Do you write better when you’re sad?

by poppycoxhead

This post is about moods.

I don’t write stories like many of you lovely people but I write for several blogs. They can be of varying content – music, tv, film reviews, real-life situations, what annoys me, comment on cultural situations and more, so I can be as creative as I want.

I have to be in a certain mood to write well. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the most consistent person when it comes to writing – if I’m not in the right mood or don’t feel like it or have a sneaky trip to the pub instead it won’t happen.

I’m trying to be better because it’s not something I want to be. All of you seem to be so motivated! But there is a discernible difference in my inclination since I’ve had more luck in life – ie since I’ve been happier! Before I was close to getting a job, and unemployed or unpaid, it was so much easier! The ideas flowed out and it was so much less effort.

I was miserable, but my writing happened every day and it was good! It was my escape, and I seem to be so much funnier when I’m in a bad mood about something. Obviously I had a lot more time on my hands, but I had a hell of a lot more inclination. And I try to write stuff at least once a week, but I wish it wasn’t such an effort. It’s supposed to be fun and it is, but I think I’m a more interesting person writing wise when there’s less going on as 1/ there are less distractions and 2/ my sad emotion translates better than my happy one into writing!

Does anyone else have to be in a certain mood to write or am I the only one who feels the need to perpetuate the ‘tortured writer’ stereotype? Does being happy inhibit you, or do you write better when you’re happy? Am I being ridiculous for essentially, being unhappy that I’m happy now (how meta)?

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44 Responses to “Do you write better when you’re sad?”

  1. I can’t say happiness impedes my writing, but my writing will have more depth when I’m dealing with heavier emotions. I mean, that could be sad, angry, hormonal, etc. The creative juices seem to flow more freely.

    • Hi, thanks for commenting! Definitely true about the emotions thing, I guess they’re closer to the surface so it’s easier.

  2. I’ve never really paid attention to that, but I can see how being unhappy would make writing better, or any art. I think being unhappy, your emotions are all right there on the surface ready to break at any moment and that might be why writing can be easier during those times.

    I just go through periods where I can’t think of anything to write and then I start beating my head against the keyboard and that just makes it worse, because then I’ve damaged some brain cells. So that never really helps.

    Just don’t chop an ear off!

    • Haha, I’ll try not to! I think I’m just funnier when my life’s a bit rubbish because that’s the kind of writer I am – maybe I could just hide away for a bit and see if anyone notices! Thanks for your comment!

  3. Dear Charlotte,

    I started my blog because I had had a real breakthrough in my mood, and my depression was finally in a real remission. The result was that I was writing these happy little posts to other diabetics that sounded like I’d figured the whole thing out. Well, I hadn’t. And after about a week, my sister told me that what I was writing didn’t sound like my voice, and that many of the helpful hints was writing about, I had never done. And she was right. So I apologized to my (then-only-8) readers, and started writing from the heart. I am still happy — thank the gods — but I write what I think, instead of what I think others want to read. I know our situations are very different, but maybe my experience will inform yours, in some way. And, I want to second limebirdlaura, above — no chopping off ears, no Aristotle drinking hemlock, no Kurt Cobain checking out. Just write from the heart, and write a lot. You’ll find the voice you are looking for.

  4. I believe a significant portion of creativity stems from the swell of emotions. Many memories are linked to feelings, the joy of passing a test or reaching the summit of a mountain for example, or that feeling of dread when someone tells you bad news. I think it’s the sudden shift in emotional states that can have an impact on your creative mind.

    Many writers and artists alike often force or encourage emotional highs and lows by impacting on their immediate surroundings, be that through drink or drugs or a certain type of music or lighting, even a change of scene can have profound effects on your mood and in turn your writing.

    • HI Dave, thanks for commenting. I think I’m definitely affected by that, and it’s a great point about your surroundings or chemical state of mind – I know in certain rooms it;s way easier for me to write, or at a certain type of day!

