All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Danger: Toxic Material

Have you ever had one of those days where everything weighs on your mood, and in turn your heavy mood weighs on everything? You wake up late, get a flat tire, can't find a seat on the train. All those bad events infect you. Eventually, you become your bad mood. You start to snap at people, you carry a nasty scowl on your face, and indeed your toxic attitude starts to invade the space of other people. Ever had one of those days?

They are great opportunities for exploring your writing.

Over the past few days I have been one of those toxic tornadoes, a gale-force storm of bad attitude. As a human being, I am not a lot of fun to be around during this time, but I am something to see when it comes to being a writer. This is one of those times when I will set aside some of my lighter projects and start to channel that darkness into words. No specific project gets to claim this terrible mood; it's more of a situation I apply to whatever I feel would be the best outlet. No little haiku writing for this stuff. I turn it into short stories and disturbing character sketches.

And when the mood passes, I file them away and get on with my life.

As we pursue our craft of writing, we have to be careful about maintaining tone and mood in our larger pieces. Unless we complete a project in one sitting, we are prone to several sessions of trying to write with a similar tone. Needless to say, writing some light-hearted story can be a little difficult when our mood does not match the material. Especially with the more toxic moods, they tend to spill over and mess up our other projects. The stronger the mood, the more difficult it is to keep out of our writing. That light-hearted story may not suddenly take a dark turn because of a bad writing session, but the mood can shift. The sunny, happy-go-lucky flow will grow cold.

The worst part is that for writers such as us, we won't necessarily see this at first. Other readers will notice it long before we do. On more than one occasion, I have had a writing workshop basically turn on me because the latest installment of an ongoing young adult novel suddenly seemed to go off the rails. The mood went dark, the attitude shifted toward the cynical. Big surprise - all my critics noticed this shift, yet none of them knew I had been having a real bad week. I kept it hidden, but it came out in my writing.

But this is why it can be a good thing. When your mood might not fit the piece you are working on, step aside and work on something more befitting your attitude. If you are very thorny and on-edge, write a few character sketches that are angry and hostile. Stretch your writing muscles with something that helps you channel the mood. Eventually it will become reflexive to the point where you can create a very toxic piece of writing without being in a toxic mood.

Give it a shot the next time anything creeps into your mind that would get in the way of your usual process. Put it to work and see what happens. And even drop me a toxic comment discussing the results. I can take it - my bad mood has passed.


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