So last night I tweeted about feeling emotionally drained after a long hard day, and that I was only able to make my goal of 500 words through sheer willpower. Someone tweeted back asking how that went.
Though my response was no, I thought the concept was interesting. So I decided to write a post exploring some of the pros and cons of writing in a variety of different emotional states.
Pros: Sometimes writing angry is fantastic! You can get all those negative emotions out on the page. You can kill off some characters. If you’re like me it might give you a level of concentration on the story, focusing in with all that energy you have.
Cons: I would say while there is maybe an added level of concentration, there is a lower quality of content. The feeling of “ug I hate life I need to go write some awful things right now” doesn’t lead to the best consideration of either good plot or often good editing throughout. But hey you want some raw rage on the page, go for it.
Example from my own writing (apocalyptic angry world destruction):
And thus what had been foretold in ages past came to be. The death of the final Crisanto heir in a season of deadly plague and madness caused rifts in the political structure. The chaos of untold proportion took over, the already potent disease spreading insanity in its wake. Malliatur in the meantime had abandoned its normal ally, forgotten old friendships and times of Genevieve and Katherine.
Pros: Sometimes sorrow can access deeper places of reflection. It can make you see life in a different way, can open up areas of yourself you wouldn’t normally get to see. It’s difficult, but there’s beauty in it too.
Con: For me writing while sad usually just makes me feel emotionally drained afterwards (like last night). Like other forms of emotion writing, it is therapeutic, but does not provide the same level of “I feel better” afterwards. It may be cathartic but it doesn’t leave me as satisfied immediately after finishing. Maybe by the next day though.
Example from last night (has a tad bit of irritation in the tone too):
Ug, this week’s visit was awful. I cried for the millionth time. I hate people seeing me crying.
Pros: Oh gosh, so much energy! I’m talking you found out you won the lottery kind of joyful of course, not just “it was a good day” but those are helpful too! The main thing for me is this can lead to a nice amount of productivity. Oftentimes, I’ll feel very confident and happy with my writing at the end too rather than the self-critical mode of other moods.
Cons: Ok, sometimes this actually can be the opposite and be distracting rather than helpful. Like an “I want to leave and go do something fun rather than sit in my room and write!” type attitude. Also, one can become a little overzealous in the writing, maybe not producing great quality stuff. (see example below)
Example (oh let’s just be honest it’s going to come from a romance book and what better than a wedding scene):
My smile broke into a full grin as I leaned forward at the same time Max did. I put an arm around him and next thing I knew my lips were pressed against his, firmly and passionately. I closed my eyes and smiled into the kiss, unable to contain my happiness.
Pros: Being serious can sometimes be a good thing. But seriously, having a solemn attitude can help when writing a more important scene that requires attention to detail and needs more of a somber tone. Especially if you’re writing essays or something else like that.
Cons: Definitely not the best for writing sections that require a lot of emotion. Maybe it helps you not be as attached to a character you’re killing, but if you require emotion in a section, having a more unemotional approach can be troubling.
Example (a super serious conversation):
“You’re making more progress on becoming organized,” she stated adjusting her eyeglasses and reaching for her notepad. “With organization we can begin to get more of an idea of what was going on. I want to make sure we have a better idea about your treatment.”
“You mean what drugs to put me on,” he stated blandly, looking at the snow again.
She pursed her lips. “You want to talk about drugs. Let’s start with these first.”
She pulled the bottle that looked very prescription-like out of nowhere and flashed it at him. His eyes narrowed but he recognized it.
Pro: Is there any kind of pro for anxiety? It’s awful. However, I find writing relatively cathartic when it comes to this emotion and it can make for some great emotion in your characters too. Get some of that stress on the page!
Con: Well, sometimes stress can make it hard to write. Especially if you’re worried with projects or current things to be working on. So yes, that doesn’t always provide great focus.
Example (something where I tried to communicate a level of panic):
Her heart was racing as she tore through the trees. The urgency had never been more. Images of him dead or injured kept racing through her mind. It would be just like the last man in her life…she winced at the very thought. No, she couldn’t allow this to happen another time. That would absolutely destroy her.
Pro: Alright, if you’re trying to be critical of some kind of societal issue that bothers you this is a great time to use disgust to motivate you.
Con: You might not want to write happier nicer things if you’re feeling disgusted with someone or something. Because your tone might be a bit warped by what you’re feeling.
Example (tone in this piece is not truly disgusted, but it communicates an issue I am disgusted by–and I won’t be surprised if I get comments on that)
“For them college is like the modern version of a dowry,” Marzanna said with a laugh. “If they’d had their way they’d have shipped me to the best school in the country where my expensive tuition could prove I’m one of the best and the brightest, and therefore a very eligible bride ready to meet equally eligible men. And I’m trying so hard, even wore my nerdy book shirt to show off how awesome I am. I’m sure to get an MRS degree like this.”
Pro: BEST WRITING EMOTION! Ok, well for me when I’m feeling reflective is a great time to sit down and write. I feel poetic and thoughtful, I have a lot to say about the world and won’t be hindered by some of those negative ones. It’s fantastic.
Con: Can become too poetic. Also, possibly more self-critical in this state at times. Regardless, I find a lot more positives here than negatives.
She let her mind linger instead on the sound of the wind, on the fresh forest smell, on the beauty of the doe she briefly caught a glimpse of wandering through the trees. She gazed at it thoughtfully, wondering if in the spring there would be a baby following this particular deer. She was magnificent, so slender and graceful, each quiet step barely rustling a leaf beneath her. Melanie froze and the creature turned to look at her with wide dark eyes. Melanie gasped, looking deep into those beautiful irises.
So that’s that. A list of nice little emotions that translate into writing. What emotional state do you like best for writing? Have you noticed yourself communicating different moods you are feeling onto the page? What other states do you wish I’d added?