Sometimes I watch a movie, wait a few years, and then watch it again so it can feel like I’m watching it for the first time, even though I’m not.
I spent my weekend watching a series of movies I’d mostly forgotten about. And I ended that weekend feeling so emotionally drained, yet somehow moved, that I could barely function.
Good stories aren’t hard to find. But you don’t know you’re experiencing one until it’s over, until you realize something fictional has done something to you on the inside even though that logically shouldn’t be possible.
This experience reminded me why I write. Why I care about writing. Why it matters. Why I can’t quit.
I want to give people stories that make them feel the way I felt at the end of those movies. How I assume I would feel, again, at the end of the books they were based on (I haven’t read them since they came out).
Not every story you write will resonate deeply with every person who crosses paths with it. It’s simply not possible to cater to everyone’s needs, tap into everyone’s emotional “triggers” (I use that word lightly) all at once. But chances are, it will touch someone. Maybe even just one person. But it could change their LIFE.
The general rule I like to go by is: If you feel moved, someone else will, too.
If you’re sitting there laughing at your own writing, at least one other person will laugh.
If you have to walk away from your story because you’re crying too hard, someone else will have to set it down for a second while they regain their composure.
If working on your story weirdly motivates you to keep working on your story, who’s to say it won’t motivate a struggling writer to put down your story (or, uh, finish it first) and go write their own?
If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for them. Do it for the people who may one day stumble upon it, become captivated by it, become completely distraught and/or awestruck by it, go write a way too emotionally driven blog post about it, and then sit down and work on the book they used to think didn’t matter.
Maybe your story will inspire them to do something good in the real world. To be kinder, to apologize to someone, to re-evaluate how they are spending their days.
We read stories to be entertained, to be informed, to escape. But sometimes, whether we mean to or not, we also absorb stories because they make us feel things. I don’t think we can survive as writers without pouring some of our own emotions into what we’re working on. It’s our way of opening ourselves up to the world, of leaving parts of ourselves behind.
Don’t forget that humans are not just affected deeply by their emotions, but intensely driven by them too. Your stories must give them something to grab onto and to hold and to carry with them even when the credits roll or they reach the book’s last page. Give them something to remember. Give them something to become.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.