“Don’t post something when you’re angry. You might say something you’ll regret.”
This is excellent advice to follow as your cursor hovers over the post button on your Twitter or Facebook page. And in some cases, it can still apply to more traditional writing — you shouldn’t submit something that you wrote when you were mad enough to USE ALL CAPS, or whatever the digital equivalent is of pressing down so hard with your pen that you put a hole through the paper. (Don’t pretend like it’s never happened to you. We’re all human.)
I want you to try an experiment. I want you to try writing something that makes you feel angry.
It sounds weird. But trust me — it’s a writing prompt you won’t regret exploring.
Anger is a powerful emotion. Used in the right way, it becomes a tool instead of a weapon.
When something happens in the world and it makes me mad, I write about it. Sometimes it comes out making me sound like a whiny, offended-by-everything millennial (am I?) and I leave it in my computer’s hard drive to die. Sometimes I argue much better when I’m ticked off than I do at any other time (I’ll take it), and my prose becomes an essay (maybe) worth publishing somewhere.
When you’re angry, it means in some way you’re passionate about something. Something has happened to you or someone you know or a stranger, and you want it to change. So you decide you need to vent about it. And sometimes, that venting somehow transforms into a persuasive piece of writing that has just the right amount of emotion behind it to drive a point home.
Writing about something that angers you, even if only just for practice, establishes a different kind of motivational root as you start typing. When I get into discussing something that ticks me off (e.g., gluten free diets for people who don’t need them), I find myself trying harder than usual to find, interpret, and communicate the evidence, scientific, anecdotal, whatever, to give my voice credibility.
You want people to listen to you. More than that, you want people to understand where you’re coming from. To respond to a call to action. To change their minds, maybe. To stand with you against unnecessary gluten-free diet hypes, or whatever it is you’re passionately furious about.
If I’m angry about something, I write about it. Sometimes it stays in my journal and it never sees the world. Sometimes it makes it into a blog post (but not this one) and I filter out all the whining. Sometimes I’ll draft a post on Facebook and I won’t publish it — because the simple act of putting words where I wish they could go, even if it’s not appropriate to put them there, makes me feel better.
Your anger is not something to fear. It’s an asset you, as a writer, can learn to use to your advantage. Plus, practice makes you more likely to win in an argument with someone who really needs to lose at something for once. All in good fun, of course. Maybe.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.