  5. Good post. I find that I need to be relaxed. If I am too happy or too sad, my mind goes way too fast for my fingers to keep up and everything comes out a mess. However, if a calm down just a bit, the words will begin to flow.

    • Hi Dennis, thanks! I’m totally the opposite, when there’s loads going on in my head it doesn’t always make sense but I just write it all down and then edit out the nonsense – it’s sometimes hard to know what I meant after but there’s a lot of good stuff there!

  6. I write best when I’m inspired. I get an idea for a post and then it sparks more and more things to say until I just can’t stay away from the computer anymore and can’t wait to put it up. I am loving blogging; it’s a wonderful creative outlet.

    • Thanks for commenting, it made me feel all warm and fuzzy. I love that feeling of having loads of ideas and getting them down and completing a post. I love feeling inspired!!

  7. My writing itself is not affected by my moods. There have been times in the past when I was struggling with depression where I had to force myself to write. As a general rule, however, having a writing project tends to improve my mood.

    • Hi Tony, thanks for commenting, that’s really interesting, so is there a mood you prefer writing it, even though it’s not affected?

  8. I think I write better and am more comfortable at it when I’m in a good mood. If I’m sad/stressed/anxious I can’t keep my head in the game to save my life. That said, I’ve always been inspired by a looming deadline.

    • Hi Neeks, thanks for commenting! Ahh, the fear, I’m also ‘inspired’ (read scared) by deadlines so it helps me write quicker but also having the time to wind down is important too, if I’m doing it for pleasure.

  9. Is contemplation a mood? If my brain is too busy, I can’t enter the scene/feelings/character thoughts/mood I’m writing about. In order to travel my brain, I need peace. Is peace a mood? Robin

    • Thanks for commenting Robin! I think contemplation can be a mood, it’s just nice to think for a bit, but if there’s loads od ideas going on it’s always a plus!

  10. I don’t know if my “good” writing if fueled by mood but it definitely is fueled by how passionate I feel about the subject. A certain, band, musician, piece of art, event will pull out the best of my writing. I don’t know if this is inappropriate, but I do find the time of month seems to have an affect on my writing as well. I am much more creative in the throws of PMS and for some reason I seem to be a lot funnier. I read an article by Christiane Northrup that women are a lot more creative during this phase of their cycle, and it really is true!

    • Haha, well there are a lot of emotions flying around at that time, I also think I’m funnier when I’m hormonal (well, I think so!) and it’s definitely a case of passion about a subject too. I’ve recently discovered that I hate writing about music and I used to love it, used to want to write for NME but my interest has waned lately so I’m not sure whether to embrace that or just give up and write about something else!

  11. I’ve written some of my best stuff when I was really mad at the world.

  12. I’ve written some of my best poetry from the depths of depression, but novels are a different beast altogether. As Peter DeVries once said, “I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9 a.m.”

    • Thanks for commenting! And that’s such a good point – I’m bad at making myself be inspired, I lack motivation often and that’s regardless of my mood – very inspiring!

  13. It depends, if I want to write poetry I really have to be in some sort of bad mood, otherwise it really doesn’t come out. But if I want to write some prose or an article about something my mood really doesn’t affect me. Sometimes if I have something really affecting my mood, I just write about it and ten it’s easier to write what I want to write about.

    • Thanks for commenting, Gilinha, it’s interesting that your mood affects you in a different way when you’re writing things!

  14. As my writing tutor says, “If you can’t feel it, you can’t write it!”

    In truth, as in all aspects of life, one size doesn’t fit all. But for creative writing, especially fiction and poetry, being able to feel those emotions is critical to reaching out to the reader. Makes me want to cry just thinking about it …. 😉

    • Thanks for commenting Paul, that’s definitely something to think about. It’s been an interesting journey through these comments, as I’ve realised the emotion I’m feeling makes a difference to my writing, but my writing isn’t particularly emotional…

  15. I can write regardless of my mood. I just find that my voice changes depending on the mood I’m in.

    • Hi Lorna, thanks for your comment. Which voice do you prefer? I can write in a happy mood but it’s just not as interesting as my sad or angry voice!

