How a Really Bad Mood Can Improve Your Writing

Carol Tice

Grumpy old manBy Julie Ladd

Even if you’re a genuinely happy person, sooner or later you’ll find yourself in an utterly ferocious, raging black cloud of a mood.

You know — the kind that conjures images in your mind of you as a roaring sci-fi creature with blood dripping off your fangs as you tear apart everything and everyone you come across.

OK, maybe that’s just me.

But you likely have your own equally-vivid mental picture, right?

So you’re officially in a Very Bad Mood.  Now what?

Everyone has their own ways of dealing with a bad mood— exercising, eating, drinking, napping or hiding until it passes are a few.

But to succeed at making a living writing, avoiding work until the cloud clears isn’t a viable option.

This week, I found a better way to cope— train your temper on your writing, and attack it with every ounce of raw negativity you can muster.  Ask the questions your biggest critic/skeptic would:

“Who cares?”

Who’s your audience, anyway?  That’s who should care.

If you’re not writing for them, you are missing the mark.  Every single word should be aimed right at your readers— never forget, it’s not about you. It’s about them.

“So what?”

If it’s not readily apparent why what you’re writing about matters, your readers won’t bother to dig for the relevance.

If it matters, say why (or better yet, show why).

If it doesn’t matter, delete it and write instead about what does.

“What bullsh*t!”

If you don’t specify the evidence that backs your assertions, or are making broad generalizations, you’re taking the easy way out.

Go find the best supporting facts and reference them.  Don’t assume something is true or generally accepted– prove it!

Highlight all the lowlights – show no mercy

Mark every single phrase containing corporate-speak, bland boilerplate, overgeneralizations, off-topic wandering and extraneous filler.  Strike anything not directly on-point for your audience, including any phlegm.

When you’re done, you may find, as I did, that what’s left is tattered shreds of red-lined text that once seemed to be a good piece.

But don’t despair… from the ashes rises the phoenix.

Now, fix it.

You may not be able to do this while you’re still in the throes of your bad mood, but you may find you can—there is therapeutic value in venting all that negativity at something.

If not, set aside the mess you just made and come back to it later, when you’re in a better frame of mind.

Then, do that magical thing you do as a writer– delete, refocus, rework and rewrite, until there’s no opening for attack, even from someone in a mood as bad as yours was.

Your family will appreciate your taking it out on your work instead of them, and the improvement in the quality of your writing may surprise you.

Have you found a way to turn a bad mood to your advantage as a writer?  Share your strategies for coping in the comments below.

Julie Ladd (@copyshark), Owner and Copy Stylist-in-Chief of Copyshark.net, helps businesses grow by leveraging the power of language to convert prospects to customers, even through the occasional very bad mood.

26 Comments

  1. Julia

    “Writing while in a bad mood”, love this! There are so many articles around on how to write, but they don’t often talk about the writer’s mood, and how it affects their writing. Thanks for sharing this Julie.

    My bad mood is usually more fatigue than anything else (that is, that life has been so busy, that I’m exhausted to do any writing work.) I’ve found that focusing on some small tasks first helps. Ease myself into the work, as it were. Sometimes I’m then ready after 10-15 minutes, sometimes longer. If I’m on the longer end of the scale, I usually try a non-writing task too, like some exercise, doing the dishes, etc., just to give myself a kick start. By then I know if I’m ready or not to get down to it.

    Thankfully this hasn’t happened right before a deadline or anything (knock wood), so I’ve been okay. But if it does, I’ve now got some tips to handle it. Thanks Julie!

  2. Andi the Minion

    Wow I wish I had read that yesterday, I was in a terrible mood and needed to write, I ended up putting it off until my mood lifted. I shall try writing next time I am in a bad mood. 🙂

    Cheers
    Andi

  3. Jerome

    I have never tried writing when I was royally pissed off. On the other hand, I like the idea that you shared in this article. I hope that I will be able to vent my anger into something good.

  4. Heather Georgoudiou

    Great advice Julie!

    I generally grow fangs when I’m struggling with technology, nothing sets me off quicker and I know my computer could care less as I diligently sit in front of it and have an ugly breakdown.

    It’s also hard to recover when your writing has been rejected. That usually puts me in a bad mood for a couple of days. A nice chocolate bar, a long walk, and a flip through The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield rejuvenate me. And then I get back to work!

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