Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mood Congruent Reading

About two months ago, I experienced a brief period of internal ... strife. It had to do with what I was writing, or, more accurately, what I wanted to be writing. Completely accurately, what I wanted to be writing wasn't what I was writing at the time.

If you're still reading this post, I have a lot of admiration for you.

Anyway, I was totally unsettled. Stressed. And yeah, kind of unhappy.

I decided to read something to escape my little writerly angstfest.

That week, I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy.

It matched my mood perfectly. Something about those books just fit, and I gobbled them up. Perhaps you're wondering why I hadn't read them up to now (like the rest of the world), and all I can say is that I just didn't feel particularly motivated to do so. But that week, I think that unsettled, tense, mentally explosive sort of mood I was in shifted me into a space where they were the perfect books at the perfect time.

Mood congruence is a fascinating phenomenon. There's been TONS of research on it. Basically, if you're in a good mood, you think good things are more likely to happen and bad things are less likely. You're more likely to remember happy things. And if someone presents you with a list of words, you're more likely to recall adjectives that are positive. The opposite is true if you're in a bad mood (and especially if you're depressed).

What about mood congruent reading? When you're down, do you graviate toward darker fare? When you're feeling sunny, do you steer clear of drama and go for comedy? Or do you do the opposite? Have you ever saved a book for when you were in a different mood? Have you ever been drawn to a book because of your mood?

And--if you're just finishing NaNoWriMo, congratulations! Either way, skip on over to Deb Salisbury's Sisterhood of the Traveling blog post about why she didn't--I think she presents some pretty good reasons, definitely worth thinking about.

19 comments:

  1. I'm totally on board with mood affecting attitude. I try to remain positive all the time. Weather affects my mood as well, or rather I allow it to. If I'm writing, my reading suffers and vice versa.

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  2. I do find that mood affects what I'm able to accomplish. I can do more in less time with a good mood than I can in limitless time with a bad mood. However, I don't think my mood affects my choice of reading. I either like it, or I don't.

    However, reading something that's wildly popular and receiving a lot of hype, but which I find shallow and disappointing ... that will PUT me in a cranky mood! :P

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  3. @ Dianne- HAHAHAHAAAAA! love it!

    to be completely honest, i'm a fickle pickle when it comes to mood.
    and it not only effects what i WANT to be reading (although sometimes i will power my way through that), but it effects what kind of music i'll want to listen to, or what kind of tv show(or any tv at all)that i want to watch.

    the trick is to deny your wants if they're incongruous with what you need to accomplish.

    but since reading the hunger games is like a total necessity, i believe your wisdom in choosing to take a mood congruent moment to read them is top-notch!

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  4. This is so true, now that you've mentioned it. Apparently I'm always in the mood for romance, since I have a hard time picking up a book that doesn't even have a romantic subplot. But then I get so caught up in the story, I'm no longer in the mood for romance. I just want to keep reading. ;)

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  5. Thanks for the shout-out, Sarah!

    I agree, my mood greatly influences what I want to read -- or write. Because I'm a painfully sequential writer, I don't skip around in my ms, and it's hard to write a scene when I'm in the opposite mood. Hm. It's also counterproductive. Writing a silly scene when your sad creates pathetic results.

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  6. YES, definitely have experienced the mood congruent reading thing. I usually am not a huge fan of overly girly fiction, but I tell you what, if my day has been rainbows and cupcakes or the boyfriend does something romantic, I'm not opposed at all to a happy read.

    Sorry to hear about your writerly angst-fest...I hope things have gotten better since then (besides the obvious help of the Hunger Games ^_^).

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  7. I have a lot of admiration for you too, but I don't do moods. I'm basically always in one mood: laid-back, basically happy, content in my own awesomeness. When in this mood I read whatever the heck I feel like.

    Seriously, though? It's an interesting topic. For example, right now I'm reading the last Martin book during the day, whenever I have a few minutes. I read a book I can't talk about in the evening, after dinner, and I read A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, right before bed. I'm not sure I can tell you why, not because it's a secret, but because I just don't know.

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  8. When I'm in a bad mood, I tend to hit old books because I'm assured of reading parts I know I'm going to enjoy. When I'm in a good mood, I'm more up for the unknown.

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  9. Mood congruence is fascinating, but I don't usually pick my reading based on my frame of mind. Whatever I am reading, as long as I am enjoying the story on some level, takes me away from a less that happy place and that's perfect.

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  10. I just read according to the TBR pile, unless it's a really dark book. Those I do save for times when I feel up to some serious misery.

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  11. hi miss sarah! i hope you got all the way past that unhappy stress stuff. for me im mostly happy except when im sad. for reading i just keep reading what i started cause i like to finish a book before i get started on another one. when im some sad i like to write and then i write fun and happy stuff and i even laugh out loud some times and it gets me feeling way better.
    ...hugs from lenny

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  12. I shall now throw around the term "mood congruence" with wild abandon. I must be in a good mood!

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  13. sounds like CBT to me over here. did something like this the other day. I was incredibly frustrated, so when I tried to write, it just wasn't happening. to get out of my bad mood, I forced myself to do something I find fun. like a 12-year-old girl, I danced around my room to inappropriate pop songs. for like twenty minutes. then I flopped on my bed and laughed at myself. mood elevated.

    still didn't write much, though, but that wasn't the point of my exercise. after all, if I knew how to write when I wanted to, I'd have a pretty huge writer-secret on my hands.

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  14. Ugh - I am TOTALLY affected by my mood when I write. In fact, I'm so awful about this Sarah that I listen to certain music prior to writing (usually it's quite angry music LOL) to get me in the correct mood to be able to use my time effectively. I don't think this is unusual, so don't feel bad that you took a little breather and read something dark and violent to pull you out of your funk. BTW the Hunger Games sucked me in when I discovered them and I literally devoured all of them (except Mockingjay which wasn't out yet) in days. Hope you're back up to speed now and if you need some happy, hit my blog today. I have Muppets LOL.

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  15. I have SAR--seasonal affective reading. LOL! I made that up myself, can you tell? ;p But seriously. In the winter, I like to snuggle up with lush, detailed romancey books. In the summer, I'm more of a chicklit, rom-comey type of gal. I guess that explains my progress on the ole TBR pile. But those Hunger Games books. It's hard not to read them all in one sitting regardless of mood~ :D

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  16. Oh, I definitely believe that mood affects attitude. I know that when I'm crabby if I force myself to act cheerful I will eventually feel cheerful, and then I'm able to correct my mood. As for reading . . . hmmm. I guess mood does impact my reading choices. When I'm focused on writing, I read about writing. When I'm taking a break (like these few days after NaNo) I choose to escape, which means Nora Roberts or Janet Evanovich.

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  17. My mood definitely weighs in when selecting a book!! I strive for those 'mood' friendly books! I love that there are so many books to fit what you're feeling!!!

    I went through the same thing! I'm currently torn between genres, chick lit & dystopian YA. I told myself I couldn't do both. Guess what, I was silly. I now have three published short stories (to be released in 2012) all chick lit, and one wild Dystopian in the works that's getting a lot of attention. Turns out I was my biggest enemy!

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  18. It's so true! I've been in the mood for comedy lately. I need that lightness when I'm stressed. Glad you finally read the HUNGER GAMES though! It's one of my favorite books.

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  19. My moods are usually shorter lasting than the time it takes me to read a novel, but there have been times which I have chosen a book to start based on what mood I was in. Once or twice, I've left a book for awhile and come back to it later because of mood changes. And I never really thought about it like that until I read this post.

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