  16. I am just like you, Charlotte. Unfortunately I think I write better when I’m down. When I force myself to write at other times, it sounds that way. The writing comes completely from my mind and not from my heart and it seems like I’m trying to hard. I think the best writing incorporates both the mind and the heart.

    I also think I am happier when I’m busy; when I’m busy I don’t have time to write or even think. Time to think is key to being in touch with your emotions.

  17. Like Lorna, I can usually write something no matter how I’m feeling, but what I write varies a lot depending on my mood and the state of my emotional well-being. I do find that my writing has more depth when I’m down or struggling to deal with my emotions, but I’m really trying to write every day, no matter what else is going on in my life. I figure that’s the only way I’ll ever accomplish any of my writing goals.
    Happy Writing!

  18. I think its quite normal to have days where its just not happening. Most of the time though if I sit myself and down force it, eventually it does actually start to work.

  19. When I’m down in the dumps, I don’t feel like doing anything but sleeping . That’s awesome that you can write well when you’re bummed!

  20. Yep, I write the best when I’m super sad too!

  21. I think I write better when I’m tired. More grammar and spelling mistakes which I have to correct later on but the quality of the writing otherwise is brilliant. Also I find more inspiration and ideas when I’m half asleep too. If I have to write a certain scene for my novel I try to find music that fits the mood of the scene I’m trying to write, therefore putting myself into the correct mood for writing a particular part of my novel.

  22. Hey, I’m glad you posted this, it’s great to see that other writers are having the same struggles that I’m having. I don’t know if I would say that I only write when I’m sad so much as when I’m emotionally charged. It could be anger, frustration, maybe the word is angst. Something has made me heated up and unsettled and the best way to smash my brain through the emotions is to pound my thoughts on the keyboard. To me, it has been an exercise in willpower and determination to get myself to write, and eventually write well, without the need for specific circumstances. That is the downfall of so many great writers who felt like they could only get good writing done when they had the appropriate environment (like the deep wilderness) or were under the necessary chemical influences (booze). I’ve fallen in that trap many times but I’m pushing myself hard to climb out of it. Stick with it and keep pushing your art.

  23. I agree with Paul’s tutor that “If you can’t feel it, you can’t write it!” but that doesn’t mean that you have to experience it.

    My poetry comes from two main directions, there is the personal, and that can be love, hate, disgust, sorrow, whatever I’m feeling at the time. That sort of poetry draws my own feelings out and onto the paper. The other side is when I have an idea and want to tell a tale within a poem, that is much more like writing a story…

    Which brings me to my prose writing, whether that be novels, short stories, nanofiction; unless the story is told just from the point of view of one person, and that character doesn’t have any interactions with anyone else during the whole story, then you will have to bring in different characters, some confident – some not, some rude – some not, some inspiring – some not, some adventurous – some not, some happy – some not. When I write I try and put myself in the shoes of all the different characters, if I am happy I try not to make all my characters happy; or if I am down then the opposite. I suppose, what I’m saying is that, in story telling, one needs to be able to empathise with everyone and not colour everything with your own mood.

    But, maybe that’s just me…

    For those who do write according to mood, perhaps you need to have different folders, happy days, sad days, angry days, so that you have different projects to work on, no matter what!

  24. I cannot do anything if my sadness is at a certain point, especially not things I love.

    Have you ever noticed a different tone in your writing when you write in different moods? I do. When I’m happy, things are much more light hearted and humorous. Sadness brings out a more serious tone.

  25. I think for me, writing is more about the right atmosphere more than how I’m feeling at the time. I have to be in the right space to concentrate; timing is sometimes key (I often write best late at night). But….having said that I only ever wrote poetry when I was depressed…..I’m not sure that’s a good thing haha, but try as I might, I can’t conjure up a single line of a poem now my head is in a slightly better place!

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