How to Use Your Emotions to Fuel Your Writing

Use your emotions as fuel for writing effective, relatable content.


How you are feeling in the present moment can have a major impact on what and how you write. For some, feeling angry or upset means they simply have to walk away from their work station, leaving their writing for later. Some, on the other hand, let their emotions have a little too much say in what they write (you’ve seen those Facebook posts on your News Feed; you may have even written a few of them before). However, in many cases, our current mood can actually help us write deeper, more relatable stories, essays and more.

Start by identifying how you’re feeling right now

This is the easy part. By now you can pretty much tell the difference between those moments you’re feeling sad enough to make an entire pepperoni pizza disappear in one sitting and when you’re feeling angry enough to passive aggressively change your wifi password so your roommate can’t check Facebook on her phone. It isn’t the emotion itself that matters, in retrospect: it’s how you use it, in the next step, to turn something really great – or extremely awful – into a pretty twisted form of writespiration.

Transmit those feelings to a fictional character or scenario

If you’re a creative writer already working on a novel or short story, think of or create a scene in which a character feels the exact same way you’re feeling right now. It’s bound to exist somewhere in your story, even in a small way. If you aren’t currently working on anything, or even if you are, you can also come up with something completely new on the fly, almost like basing an entire flash fiction piece on a single emotion you’re experiencing. Regardless, channel your emotional state into that of your character. Doing this makes that character’s circumstances seem more real to the reader, even if you can’t get yourself to believe that at the time. The way we describe emotions as we’re experiencing them is much more raw than when we describe them from memory. If you’re sad, it’s much harder to write about feeling joyful. Possible, just harder. If you’re feeling elated, however, writing about a character who also feels elated comes much more easily, which usually bodes well for your story in the long-term.

Alternatively: Essay your way to closure (even if you keep it to yourself)

We’re all getting a little tired of think pieces about personal strife, let’s be honest. (There are just so many …) But just because you write it doesn’t mean you have to publish it. I once wrote an almost 1,000 word essay, targeting hiring managers and breaking down the Gen-Y stereotypes I didn’t adhere to. I would never, in a million years, publish that essay. Sometimes I go back and read it whenever I don’t hear back from a company after a job interview, but that’s for my own emotional health. It felt SO GOOD writing that essay. But sometimes we write things that aren’t for external eyes, and THAT’S OK.

Practice using your emotions as fuel instead of a steering wheel

In middle school, did you ever write something super mean about your best friend when you were mad at her, only to regret it instantly as soon as you found out how much it upset her? Emotions are powerful, especially when it comes to writing. That’s why using them to fuel your writing is a strategy that works wonders. But we also need to be careful not to let our emotions have too much influence over our writing, whether fiction or otherwise. I’m not going to kill off a character just because I don’t like him. I’m also not going to write an essay criticizing the entire online publishing industry just because someone didn’t answer one of my emails.

Emotional writing needs to be constructive, used as a driving force for logical written arguments. We can use circumstances in our own lives, and our emotional reactions to those circumstances, to write extremely thoughtful, sensual content. It takes practice to insert ourselves just enough into a piece of writing to make it relatable, without dipping too far in and making it personal when it isn’t supposed to be. Good storytelling often involves a great deal of emotional appeal.

As always, it’s about balance. I’m guilty, on several occasions, of turning a “this person wronged me and I’m angry enough to go into their dresser and purposely mismatch all their socks” scenario into a story about two people who overcame a bad situation and learned to forgive each other. That’s how I get closure. But I probably wouldn’t have written those stories if I’d never had that bad experience in real life. People all over the world write for different reasons. I believe we can use the good, or bad, things that happen to us to get more genuine stories out there. We might even end up using that as self-induced therapy in the process, and I don’t know about you, but I’ll take free, creative-based therapy wherever I can get it.

This post was written as part of the Problogger: 7 Days to Getting Back Your Blogging Groove challenge. If you have been struggling to write the engaging, well-thought-out posts your blog is known for, or have abandoned your blog completely but are ready to get back into posting more regularly, consider joining the challenge today.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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