Emotions and Writing

It’s a lovely Wednesday evening.  Melissa has joined me at the writing Starbucks.  I’m getting ready to dive into editing another chapter or two.  Before I open up Scrivener, I want to talk about strong emotions and writing.

I’ve heard people say that when you’re in the clutch of strong emotion, you should write.  You should channel those feelings into prose, pouring whatever sorrow or joy that’s infecting you onto the page.

Maybe that works for some people, but it doesn’t really work for me.  When I’m particularly angry, as I am this evening, I find the emotion to be as distracting as someone playing loud music next to me.

Why am I angry tonight?  It’s mostly a collection of little things.  I’m a little bit tired.  I’m a little bit hungry.  I ran into a little bit more traffic than I wanted to.  And of course, work has been really busy lately.  I shine under that kind of pressure, but pressure can sometimes generate heat.  For me, heat often means anger.  And I’m feeling it.

Whether it was anger, sorrow, elation, or anticipation, I don’t want too much of it when I’m writing, because when I write, I want to concentrate.  I want to be able to focus and find the right words.

So what do I do when I’m coming into a writing session with a head and heart full of noise?  Honestly, most of the time, I abandon the writing.  I’m good at compartmentalizing, but if I do it too much, I’ll reach a point where the emotions are going to get out when I don’t want them to.  So instead of suppressing, I do something else.  I play a video game.  I surf YouTube.  I drink a beer.  I ride it out.

Tonight, I’m doing something different.  I’m telling you all that I’m a raging tornado tonight, full of fury and cacophony.  This simultaneously gets me warmed up for writing, while also releasing some of the pressure.  I’m almost done with this post, and already the winds of my anger are slowed from throwing mobile homes around to holding kite strings taut.

Maybe I’ll write a story someday where I can just channel the emotions directly onto the page.  I don’t think so, though.  My thoughts have many voices, and the ones with all the nice, descriptive words are difficult to hear when so many others are howling.

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