Mood: I don’t want to write. I don’t feel like it. The scene I have to write doesn’t match my mood at all and therefore I can’t write anything.
Sound familiar? Good. You’re having a very normal writer experience. The thing is, your mood—as a professional writer, that is—doesn’t matter. Like, at all. If you’re wanting to make a career out of your writing, you’re going to have to get comfortable mighty quickly with writing through discomfort or even your own discordance. But you can do it smartly, in a way that feels less like pulling teeth and more like productive work. If that doesn’t sound appealing, I don’t know what would!
Creating your mood writing board
Allow me to introduce you to the mood writing board. I’m going to go ahead and assume y’all know what a mood board is, in general, so let me dive right into how to make the concept work for a writer.
First, you’ll need to consider the general moods you write in currently. Make a list, then give consideration to the types of scenes you struggle most with. What feelings most often appear in those scenes? Open a fresh document or notebook and title them with specific emotions. For example, you could have one titled “anger” that you write in when you’re feeling angry or look at for inspiration when writing. Same with sad, horny, scared, etc.
You don’t have to use those scenes today, or even in your current work. The important thing is you can process those feelings in live time while still providing valuable material to your future self. Or you can come back to those feelings in a calmer moment and mine them for content.
When it’s time to write and you can’t get yourself into the mindset you need to successfully complete that day’s task, ask yourself what you’re feeling and what scenes you can create from that feeling.
After all, it’s not that you don’t want to write. Not really. But you’re human and living your own life alongside the lives you’re creating and living in the material you’re working on. That’s a lot to process, especially when you’re trying to create realistic characters! Plus you’ll notice that these characters tend to develop a life of their own that you’re stuck managing, even when it doesn’t go the way you wanted. So you need to be able to roll with those punches.
It’s much easier when you have a document to pull inspiration from. Think of it from the other side: You come to your desk to write, but have just received excellent news from a close friend and you’re simply vibrating with excitement. You have to write the death of your main character. The dissonance is real! Sorry, sunshine, but you’ll have to figure it out if you’re under deadline.
Being able to refer to notes you’ve titled “grief” or “selflessness” will help you get into the frame of mind required for writing those scenes. (And selflessness might seem like a weird category to feel, but think about ways we show this—getting up early for your kids, going out of your way for a friend, any time you’ve put yourself last to help another person or felt compelled to give without thought to yourself—and decide on the category those actions and feelings belong in.)
Avoiding writer’s block can be the difference between being a career writer and a hobby writer, though it’s never easy to overcome for either. Create a tool designed specifically to help you avoid mood-related writing aversion that’s more than just a free-thought creative writing exercise.
Where to get inspiration for your mood writing board
It’s not all up to you, either. You can pull inspiration into your mood writing board from all kinds of places.
- Other books
- Life events
- Favourite quotes
- News articles
- Pictures, images, drawings
Everyday experiences have a place on your mood writing board, especially if you’re writing about people. Your favourite characters are flawed and feel real; this is why. They hold a mirror up to experiences that readers are able to identify with. If a character never experiences any emotion but angry or horny or scared, they’re not going to be a dynamic character. It’s the grey areas that pull us in because anything could happen.
Keep your options open by recording thoughts and feelings as scene structures or dialogue nodes to delve into when you’re approaching different material. You don’t need to wait for an emotion to hit you to write the scene! And you don’t need to back out of a writing session because you’re unable to tap into the feeling of the scene you’re currently working on. Remember it’s okay to work on other projects if you must, but that your mood writing board will help you get into the zone when it matters.
Expanding your own intimate awareness of feelings and evocative response will allow you to more efficiently execute your writing schedule while creating realistic scenarios and characters your editing team will love—and your readers too.