Saturday, December 5, 2009

More With The Sunshine And Lollipops

According to an article on, a happy writer is a bad writer.

It's a good headline-grabber, but the actual article states that a low-level bad mood has a positive effect on people's ability to detect lies, see past stereotyping and think clearly. The kind of bad mood that lasts for a short while, not that proper bone-deep misery that makes it difficult to put the kettle on.

I think this makes sense. I find it very hard to write from the very hardest and darkest times on my life (I do keep trying though, because I suspect the really rich material is there. Next time you see me crying, say 'rich material, though' and watch me cheer up. Or swear at you. It's the uncertainty that makes me fun, honest). The little bad moods are easier to play with - mild jealousies can be filtered through a character and become life-changing, for instance.

The stereotype of the unhappy artist bothers me, though, largely because I've never met one. I've met unhappy people who happen to be artists, but I've never met an artist who wasn't happier as a result of being an artist. Even in the darkest of times, most artists I know can think 'well, at least I can write/paint/sing/do interpretive dance.' The stereotype is that the type of person who becomes an artist is also drawn to misery, and I'm not convinced. Artists seem to be drawn to experiences, sometimes extreme experiences, but they do spend most of their lives following a light, which makes a difference.

That said, it is comforting to know that being a low-level grumpy cow might pay off for me. So far, all I have to show for it is a premature frown line :)


  1. Next time you see me crying, say 'rich material, though' and watch me cheer up.

    I love this! And I'm having a blast reading the rest of your blog. Thanks for saying hi at the Bookends blog.

  2. Loved this post! You know I don't think I am drawn to misery, but I do tend to notice it around me. And I know I use it as part of my writing. My BFF was worried about me "labeling" her because I tend to do that automatically as a writer (spunky kid, gallant crusader... the writing bug is hard to avoid). She worried I would only look at the negative. I quickly reminded her that I am also a great cheerleader, but it's the pain in life that spurs the writing.

    Yah, "rich material" indeed.

  3. Hi GhostFolk, thanks for the comment, glad you're enjoying the blog :)

    I'd like to point out that I don't just randomly laugh at the word 'poop', it was just that I had the exact same response to both of those lines in Jessica's post. I wanted to know what the quick fixes were for making a character likeable, and. . . there weren't any. Although I may check out that Orson Scott Card book, another poster said that it has a list of traits, which seems like a brilliantly lazy way to solve my character problem :)

    Your blog is really interesting, is 2011 still the release date for your novel?

  4. Christine, I have done that labelling thing too! I was afraid it was just me, but every time I'm afraid something is just me, I find there's a support group for it somewhere. . . :)

  5. Thus far, I've been told Summer 2011. Thank you so much for asking. I have noticed other books being acquired are coming out sooner, so I may not be a good working example.

    The book is Young Adult with a female protag., btw. And: female agent, female editor. I enjoyed reading your blog post and comments on the male/female writes/readers topic. Almost all of the YA I read is by female authors.

    I don't talk about writing at my blog, Ellen, but I love reading other blogs about the writing life (including yours now :-)

    The reasn I commented on the likable characters post at Bookends is that I am in the midst of my first revision (massive editorial letter in hand) and one of the main suggestions from the editor was to make my protag more sympathetic.

    My revision deadline is Jan 15 and I am doing all the other things first and saving the sympathy for the Main Character for a marathon run through. Aaawk.

    Rosie sounds wonderful!!! I love the idea of story featuring an 8-y-o in 1940s Ireland! The project I hope to get to next (and soon) has a prominent character who is an 11-y-o girl and I am really looking forward to see where she takes me and how we get there.

    I don't have the courage to do 8-y-o. :-) But what a terrific read to look forward to!

  6. Yes, we writers need a support group. I thought I was the only one who labeled people or sat in airports and wondered what people's real stories were as they walked by or sat waiting for their next flight.

  7. Christine:

    Yes, we writers need a support group.

    I only watch football to see the players' names. A good source, btw. And I always stay and read the names as the credit rolls at the end of a movie.

  8. GhostFolk, I'm afraid Rosie is only 8 for one very short chapter. She grows up and grows old by the time the book finishes. I just find it quite strange that she caught my imagination so much in a scene about two children - I don't have children, and I grew up with very few children around me so I find them quite mysterious, and almost impossible to write about, but for some reason in that scene, Rosie grew wings.

    I am struggling with making my heroine in the present timeline likeable, though - I've had a few suggestions from friends.
    1. Give her more conflict in her life.
    2. Make her want something really badly.
    3. Write from the point of view of someone around her.
    4. Make her funnier (also - stop worrying that you're giving her all the good lines and stop giving them all to her best friend instead).

    Really, all of them are variations on a theme of 'get to know her better yourself'.

    I've been reading your blog and I really enjoy it. Never had a ghost experience myself but I think all writers have a duty to be open-minded. Plus, I have heard so many stories from people that would make me wonder so I find stories about encounters absolutely fascinating.

    YA does seem to be very female-dominated - I don't write it myself but I read a lot of it (most of the blogs I linked to, which inspired the male-female writers post, are YA writers, which I think skewed the sample a little) and I would love to write it in the future. I'd like to see more male voices in YA, just because as a genre it focuses so much on people changing and developing and I'd love to see more writers tackle it from inside a male brain.

    I hope the revisions go well!

  9. Christine, I have a friend who used to watch people eat and draw conclusions about their personalities. I never did it myself, but when you were eating with her, it got contagious and we'd often spend whole meals doing that.

  10. Ellen: sounds like you are working hard on the current WIP. Good suggestion to give your main character the better lines. The best friend is secondary, and you don't want her to overtake the book/steal it from your heroine. For fleshing out my current WIP's characters, I loved the Hero and Heroines Archetypes book. I'll hunt down the exact title later for you and zip it your way. I also love my GMC chart with 5 defining moments for my main characters. Really helps me flesh out their inner conflict/emotional motivations. You can email me direct and I'll send you my template. Have you read Deb Dixon's book GOAL MOTIVATION AND CONFLICT? It's excellent.

    @Ghostfolk: I love watching Football for names--great idea. Latest cool name: COLT MCCOY. Hook em Horns! Quarterback for the Texas Longhorns.

  11. OMG, Christine: I saw his name this weekend past and said out loud: "Perfect!" LOL.

  12. That's a brilliant name - he should be a maverick detective who doesn't play by the rules but gets results :)

  13. You know Colt's dad was a football coach--I figure he planned that kid's name from the get go--totally awesome name.

  14. Damn, you had a ridiculously interesting discussion about writing and I totally missed out on it. Well I'm glad it was here for me to read :D.


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