Monday, 20 June 2016

What if I just don't feel like it? Using acting skills in your writing.

I started writing  a completely different post to this but recent events have put me in a dark mental place and I suspect I'm not the only one.

First there was Orlando. There are no words for the pointless destruction wrought on the people in the night club there. I'm not going to share any more of that hate though, I'm going to share a bit of love:

And then...I won't go into politics here,  but most of you reading this will be well aware that the UK is having a referendum on whether or not to leave the EU.  I  attempted to engage in debate about this - true, informed, educated debate designed to help all involved, including myself, have a better picture of the potential impact of the referendum result.

I was polite, restrained, mildly funny and I got completely trolled on twitter for it. Nasty, aggressive, rude, sometimes moderately informed, always biased and vile team trolling. I withdrew. There was no debate to be had, I was hunted by a group of campaigners actively requesting assistance to "Take down this b*tch."

And now Jo Cox, Labour M.P. for Batley and Spen,  has been killed and I don't know if it has anything to do with the referendum but I can't help but feel the  nature of some quarters of the campaign verbally  reflect precisely the aggressive  and violent actions that brought this young woman's life to an end.

I am tearful. I am sad. I am in no mood to write - but....

I have a book to finish.

So how do you control your mood so you can effectively produce what's needed on the page?

1. Listen to music. 

Music can turn your mood around - you can pump up your heart rate or swell with emotion if you choose the right sound track. I never listen to music when I'm writing ( well, rarely, sometimes classical tracks) but I often do to get me in the mood before writing.  Guaranteed mood changers for me are:

  • Eminem's Lose Yourself is my power up track.

  • Pharrell Williams Happy  to cheer me up: 

  • Coldplay's Fix You to make me weepy:

2. Pretend:

 I used to be an actor, where pretend is your bread and butter. Here are a few simple tricks for you:

  •  If you're down and you need to not be,  force yourself to smile - this can genuinely work.
  •  If you need to write something upbeat and strong try the Wonderwoman stance. Stand up, raise both arms in a V above your head then bring your fists down to your hips, arms akimbo. Job done. You are powered up.
  • Need to write a sad scene but you're full of the joys of spring? This is hard, be prepared to dig deep - think about something really sad that happened to you. Touch all the emotion but don't let it swallow you - this is work, you are using your experience for your writing  so you need to control it.
  • Stand in front of a mirror and act out your character's part - be sincere and note how your feelings actually feel.

3. Write something else:

If you really aren't in the mood to write your  touching romance scene, don't. Work on something else. If you're angry, where can you use that emotion in your book? Write that scene instead.

4. Step away from your desk:

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can't shake off the mood you're in and you can't put it to good use. Accept it. You're human. Walk the dog. Make a cup of tea. Eat some chocolate (dark chocolate is genuinely a mood enhancer). Put some dance music on and clean the house. And if you just need to be sad for a bit, that's OK too.

In the light of what's happened recently, I want to recommend a couple of books that make you think and might just make the world a better place.

Jeannie Waudby's One of Us  
Robin Talley's Lies We Tell Ourselves.
Lisa Williamson's The Art of Being Normal.

Please make your own recommendations in the comments section.

Play nice. Be kind. Let's be better.

Kathryn Evans is the author of More of Me: A gripping thriller with a sinister sci-fi edge, exploring family, identity and sacrifice. She has been nominated for  The Edinburgh Festival First Book award, you can vote for her book here


  1. Very timely post. I've had a couple of personally sad events this week, as well as the stuck in a mental hospital feel of the world. It was the relief of finding a lost memory stick that got me writing again and I feel much better for it.
    Thanks for the mirror tip, I'll be using that one.

  2. Thanks for the suggestions, Kathryn. It's been a tough week. Sorry you were attacked by trolls on Twitter - no fun. Have you ever seen the documentary Young@Heart? Their version of Fix You reduces me to jelly every time. I'm watching Pixar movies to cheer me up these days.

  3. I listen to this song. In fact I ought to listen to it now! (it starts at 1:36)

  4. No! How awful to be picked on by such cowardly bar stewards. I LOVE this song by Imagine Dragons - in fact, I forgot to post it to your page when you got your contract - have it now. It doesn't solve anything but it's jiggly,


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