WRITING TIP: The landscapes of mood

writing tipOur moods color the world until everything seems to drip and breathe with whatever state we happen to be experiencing, be it one that quickly passes or one that lingers, inhabiting us as though it owns the place. This can be great fun when everything sways with sudden joy—or difficult, as when a state of misery or grief threatens to engulf the cosmos. By noticing the shift in the landscape that accompanies our moods, we can begin to describe our inner, human world with far more precision than just saying “happy” or “miserable.” Try this: Notice now your mood and how it colors your world. Monitor it, so that you can detect when the same four walls that looked before like a prison now look like the happy boundaries of a newly minted freedom. Try writing about one or both moods as though it belonged to the world, and not to your inner weather. For inspiration, here is a poem from Theodore Roethke that anyone who has been miserably employed in an office will find familiar:

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes,
dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplicaton of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.
—Theodore Roethke