Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesdays, where I post (you guessed it) tips on writing every Wednesday at 5:00 PM ET. This week’s topic:
We’re writers. Flair, drama, brooding, unique fashion sense, and lying over the backs of furniture likely pervade our lives (or at least the lives of some of the writers you know). And why? Well, we’ll leave that to someone else to explore fully.
I’m here to admit that that happens. It’s a good thing! Something to celebrate, even. Drama is great to use in your writing, brooding can make for good characterization, and lying over the backs of furniture gives as an Oscar Wilde-style workout—fashionable, while being artistic!
But what about the other side of all that? The darker side, if you will? What about the depression, and the myriad of other things historical writers have succumbed to? Alcoholism, drugs, etc.? What happens to turn a flair for the dramatic into ugly realism?
I speak very truthfully and rawly about depression. It is not only external, but endogenous to me. There is much I can do to fight against it, and it is a conscious choice to, but my occupation with writing makes it more difficult than it may be for someone of not so artistic a job—no, not “artistic,” but empathetic.
It is my opinion that what makes a good writer into a great one is empathy.
For me, one of the most thorough ways for me to access the mind, feelings, thoughts, emotions, and illogical complexities of a character is to create for either them or the world they live in, a playlist of music that perfectly suits.
I often go to a café, or sit at home on the couch, and peruse music for anywhere from 45 minutes to hours at a time before really settling into writing a new world. It’s become a part of my writing process, especially for the weekly short stories I write. The pace, for me, demands that. I can’t get acquainted with people I didn’t know a week ago, at least not enough to write about them, unless I know them deeply, and for me, music is how I get there.
DON’T BECOME DENETHOR
In Tolkien’s The Return of the King, Denethor, Regent of Minas Tirith, despairs because he has seen in a palantir, a seeing-stone of sorts, that Mordor’s victory over Minas Tirith is inevitable—and he knows this to be true because a palantir cannot show anything that is untrue.
But let’s imagine this: what if all we watched was the news? Or, to take another extreme, only news about war? Or a news channel where all we could watch was people’s last moments before they die?
It would take it’s toll very quickly, no? This is what Sauron did. He showed Denethor the truth through the palantir, yes—but a skewed version of it. It is an unfortunate truth that people do, indeed, die everyday, but that is not all there is to life, for otherwise death would have no opposite. But if that’s what we choose to focus on? Every aspect of life becomes quickly bleak.
CHANGE THE CHANNEL
I write a lot of heavy stories. Even the simple ones. So a lot of the music I listen to is likewise very heavy, or dark, or grey, etc. And I find myself exhausted from it a lot.
But it’s hard—because I have to live in that world if I am to write about it accurately and well. So how am I supposed to take a break?
There is time to write, and there is time to rest, have fun, and go out and experience life, something I’ve stressed the importance of previously. Let the time you write be sacred—try your best to stay focused and on-task. But when you’re not writing? Do your best to stay focused and on-task…at enjoying life and seeking happiness.
I used to think “happy” was boring; “happy” was weak.
I now know that that frame of mind and way of thinking is exhausting, and untrue.
Enjoying happiness and being mindful are important for you as a person, of course, but for you as a writer, as well. You cannot live gloom and doom all the time—otherwise it stops being “drama,” and starts being “normal.”
I fight for my happiness. Every single day, it is a choice. And it is a hard one. It’s much easier to be depressed. And sad. And complain-y.
But I try my best to save accessing those feelings for my writing, because there? They can do good.
Hope takes a lot of different forms. It can look like a moral tale, or it can look like catharsis, a moment of “Ah! Someone understands me! And I understand them!” Hope can look bleak, but with the promise of something good in the end.
This is why I write. Hope drives your story, your characters, your plot, your whole book, something I wrote more about in last week’s post. Your sadness, your darkness, your anger, your numbness have a place in writing. Let it be the place you have permission to have those emotions instead of polluting your life. You deserve all the happiness in the world.
So, once you’ve experienced the intimacy that is your current character your writing, the world they’re living in, the people and the emotions they are dealing with, and finished your writing session for the moment, do yourself a favor:
Turn off the mood music.
And dance to something happier.
You, and your characters, will be better off.
At the risk of sounding cliché, control your depression, and any other negative emotions—don’t let them control you.
**Note the wording: don’t LET them. Sometimes, and often, it’s a choice. And you’re the only one who can make it.
So, if you’re going to experience these emotions anyway…why not use them toward something good? And who knows? You may just make someone’s day. <3
Alyssa Grace Moore
You can also find Alyssa on Twitter: @alyssagracem
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