A few years ago I caught an interview with actor Ben Kingsley where a journalist asked him what memories he tapped into to become “sad” or “angry” in a role. Kingsley became somewhat furious and told him that only an untalented hack would lower himself to such trickery. A true actor, he said, would need only talent.
This always stuck with me. I’m not an actor, but I do write and sometimes I communicate in an emotional style. This is known as ranting. What I picked up from Kingsley is that you don’t need to get yourself in a particular mood to perform in a certain way. You should be crafting the emotion, not channeling the emotion.
A few of my recent posts have been on the negative side. A couple people have even asked if I was in a bad mood. Not really. Things have been pretty great for me lately. That said, the idea I want to express are not exactly chill. What I want to get across here is that it’s not necessary to rile yourself up to write angry. You don’t have to be happy to write something positive. No matter what your mood is, you’re in control of the words you choose. Your choices are what make something good or hacky.
I’ve found being in a strong mood is not a great way to reliably create anything good. You might be able to whip out an inspired rant or two, but long term you’re going to burn yourself out. Plus, you become intolerable to be around (sorry Mrs. Lott).
You don’t even need a special place to write. Stephen King cranked out his first couple of books sitting on a washing machine in the back of his trailer with his typewriter on his lap on a TV tray. Writing isn’t about your mood. It’s about craft. The only way you get better is by reading great work and writing everyday. It’s actually pretty easy. Except when you make it hard by being a lazy turd.