Lipton’s Journal/February 22, 1955/695
Exhiliaration and depression in writing. (Do I think I’m just a big liar in all this journal?) At any rate: the reason exhilaration is the sign generally of poor writing is that our thoughts are large, so large that the critical estimator of how closely they are embodied in the idea-act is overwhelmed by the happy emotion of the thought. So we think we are uncovering worlds, and the next day, rereading, the thought virtually absent, we find that the idea-act we have made is crude and doesn’t even awake echoes of what we felt yesterday. Often we bounce too far in the direction of disappointment, for what we feel as nothing on the second day may still have enough idea-elaboration in it to arouse some thought in the reader.
On the other hand, writing from depression we feel depressed because there is little thought in us. (There and their mean the same thing.) Very little thought-energy which is not lost in trench-warfare. So what little there is, is ideated very carefully. The result is that the idea-net when reread opens more thought to the writer than when he actually wrote it. His own ideas which often are crude expressions (although carefully worked) of thoughts whose depth in him he does not suspect, become recognizable as such years later.
Therefore, a mild flat mood is best for me in writing. Lipton’s stimulates too much, and it takes at least three or four days for the total effect of the stimulation to wear off. Hence, if I wish to write a novel I had better get off it and go through some dreary plodding months. When I get too depressed to write, I can always take a week or two off, Lipton up, and Lipton off, and start working again.