Let it out: 5 Steps to Writing when Emotional

Yesterday, which started with the announcement that the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens had been recovered and ended for me with a shiva call, kept me in such a state of horror and confusion, I didn’t get much writing done. After several failed attempts at work, I finally gave up and decided to develop a community action project I’d dreamed up instead.

While everyone else was asleep…

Late at night, I awoke, exhausted but still reeling from the emotional turmoil of my day. So many words seemed to bubble out of me, I couldn’t get back to sleep. Eventually, I got out of bed and wrote the first draft of an essay about the special lady whose shiva I’d attended earlier in the day. When I was done, I felt emptied out, much calmer and more ready to sleep.

But is it good writing?

While writing material at the moment I am wrapped up in heartache, delirious joy, or nervousness can help me work through my feelings, I find that the outcome usually isn’t my best writing, or even my most passionate writing to read. Word choice suffers, and is often redundant. Logic wavers. Sometimes the resulting text is downright incoherent. You might even call it Writing Under the Influence…of Emotions. It can be that circuitous, drawling, and dribbling.

I’ve developed a process that works for me in these moments.

5 Steps to Writing when Emotional

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Tragedy! My lonely old maid of a story has been rejected once again.

I’m sure I’ve blogged about rejection numerous times at this point, but since I continue to collect rejection letters, why not continue blogging about them?

boy with letter

Mom! I think you just got another rejection letter!

Over the summer, I wrote a story that my husband adored. He likes almost all my stories, but this one he really, really liked. He particularly enjoyed the nasty anti-hero at the center of the story and the unhappy ending.

On the other hand, I didn’t like the way I’d originally executed my idea, so I set it aside for a couple months. Eventually, I brushed it off and polished it up a bit before sharing it with my writing group. They provided extensive feedback, and I acted on it, hoping that the new, much improved story would dazzle the editors. Continue reading