One of the things I had to learn way back in high school when I started writing was how to control my own emotions. Not block them off completely, but temper them and access the ones I needed for certain scenes. I couldn’t be feeling happy while writing a sad scene and let the wrong emotion come through. Yet, I also didn’t want to plunge myself into utter sadness. So, there was a lot of learning and experimenting with ways to handle this situation. Betting there are many out there who don’t think this is a problem or stumble into this issue, but I’m sure there are plenty in this boat.
Over the last year, I’ve had a lot of trouble maintaining my own balance when writing due to personal issues. This resulted in me not feeling like I can write the scenes that I’m up to or attempting it in utter failure. It’s why War of Nytefall: Eradication has taken me months instead of weeks. Well, the job too, but it definitely took a long time because I repeatedly hit moments where I couldn’t stop the outside world from poking into my fantasy realm. The tricks I’d established over the years weren’t working as well as they should. This is what prompted me to consider the topic and come up with some suggestions for those who find themselves in this boat.
- Don’t force the writing. If you need to step back and handle life then do so. This might seem like you’re bashing through a wall, but it’s more than likely that you will have to scrap whatever you complete. The tone will be off and characters won’t be acting the way they should. Maybe they’re bickering more or they shrug off a horrible event because you’re too happy at the moment. You’ll be annoyed with yourself come the editing stage, so it could be better in the long run to handle your business before you dive back into the manuscript.
- Music may soothe the wounded author. If you can write with noise than playing songs to fit the scene can help you focus. Metal and hard rock could work with action scenes while love songs work for romance. You can go full mood music as well if you don’t want any talking. This works for me, but I know it’s not for everyone.
- Meditation beforehand can help. I’ll admit that I haven’t mastered this. It tends to go with the music and I can slip pretty easily. You could also fall asleep, but naps can help your emotions reset. At the very least, you get some extra energy for when you’re able to write again.
- This isn’t something I’m capable of, but you could write a scene that connects to your current mood. It means not going in order and jumping around the story, which can cause some continuity issues. If you have a way to counteract those or are okay with big rewrites in editing runs then this could work. The secondary effect is that you can pull yourself out of the funk by bestowing the emotions on your characters. Them getting through the issues could help you do the same.
I can say that not everything here will work. Much of it depends on the strength of your emotions and the cause. Some events will knock you for a loop longer than others. This kind of brings me back to #1, which is where you get your house in order before you return to the story. I did this back in August 2018 when my life got a karate chop to the throat and a vicious groin pull. Took me 5 months before I could bring myself to touch another writing project. Did I come back stronger? Not really, but I returned at a point when I felt I had enough control to get the job done. I don’t think I was right, which is why I took so many breaks. When I was on the verge of tears, I couldn’t touch my action or romance scenes. Eradication doesn’t have a lot of sad scenes at the beginning, so I was out of luck here. Thankfully, I’ve been pulling out of it and managing to carve out a little writing time every week.
In the same vein, you might not want to do any author path decisions. I regret announcing a semi-retirement when things went south because things kept spiraling until I realized that I needed to hold onto some of what I had created. Never be afraid to take a break from writing, but try not to be dramatic. I think I hurt myself pretty badly with that post because my blog traffic took a nosedive. This is just a personal piece of advice for anyone who is writing and having a hard time. Trying to hold onto part of the spark even if you can’t add words to your project. Outlines and blog posts about your writing can help fill the void.
So, what do other people do when they’re carrying an emotion that doesn’t fit the scene they want to write? Is it easy for you to switch or do you wait for the opportune moment?