In the mood

Sunset from our lanai

Sunset from our lanai

Silk’s post #20 — You’re looking at the reason I’m late with this post, illuminated in Technicolor. You’re also looking at the reason I’ve made little progress on my book in the past 12 days. Oh, let’s be honest. NO progress.

None at all.

There are the obvious reasons. A two-week vacation on Maui doesn’t come cheap, even when you fly on points, and every minute spent sitting at this desk while the sun shines irresistibly out beyond the lanai feels like a very expensive minute to waste indoors. Then there’s the, mostly unspoken, pressure to be a better travel companion for my patient husband (fortunately, or unfortunately, he has his own iPad addictions to fall back on).

And the most obvious reason of all: girls just wanna have fun. In the sun. At the pool. On the beach. With my hair dripping wet from a swim, and a hibiscus behind my ear.

But let’s put that all aside for a minute.

Yes, I could write at night, though this might not really be the most productive idea given my sundowner consumption on this trip. The “go with the mai tai flow” philosophy is, at least for me, incompatible with the drive to write. At least to write something that will allow me to respect myself in the morning. After a day of sun, I’m lucky if I can read a few pages of a good book before I fall asleep – let alone write a few.

I could also take the laptop down to the pool deck or out on the beach. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Waves providing the gentle sound track for creativity, and occasionally splashing droplets on the keyboard. The sunlight … well, the sunlight making the screen completely unreadable. And the happy sounds of children playing on the beach. And screeching, and crying, and kicking sand all over the computer. Right. Scratch that.

But the truth is, I could overcome all these somewhat manufactured problems if I was really in the mood to write. In fact, nothing would stop me.

And now we get to the real issue. Mood: a mental or emotional state; a disposition to do something; a prevalent atmosphere or feeling.

It’s the vaguest, mushiest of definitions for one of the most powerful of forces determining human action. It sounds frivolous, inconsequential, insubstantial. Mood seems like an arbitrary, irrational condition that can turn on a dime, and is therefore not really a valid excuse for doing or not doing something.

A mood is something to get yourself into, or pull yourself out of. To overcome with reason. To just get over.

But mood doesn’t work that way. It’s a complex, compelling force that shifts colour like a butterfly’s wing. And we often don’t really know why. I think mood is deep in the brainstem.  There’s no use trying to get the cortex to have a little chat with it, make it see reason.

You’re in the mood to write, or party, or eat ice cream, or have sex … or you aren’t.

And not only individuals have moods. Whole populations have moods. Events have moods. Places have moods. Books have moods.

Moods are like emotional weather.

And I’m hoping that I get in the mood to write during the few days I’ll be home before our deadline. I need a huge brainstorm of in-the-moodness.

9 thoughts on “In the mood

  1. Dearest Silk,
    I think we are all learning so much about ‘the writing life and more importantly how to make it work for us! I don’t begrudge you a minute in the sun. Enjoy. Do not feel guilty. Charge your laptop batteries and gird you loins for the most valuable of all writing hours, dead time at airports and on planes.!

    • Thanks for the support my friend! I think one thing I’m (re)learning is that I need incremental deadlines. Thirty pages in one month was manageable for me. 400 pages in 5 months … not so much. Live and learn!

  2. This sounds harsh, but it’s the truth, and it’s for all of you: if you’re writing for publication, if you want to be a published writer, and you want a career as a writer, then your mood is the least important part of the writing process. You write every day until the book is finished whether you feel like it or not. Or you never have a book to send out. It’s that simple, I’m afraid. And that harsh.

    • You’re right, of course, Bev! I needed that knuckle-rapping. I spent an awful lot of my professional life doing things I wasn’t in the mood for, including enough pages of (non-fiction) writing to denude a good-sized forest. What I hope you’ll give me, though, is that mood does matter. Of all the words I’ve written in my life, the best ones came together when I was in a writing mood. But, okay, you’re still right!

      • Actually, not so much Silk. The mood might get you started, but it’s not going to keep you going when you cool off – you know that – that’s writing 101.

        If I wait until the mood strikes, I’m going to miss my blogging deadline of Feb. 12 for the OCN site, and when my next book deadline comes up – August 31 2013, I’m going to have a less than half done book. I have six months to finish that sucker. I haven’t started writing yet (although it’s nonfiction and I already have a rough outline and most of the research done). The book I was working on while you were all in this challenge got done only two (three?) months after I’d promised it, and I’m using my illness as an excuse (it’s hard to write when your brain is fried oatmeal and you can’t stay awake to even see the keyboard!) But it’s into the publisher now, and I’m waiting for word on it.

        And what I said in the comment is more true than not – if I sit down, feeling like “ugh, really? Can’t I play another hour on Sim City, or Civ V?” and just put the words down, very often the mood creeps up, the muse settles on my shoulder and I’m down the rabbit hole (Alice’s, not Neo’s!) and in my warm, comfortable and all too real world of the story. The best scene in the midgrade I’ve just sent off took off halfway through a really agonizing “put the words down, I don’t want to be doing this, this scene is going to read like molasses in January, paint is drying on the wall speed and I’d almost rather be doing dishes” kind of writing session.

        I wouldn’t be where I am in my career if I waited until the mood or the muse struck. I have to finish what I start, in a reasonable amount of time, or I don’t have a career – I have a bunch of half finished books. The mood will get you started, but it’s dogged persistence that gets you finished.

  3. Silk, hats off to you for your honesty. Whatever you will submit on February 5 will be awesome, I know, because I am familiar with your storytelling talent. Better you submit 50 pages of quality writing than 400 of lousy stuff that won’t have a chance in Hades to ever get published. Your writing shines, it always does. But the flipside, as Bev said (and it’s useful advice for all of us), is that you have to write, whatever your mood.

  4. Great post K. I seem to have been reading about mood all day. Earlier I was reading a blogpost about S.A.D. I think I have S.A.D. I know I’m really S.A.D. that you’re in Maui and I’m not! However, glad you’re having a good time.

  5. I “know”I should be siding with bevcooke, but my gut sides with Silk, especially when it comes to fiction. When you don’t have it, you just don’t have it. Bev is right in one way: Sometimes you do have it but don’t realize it, and starting somewhere makes you see you have it at tha ttime.

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