After experiencing the most wild emotional roller coaster of my life (the bittersweet feeling of graduation, the homesickness of moving, the absolute lightheaded joy of marrying the love of my life, and the deep grief of losing my best doggie friend of eleven years) I couldn't help but notice how this emotional turmoil has influenced my writing.
Obviously we shouldn't shy away from writing about hard subjects, but when those subjects are personal to us with very raw emotions attached, your writing can go one of two ways. The intense emotion can either fuel your writing and make it extremely potent and real for your reader, or it can turn your writing into a personal rant or cliche, neither of which will connect with your reader. Because I believe emotion is important (and actually very useful) for writing, I'm going to share with you some tips and tricks with how I have learned to channel my emotion into my writing without compromising my stories.
Many people say that time is the best healer, and while I find that emotional hurts never completely go away, the heart does find ways to recover. I usually use writing as a kind of therapy after painful experiences, but I would never put this writing out for a reader. Why? Usually it is too personal to share (I envy those who are braver than I am), and also the hurt is so fresh that I can't aptly put it down on paper. To understand great pain, cliches are wonderful. But they won't do if you are looking to send a piece of writing out into the world. Again, this is just what I have discovered personally so if you feel prepared to write about a hard subject, I say go for it! But for myself, I find that pieces done soon after a tough time tend to be either "rants of revenge" or "pity me" pieces. To keep the integrity of my writing, I try to wait until time has given me the healing that I need to look at the situation with a more distanced viewpoint. It makes it easier to put words down when I can step back and actually focus on my subject, using my emotions and experience as a way to connect to my reader instead of overpower them. In addition, if you are going to send something out, it is best to prepare yourself for rejection. It's hard to get things published and if something is near and dear to your heart, it is even harder to have it sent back.
Another thing I want to address is emotional endings. Though sadness and anger are popular short story endings, joy is still a very powerful emotion and shouldn't be ignored. During a writing workshop, it was suggested to me by a couple of classmates that though they really liked my story, they thought that the ending should be sad instead of happy. As a freshman writer in my first workshop, I quickly voiced my agreement, not so much because I actually did agree (I loved that ending) but because I was embarrassed that I was the only writer who had ended my story on a happy note. I couldn't help but think that my story was in some way less mature or not as powerful as my classmates' stories with their bittersweet or sad endings. Thank goodness my professor stepped in, "I like the ending the way it is. Happy endings are hard to write and are just as good as a sad ending."
This surprised me as well as restored my confidence in my writing skills. She went on to explain how hard it is to write a satisfying happy ending rather than a sad one. A good ending should satisfy the reader no matter what. A common problem I have seen with sad endings in workshops is that writers can rely on a poorly constructed sad ending to produce the same emotion in their reader instead of letting the writing do it. Dissatisfaction is not the same as feeling sad, but it can be passed off as such.
Happy endings, on the other hand, don't have the crutch of dissatisfaction to turn to if the ending doesn't work out. Instead, it is laid out plain and bare and the obstacle to overcome now is cliches.The reader can feel the same dissatisfaction with a bad happy ending as with a bad sad ending if the "happily ever after" hasn't been earned or led up to in the right way. But a well written happy ending can produce a powerful sense of satisfaction for the reader. Don't underestimate the gift of joy that a piece of writing can give someone. In short, whatever ending you choose, it should be always be satisfying despite whether the emotion expressed is happy or sad.
Before I wrap things up, I want to quickly advocate for the form of poetry as a way to express deep emotion. Because the words have to be so carefully chosen in poetry, it is a great way to explore the deep emotions of your heart and can be a jumping off point for those who write longer pieces. It forces you to get at the root of your feelings and try to express them in concise and creative ways. I have also found poetry to be my go-to whenever I need to sort through my feelings and unload my heart.
Whatever your emotions are right now, I hope that you can use them for good in your writing. You know how you write best, so take what I say with a grain of salt and use what you can. I hope this has been helpful.
The wonderful thing about writing is the power it has to connect to people. You are not alone in this world, and with your writing you can reach out and show others that they aren't either. If you are going through a rough time, I have found that aside from writing, the person who brings me the greatest comfort is God. Psalm 147:3, Romans 8:38-39, Romans 5:8, and John 16:33. You are loved.