Sunday, December 5, 2010

Emotional Overload is a Beautiful Thing

So, last week I was pondering on whether or not creative people needed angst to create. And after a bit of rambling, I think what it boils down to is this - what you really need to produce good work (in my humble opinion) is emotion. Any kind of emotion. Not angst, necessarily. But raw, unfiltered emotion.

Edna Ferber said:

I think that to write well and convincingly, one must be somewhat poisoned by emotion. Dislike, displeasure, resentment, fault-finding, imagination, passionate remonstrance, a sense of injustice – they all make fine fuel.

Notice that these are almost all “negative” emotions. I think negative emotions are just easier to tap into – and they are probably easier to relate to as well. Not everyone has felt that rush you get when you first fall in love or the total rush of supreme happiness experienced when you've finally obtained a goal you've been working toward. But everyone, at some point in their lives, has been sad or hurt or scared.

Do I think all creative people need to dress in black and sit around brooding with a shot glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other?…no! Of course not! In fact, my writer friends are some of the funniest, happiest, goofiest people I know. We spend the vast majority of our time cracking each other up. But I do think a writer or artist has to have some kind of emotional background from which to draw.

So, what emotions drive me as a writer? This one is easy….all of them. If you read a scene in one of my books that is particularly depressing – well, I was probably feeling depressed that day. Or I heard a song that made me think of that one time where I was horribly hurt or heart broken and Ta-Da!!! Someone in my book is going to get shot (just kidding…well, sort of). And if you read an especially funny scene, I was probably in a really good mood that day.

Can I write a funny scene if I’m mad or depressed? – yes. But I guarantee you it will be funnier if I was in a good mood when I wrote it. Same with the opposite end of the spectrum. I can write a fairly convincing tear-jerker no matter what kind of mood I’m in – but it really helps if I’m bummed, or tapped into those bummed feelings, when my fingers hit the keys.

We'll talk about how I help myself get into the right writing mood next week :D

For now, I wanna know....what emotions drive you? Are the harsher, more angsty emotions easier for you to tap into, or are the humorous ones more your cup of tea? 

Oooo and here's a good question for you - does writing about a certain emotion create that emotion for you personally? Meaning, if you are sad when you sit down to write a funny scene, do you end up in a better mood by the time you are done? Or are your creative emotions completely separate from your personal emotions?


  1. Strangely, I usually have to be in a neutral to happy place emotionally before I can write.

    It's as if I have to be the blank canvass. If I'm sad or upset too deeply, I find it very difficult to write.

    I do, however find that writing anything makes me feel better. Writing happy things make me happy, while writing angry/sad things channel my thoughts into something productive.

    I draw on past emotional experiences to describe current scenes in the story, though...


  2. Writing funny scenes will tend to put me in a better mood but the opposite doesn't happen. When I'm writing something sad or my character is upset, I try to put myself in their head and evoke those emotions, even going so far as to act out the scene sometimes. A special challenge is remembering and describing creatively the physical reactions to emotion.

  3. A lot of the time the darker emotions are the ones I find the easiest to tap into when I'm writing; odd, because I'm usually a pretty cheerful person. :)

    Sometimes writing about an emotion does make me feel the way the characters I was writing about were feeling, but other times the two are separate.

  4. Loved this. The more negative emotions are easier to tap into. I think that's why writing is such a good outlet for me. All the stress I have built up I can put into my writing. Great post!

  5. When I have written particularly sad scenes, I have a good little cry after.

    And I have been known to crack myself up on a regular basis while writing.


  6. I think one has to experience a wide spectrum of emotions to write anything. When I write, I have to pull myself out of the situation, but without the emotions I've experienced I wouldn't know what to put into a story.

    Great post with some super food for thought.

  7. Interesting question, and I'd have to say it's the happy, comforting, secure emotions that make me want to write. But as I write, happy stuff doesn't always come out!

  8. I thought this was a great post!

    I wish I could just jump right into it but I cant. I'm too flighty :( If I'm in a good mood, I can write a normal/happy scene or a sad scene if I turn on the right music. However, if I'm in a bad mood, I can't make myself write something happy or funny no matter what I listen to or watch. BUT this is when I write the best heart wrenching scenes I think. That's why I never get too mad when the BF annoys me. It all turns out well in the end! lol

  9. I really do think you're on to something with this concept. At least, I know that a creative outlet is the only positive outlet for some of us. Nothing else will do. And you cannot write, sing, play, paint an emotion effectively that you've never experienced. That is a given. Good article!

  10. Emotion is what it's all about. There is no other way to write. If we aren't feeling any emotion, then how could we ever convey emotion to our readers. Great post!

  11. Negative emotions definitely fuel my writing - maybe that's why I favor dark fantasy! It provides a great outlet.

    I find I can bring more emotion to a scene during the editing phase. The initial draft is the bones of the emotion - editing fleshes it out. My favorite method when I know I'm going to be editing an emotional scene? Play music that expresses the specific emotion. That does it every time.

    In fact, my MCs all have 'songs' that are their song. I also have playlists for each of my WIPs with songs grouped by 'genre.' And the playlists don't mix - once I've attached a song or an artist to a WIP, I can't hear that music without being drawn back into that specific world.


Add your awesome here: