May 10, 2024

Now that mood has got nowhere to go


Mood is a temporary state of mind or feeling.

It is the affective atmosphere and pervading emotional tone of our nature. And it’s a complex psychological issue that affects us all.

Being moody is not something we either are, or are not. Mood is a spectrum on which everyone sits. People can label themselves as moody if their feelings and behavior change frequently, or if they alternate between warmth and coldness without any warning.

But the reality is, there is nobody for whom mood is not a thing. It would be naïve to assume some of us are impervious to this psychological influence, and that mood doesn’t have an impact on everyone’s experience.

Storm clouds come for us all. The ones who suffer from mental illness definitely index higher than most. But anyone who claims not to be subject to at least some of the nuances in feelings and emotions, is either pretending, over medicated, or a robot.

The key question is not whether we are moody, but the degree to which we allow our mood impact our daily ability to stay motivated. Because the final arbiter of fulfillment has less to do with the mood we measure, and more to do with the meaning we create.

In my experience, most professional writers intimately understand this emotional distinction. People who put words on paper for a living, they know that waiting for the right mood is a huge time waster. They know that there are many potent forces conspiring to keep them from applying their creative discipline.

But they don’t care. Mood is neither here nor there. Whatever temporary emotional tone is present is like, whatever. Maybe they know what triggered it, maybe not. But that doesn’t change the fact that they still have a job to do.

Writers discipline themselves not to let feelings dictate their behaviors. Forget about language, punctuation and imagination. Where writers truly excel is in not delegating creative decisions to chance.

I have a colleague who spent twenty years as a news producer at our hometown’s local television station. The mantra she tells her staff is:

Good writing can happen on bad days. Feel free to be in whatever mood you want when you to come in to work. But just remember, none of us have the luxury of even thinking about writer’s block. The news doesn’t get a day off.

How moody are you? To what degree does your mood impact your daily ability to stay motivated?

Even if you’re not a writer, the practice of mood agnosticism has broad application. If you can learn to respond to moods with a mix of loving acceptance and even sarcastic exasperation, there’s no stopping you.

My suggestion is to pretend you’re trapped inside a ninety’s sitcom. Treat your brain as one of those network shows where the humor revolves around sarcasm, irony and satire. Where the main character has that quirky, annoying, but endearing neighbor, who drops in on a regular basis and mooches around.

That neighbor is your mood. Every time it bursts through the door with yet another zany tale or a request to borrow your car to carry out some elaborate, melodramatic scheme, you stare at them and dismissively quip, dude, what’s your point? Are you still talking? Does anyone else hear someone talking?

These clever taglines are ideal to obviate your mood’s line of argument. They lovingly accept your emotions with just enough sarcastic exasperation to compartmentalize and condense them.

Now that mood has got nowhere to go. It can’t hurt you.

Meanwhile, your live in studio audience erupts in laugher and we cut to commercial. Nielsen ratings will be off the charts.

Ultimately, if you live in your mood long enough, it calcifies into narrative. It becomes a repulsive character trait that you identify with a then believe to your own detriment.

Whereas if you learn to become agnostic about it, then you can decide to take charge of your life no matter what.

To what degree do you allow your mood to impact your daily ability to stay motivated?