Not to get too deep but…
Writers thrive on feeling and emotion. We aim to invoke feeling in readers, and we rely on our own feelings to convey emotion. Being able to put a specific emotion into detailed words and make it as visceral as a touch is one of the marks of a successful writer.
There are many of us (and non-writers) who suffer from a mental illness. Oftentimes our struggles provide material, seeing as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and the entire range of mental illnesses often involve a tsunami of conflicting or heightened emotions. There are, however, those who struggle with the opposite issue.
Depression comes in many forms, and mine takes on an extreme lack of emotion. Apathy, if I let it, could be the death of my writing. I so rarely feel anything significant, which often makes it difficult to put emotion into word. And it’s not as though I don’t have feelings or emotions. They’re in there somewhere; I just struggle to access them. Therefore, my biggest task as a writer is really focusing on connecting with and unlocking my emotions.
Am I repressing them? Am I oblivious to them? Am I simply choosing not to acknowledge them? Am I explaining them away in an effort not to feel them?
Am I afraid to feel? Why?
If I am going to truly make something of my writing, these are the questions I need answers to.
Diagnoses aside, all of us occasionally struggle to connect with ourselves. Sometimes our thoughts and feelings are too much for our human bodies to contain. Other times we just don’t pay close enough attention. It happens to everyone for a multitude of reasons but the importance of unlocking our feelings—even and especially feelings unrelated to our writing—holds true for everyone.
So, in an effort to better myself and my craft, I’ve put together a list of ways to better access your emotions.
So, super obvious. But keeping a journal definitely bears mentioning. Journaling daily can have a tremendous effect on your connection with yourself which can then enlighten your life as well as your writing. I filled an entire journal between the ages of eleven to probably fifteen and, at the time, I was just writing down memories so that they wouldn’t be forgotten. Now I recognize that journal as the goldmine that it is. I can tap into the feelings of younger me to better relate to younger characters I may write. I can tap into feelings and events that my characters may experience. I fell off the wagon until college, and then again after only my first semester of college but have recently gotten back into the habit.
There are so many ways to journal and there are really no rules—each journal is personal and specific to its owner. You could bullet journal and keep track of your goals and progress and feelings, you could write about your entire day or you could single out a specific event or feeling you had during the day, you could specifically write about feelings or the people in your life or your pets or your hobbies or your career. The possibilities are endless, yet equally enriching.
As a follow-up to journaling, keeping a dream journal or even just taking a minute or two in the morning to try and recall what you dreamt about throughout the night can really connect you with your own subconscious. Oftentimes, our subconscious knows best and knows what our conscious brain does not. It definitely bears paying attention to.
- Pinpoint little things
Break things—moments, songs, books, poems, parts of your day, conversations, movies—into pieces. Dissect something that could seemingly mean nothing important and find the core of it. Find the beauty or the pain or tragedy or triumph in it. Learn to evaluate what was put into an event, and then discover how you feel about both the initiation—the inspiration behind a song, movie, or book, what sparked a conversation, the events leading up to a fight—and the final product. Every story, every big picture, is in the details.
- Spend time with yourself
This one sounds like the easiest, but can actually prove quite challenging. Some of us are uncomfortable with being too alone with ourselves. In the silence and solitude, the brain goes into overdrive. The thoughts that come to you in that time may be daunting or upsetting, or they could be encouraging and inspiring. Either way, they are important. If you are thinking it or feeling it, there is something going on there. Brave yourself and find out what it is.
Interview yourself, list your fears, dreams, wishes, aspirations, loves, happiness. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What is the best part of your day? The worst part? Who do you miss during the day—who do you spend your day with and who do you wish you were spending your day with? Meditate. Take baths. Take yourself to lunch. Go to the movies by yourself. And then record how you feel, what you learned, what you experienced.
Really getting in touch with yourself and your own emotions will help you infuse that depth into your writing. Once you become skilled at connecting with yourself, branch out and observe the people around you. Make up stories for the strangers you see on the subway. Get to know your friends better. And then apply what you’ve unlocked to your stories.
On what level do you already connect with yourself? Is there room for improvement or do you already have a pretty solid routine down? What methods do you use? What methods do you want to implicate? If you’ve got a story about how embracing the inner you has influenced your writing, I am all ears! Comment below or feel free to email me if it’s not something you want to share with everyone!