Friday, April 23, 2010

The Emotion of Writing

I've been working on my making major changes to my first novel for a few months. As far as I was concerned the manuscript was complete and perfect as at September last year. But I re-learned that there is always more to learn and a story can always be improved at the last ACFW conference.
I also learned that (for me anyway)the creative process of writing is far more enjoyable than the technical business of editing. What could have taken me a few months is now taking a lot longer. One of the big changes I've had to make is to make a secondary male character female. Not easy. Especially since I'd grown to love this character for the man he was. So it's been painstaking, slow work - changing motivations, desires, character, looks and language.

One of the things that helped me get focused was a comment my fiance made in passing. He said something to the effect of me not writing as much and not being motivated. That made me think, "I'll show him who's not motivated." Yes, I know not very Christian, but it lit a fire under me and the more I wrote, the more I started to fall in love with my revised story. But as sometimes happens in life, I got a bad blow a few weeks later.

A very important relationship was severed (thank God it was only temporarily, but I didn't know this at the time). I completely lost the zeal to do anything, let alone write. I spent my days just trying to breathe. I would go from hope to despair in a matter of minutes. For days I couldn't write. Praise God, the relationship was restored, but this led me to reflect on the effect of our emotions on our craft.

The following is a quote from the National Writing Project website that describes three typical situations that arise from the struggle between feelings and professionalism: when strong emotions interfere with balance and clarity; when writers leave their personal experience out of their writing; and when unresolved feelings cause a writer to lose sight of audience and purpose." Hmm.

As Christians sometimes we get so 'spiritual' that we lose sight of the truth that God gave us emotions. Obviously they are not supposed to lead us, but to help us get a sense of where we are in relation to the circumstances surrounding us. So how can our emotions help us with our writing? I cant say that I have 'the' answer or that there is even 'an' answer, but I did ask myself the following questions:
-Have you ever been so angry that you kill of a character because they remind you of some one who's hurt you even though that was not originally part of your story?
-Have you found yourself disliking a character you previously loved because of something that did that was recently done to you?
-Have you given a happy ending to a story just because things were going brilliantly in your life?

There are so many more questions we could possibly ask, but what I realised is that I have a choice. I can either channel my emotions into creativity without making impulsive and unnecessary changes to my story outline or I can let my emotions rule me and have me going back and forth based on how fickle they are. God help me!
I'm going to go over what I've written over the past month with a critical eye and see how my emotions affected my work.


  1. You're so right. I have to be in a good place emotionally in order to write at all. I know I should be more disciplined, but if I'm having a blue day then writing is simply out of the question. Thankfully I have been learning how to stay balanced and keep things on an even keel.

  2. Was it Somerset Maugham who spent his "bad" days sitting at his desk typing "W. Somerset Maugham" over and over?

  3. Thanks for your post. Two days ago, I drafted my article for Monday. The title? Mixed Emotions. We're on the same wave length! Read more on Monday. :-)

  4. Wow, very motivational considerations for my current editing process. It now hits me that I do need to lay aside life and do craft. I suppose others might leverage life to drive craft, as well. But right now, for me, it's interfering.

    Thanks for spurring a self-examination that feels effective in getting me working to capacity on my project.

  5. Daniella, thanks for your inspiring post :-) At times I've thought I just can't write this particular scene today because I don't have the emotional energy to 'go there' with my characters. For me, it takes self discipline and prayer to push through and keep going until I'm back in the groove and the words flow more easily. If I only wrote when I felt like it, I'd still be working on my first manuscript.

  6. Daniella, I agree, our emotions can influence the way we write on a particular day. I have no trouble getting to my desk, but I can't always leave behind the drivel of my daily living that seeps into my head when I'm feeling vulnerable.

    The way I deal with my emotions is to write three pages longhand. It's eratic, non-sensical and plain old jibberish, but it clears the path to my creativity, so that I can hear God encouraging me instead of being sabotaged by negativity.