Mental Health, Writing

How My Mood Affects My Writing


In the running theme of things, I am once again writing this post at work. But this time, it’s very relevant to the content.

So here goes.

I find it easier to write prose when I’m sad.

That doesn’t necessarily mean everything I write is sad, because it’s not. I actually tend to write about sad topics in a matter-of-fact way because I find them difficult to think about emotionally.

That being said, I think I find it easier because, of all my emotions, sadness is the one I feel most strongly. And that helps because a lot of the topics I write about require a lot of strong emotions.

At age fifteen, when I was writing my debut novel The Gazebo, I was a generally happy-seeming, naive and somewhat immature teenager. People I know always tell me that I’ve always been mature for my age, and I tend to agree. But, realistically, at age fifteen I was obviously still had quite a bit of that childishness in me which most people have.

I thought I had written the story in a very mature way. But, when I was editing and rewriting it over the next few years, I could definitely tell that it had been written by somebody who did not fully understand the topic they were writing about. Which was something I knew originally. I was writing about a mental illness which I was pretending not to have due to my lack of understanding of it. And perhaps that was the reason I chose that theme.

Still. A lot of the scenes, especially between the main character Lola and her friend Anna, were very childish, a lot more childish than I wanted, and I didn’t like it upon re-reading.

That might have been because my situation had changed, and my mood with it.

When I originally wrote the story, I was grounded for doing thing with my boyfriend which I was deemed too young to be doing, even though I had promised not to again. And it wasn’t true, but our parents believed it was, so I was sent to my nan’s house for the full six weeks school holiday, causing me to abandon all the plans I had made with friends. I had also been threatened with being put in a mental hospital if I “tried anything stupid again” (meaning taking an overdose). I had been forced to break up with my boyfriend of just over year, and was being ridiculed for being upset about it.

So I poured myself into working on the story because there was nothing else to do, and through it I ended up feeling better. I was with my younger sister, and we were getting along quite well, which also contributed to the lift in my mood.

And a lot of the scenes were written from the place I wanted to be (able to openly talk about my feelings, speak up when I didn’t like a situation, and surrounded by people who I felt cared about all of those things) rather than where I was (not able to achieve any of that). A lot of the scenes between Lola and Anna were happy and positive, because at the time I had a lot of happy and positive friends.

When I was rewriting it, I had begun to know rather than think that I might be depressed. I was isolating myself from everyone, and slowly losing my friends as a result. My grades were dropping. Teachers were losing trust in me. My motivation was disappearing with every passing day, and I was experiencing things in my personal life which I won’t go into right now, but they weren’t ideal.

Due to this, a lot of those friendship scenes full of happiness and laughter became darker, riddled with annoyance and pettiness. And this was how they ended up being published, although I did go back again to try and make them a little lighter during one the final edits. I also, during one the the very first rewrites, added a few very dark scenes centering around depression, which I think happened because I was starting to understand and accept it into my life. And while I was writing these, I felt pretty numb. I went back and made them darker in the final edit.

But there is also a scene or two in there which I wrote while I was feeling happy. This happiness injected itself into my favourite scene in the book: a peaceful, thoughtful chat between Lola and her brother Seb, during which they bond and become closer as siblings.

Why did real-life happiness translate to peacefulness in writing? Because that’s how happiness felt to me at the time. It was a break from the negative emotions I normally felt.

But, obviously it’s not just those very drastic mood changes that dictate how I write. Sometimes it’s the small things.

For example, I don’t write blog posts at home. I think that’s because I see my blog posts as discussion topics, and those topics are usually things I also talk about at work to my colleagues. Sometimes we end up going quite in depth about even the simplest of subjects. Out of boredom, to pass away time, and because we’re actually interested in what we’re talking about.

Similarly, I don’t write stories such as my work-in-progress while I’m at work. And that’s because I find home to be a much more comfortable environment, especially since my stories always tend to focus on sensitive subjects such as mental illness. My customer-facing job is not the best place to be thinking about it, especially since I sometimes find myself being unexpectedly affected by my own writing.

I’m not saying this is set in stone. My mood, environment, and opinions are constantly changing. I used to write in my diary when my mental health was getting to me, whereas now I hardly ever write in it at all. I used to write at school, but if were still there I know I wouldn’t.

I used to not write a blog at all, and now I do.

Change is good, and I like remembering how I felt when I read back through my writing. It makes it feel more real.

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