On Separating Mood From Writing and “Choosing” Your Audience

A lot of people, writers or not, tend to accept that writers need to be in the right mood (inspired), to write. Personally, when I was younger I just assumed this was the right way to do it. I couldn’t just sit down and write – that would just be typing. Writing had to be somehow “divinely inspired” to “count.”

I was really dismissing myself here. Of course the only way I could get good at writing was to actually sit down and write. Writing is a craft that takes time and practice to get good at, but nothing I wrote would never be worth working on if I didn’t think I, without some “divine word” speaking through me, was capable of producing work that was worth staying with, just me

Getting out of my way, and being able to separate my emotions from my writing, requires my being highly emotional. It takes serious self awareness and a solid understanding of what I need to feel supported. Emotional intelligence is part of the work of being a writer, the way I see it.

Seth Godin would agree:

On Ep. 4 of the Beautiful Writer’s Podcast he says, “I’m trying to remember the last time I was in the mood to create. I don’t think that comes up very often for people who do it professionally… I think we make a mistake if we call ourselves a writer and then talk about we need to find the right ’emotional moment’ to do our writing. What we need to do is write and then write some more and if we’re any good at it we’ll edit later by throwing out the stuff that doesn’t sing … if this was easy, everyone would do it would do it well. The fact that it’s hard makes it worth doing.”

So: just do it, and keep doing it, and know it’s hard because it’s worth doing – and remind myself that I’m worthy of doing it – then I have a chance at improving. Practice doing things badly is such a good piece of advice.

What helps narrow my focus and keeps me in flow is having a solid, intuitive understanding of the audience I want to be writing for. They have to be chosen wisely (read: from my heart, because that’s just were the magic happens). When I start considering what “everyone” will think, I get distracted and lose momentum.

Seth says “it’s easy to stop yourself in your tracks and say I should smooth out this edge, I should explain this idea, I should do this because someone might not get the joke. You can do all those things but … we don’t need more average. We need more stuff on the edges.”

And there are a ton of people who won’t get it – when we write honestly, we run the risk of being wrong to someone. “One of the side effects of making something important is that some people aren’t going to get the joke,” Seth says. The clearer my idea of who I’m really writing to – who I know “will” get it, the less the others matter, and the more focused I am in our message.

I can’t remember where I read this, but Liz Gilbert shared a really helpful tip. Before writing anything – a book or article, anything at all, it was her responsibility as a writer to find the one person she was writing this for. Not the demographic or group of people – the one single person. I know I’m pretty focused when I’m writing emails or snail mail letters actually to one person.

Is it any good, any better, than when I’m trying to write for “everyone”? Maybe not, but it’s certainly easier to get my ideas down. The easier they get down, the quicker I can move onto throwing out the stuff that doesn’t sing.

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