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Thoughts

Mood Writing

Benjamin Stein

There’s no hard line between what I write and what’s going on in the rest of my life. While I like to think of writing as the ultimate escape, it’s really more like an extension of my problems, fears, joys, and experiences. When I go on vacation, I can choose which clothing to pack, what camera to carry, and which probiotics to swallow. The one item I cannot avoid bringing along is myself.

I’d previously considered myself some sort of pristine vessel through which a story would flow. Chapter five wouldn’t be contaminated by my bad mood, because I’m telling a story unrelated to whatever trouble is causing my poor mood. Now that my latest novel, The First Servant, is complete, I’m understanding how deeply my mood affected my writing.

The first half of the novel focuses on a character who has no choice but to repress his emotions, because there’s so many bad things going on in his life that he’s unable to process or understand them. He’s not an emotionless husk for the length of the story, but it takes incredible effort for him to break free from his emotional chains.

My previous two novels were squarely in the YA category, but The First Servant (despite the age of its protagonist) sits much closer to adult fiction if not entirely inside of it. I’m only now realizing that the novel ended up like this because I needed to write in a way that more effectively expressed my own turmoil. I wanted an outlet wrapped around a compelling story.

Writing isn’t a sterile procedure. It’s messy because it’s fueled by passion, and passion is derived from the emotional experiences of the author. Writing The First Servant has helped me cope with life, and I’m hoping reading it may similarly help others.