those who live by a strict regimen of daily exercise or follow a fixed work schedule, the notion of actually planning to write perhaps is no big deal. In fact, such people probably, in fact, do plan to write and are disciplined enough to set aside a certain time of the day where they can devote anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours solely to writing whatever paper may happen to be due. However, if you’re reading this in hopes of discovering a useful suggestion or tip that could help you write a paper, then most likely you are not one of these well-adjusted, uber-responsible citizens and students just mentioned. If that is the case, simply attempting to set a certain amount of time (and specific location!) within your daily/weekly schedule can potentially make a genuinely significant impact on your (lack of) writing. Even if that means you end up writing only a page or two during a 30 minute or hour-long time frame, those one to two pages could be the crucial difference in the quality of your final paper. As we all know, simply starting a paper can be the hardest part of the writing process. Sometimes if we could just sit down and force ourselves to begin writing that awful paper due in the near horizon, the rest of the work necessary to finish it doesn’t seem that unbearable or impossible. Additionally, setting goals or prizes for yourself may psychologically help you write when you just don’t feel like it. Telling yourself that you’ll allow yourself to watch a show on Netflix or play a video game if you write for at least one hour for a certain paper can be a great motivator.

Strategy #3: Doing Something Else

At first glance, this strategy seems like what most of us already do. Instead of writing a paper, we do something else—we eat, we watch a movie, we play a video game, we go for a walk, we go to the gym, we give up and go to bed and hope the next day that the paper due was all actually a dream ala Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Nevertheless, if we are careful in choosing what that “something else” is that we do instead of writing, it could really help us attain a proactive mindset and mood for writing. It all depends on your individual personality, likes/dislikes, etc. What could you go do that might help you get into the mood to write? For some people, that might mean going for a walk to clear your mind (and sweat a little if you’re the sweaty type). Or, maybe it means just taking a shower or washing the dishes in your sink that have begun to develop a sentient form of life. Consequently, it is important that you choose the appropriate activity for yourself. If playing video games puts you in the mood to continue playing video games for 17 hours, then you should probably choose a more beneficial task to engage in.

Conclusion: It’s Up to You!

Many of the best writers throughout history have been those who developed a sort of ritual to their writing process—many times simply to help (i.e. force) them to write when they probably didn’t feel like it. Writing, much like our individual personalities, varies greatly from one person to the next. Try out different activities and discover what works best for you!

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