Archive for the ‘#emotions’ Tag

Writing Passion   7 comments

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

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So, I wrote this great article on this topic and accidentally swapped it for last week’s blog hop article. Have I mentioned I suck at math? Yeah, I do. And calendars, apparently.

Here’s a link to the original article, and I’m starting this one with the same intro. It was a great article in which I explore novels written by Artificial Intelligence. Yes, that’s really a thing, though neither a good one nor a real threat to legitimate novelists, in my opinion. It’s probably before its time, just like my article was. Great ideas are always jumping the gun.

Do I believe a writer can be a good writer if they don’t feel strong emotions?


Let’s define our terms first. A writer is someone who writes. An author is someone whose writing is published. A novelist is someone who writes fiction.

Do we assume the author who wrote Essentials of Modern Refrigeration (a book on my husband’s shelf in the family library) had strong emotions about refrigeration? How about the Chilton’s Manual on Ford Taurus 1995-2010?

Yes, writers produced those books and I’m thinking neither of them wept over any chapter of them, although I can assure you my husband has shed a few tears over that stupid California car in our driveway. Essentials of Modern Refrigeration didn’t even put me to sleep (I am my husband’s study partner, so I am obligated to read his technical manuals before he has to take licensing tests, so he can use me as his pre-tester). So, yes, a writer can write without feeling any emotion whatsoever about a topic that really doesn’t stir a lot of emotions. Trust me, absolutely nobody is passionate about how to change an oil filter on a 2005 Taurus.

I think the question we’re really asking is “Can someone be a novelist if they don’t feel emotion strongly?”

In my other article, I focused on the writer’s job to draw out the emotions of the reader regardless if we feel the emotion. Yeah, I’m not writing the same article, so go read it if you didn’t already.

I don’t think you need to have experienced the exact same emotion your character experiences in order to illicit an emotional response from your readers.

Writing about a hot mess doesn’t mean you have to be a hot mess yourself. I work a responsible job and have managed to stay married to the same man for more than 30 years. I raised two reasonably well-adjusted children (okay, one of them is a gypsy musician, but she’s a functional gypsy musician. I did MY job and she’s feeding herself, though the roof-over-her-head thing is still debatable). I would not define myself as a hot mess.

On the other hand, I’ve lived a life. I’ve got the scar tissue to prove it. I’ve been scared. I’ve faced loss. I’ve been angry. I’ve been lonely.

But I’ve never killed anyone in a drunk driving accident and I’m writing a character who has. How can I write that character if I’ve never felt that emotion? Well, maybe I can’t. We’ll see how the readers like it when it’s finally published.

I’ve never shot anyone in a war either and I don’t suffer post-traumatic stress disorder from an experience I’ve never had. Yet readers seem to think I do a believable job of portraying Shane because they read all the published books in the series and enough people have read the most recent book in Transformation Project that I’m guessing they were waiting for it to come out. Do you think they read the whole series (to this point) because I did a bad job of conveying emotions I’ve never experienced?

Probably not.

Though I’ve never actually experienced those emotions, I know people who have and I can sense by what they say and, more importantly, what they don’t or can’t say what some of their emotions are about those past events. My job as a writer is to give expression to the groanings of a soul that has no words for what has wounded it. And, yes, of course, I feel empathy for their emotional turmoil, but frankly, if my response was to weep, I’d not be able to interview them dispassionately and that would, I believe, harm my purpose. If you’re feeling too deeply, it’s hard to put the words on the paper. It’s hard to even understand the other person’s emotions. As an author, I need some distance from the character to write their pain effectively.

My job as a writer is to give expression to the groanings of a soul that has no words for what wounded it.

When I experience the emotion is when I read the manuscript as if I were a reader. And, if I get that tingling sensation in my soft pallet and my eyes start to gloss up, then I know I’ve done my job, because if it makes me cry, it’s going to illicit a strong response from the readers who encounter it for the first time.

I trained and worked as a journalist where you typically have less than 350 words to convey something to a reader – the horror of the car accident, the fear of the burning building, the passion of the City Councilman. In my day, journalists were supposed to report the news, not insinuate their opinion or feelings into the news, but certainly good reporters understand word choice and how to tug on a reader’s emotions without saying “Hey, cry about this.” My News Writing professor used to say “Be dispassionate to bring out the passion.”

I don’t have to feel the emotion strongly to write strong prose, but absolutely, I have to understand what elicits emotions in others in order to draw an emotional response from them. But there comes a place and time where writers must not manipulate the readers into feeling passionate about the character’s experience. Instead, we need to set up a scene where the reader follows the character through an emotional roller coaster and then provide an opportunity for the character to reflect on that now-past shattering event. While the character is unpacking their own response, the reader may process theirs as well, if they choose, and if I’ve done my job as a novelist correctly.

Weathering the Storm   1 comment

I’m not looking forward to November 9th because I really can’t see a win scenario for November 8th. Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump becomes the next president elect doesn’t really matter to me and right now polls say Gary Johnson won’t win. I still think he could — all he needs is votes — but even if he wins, I don’t think any president can actually fix what is wrong with this country. There is too much wrong. A president with the right personality could possibly talk the Congress and even the Supreme Court into fixing a large part of them, but he or she can’t do it alone. That’s the beauty and the bitch of checks and balances.

Image result for image of resilienceSo, how will you feel when you wake up on November 9th and either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is the next president-elect of the United States? Many of my friends are planning to be depressed. I think they probably won’t be for more than a day or three.

Most of us discount our ability to bounce back from hard times and cope with problems.

I read this cool paper Affective Forecasting, by psychologists Tim Wilson and Daniel Gilbert that foundpeople were much less impacted than they thought they would be by the 2000 election between Al Gore and George Bush. Bush supporters were far less happy than they thought they would be when Bush was elected while Gore’s supporters were far less unhappy than they had predicted they would be. Pretty much nobody moved to Canada.

Impact bias is the psychologists’ term for the human mind’s tendency to overestimate the emotional impact an event will have on us, either positively or negatively:

“A major reason we overestimate the impact of the things that will happen to us just around the bend is that we underestimate our own resilience. Most of us discount our ability to bounce back from hard times and cope with problems.” (Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth)

If you value liberty, the coming years are likely to be challenging. Sorry if you haven’t figured this out yet, but Clinton and Trump are both uber-statists who plan to reduce our liberty. We can all meet that challenge better by increasing our resiliency. The cool thing about resiliency is that its a fount of everlasting refreshment. It’s a renewable resource. Yeah, we might be low on resiliency at the moment, but we can get more. I think God gives it to me, but you can increase it for yourself.

Image result for image of resiliencePsychology’s “negative bias theory”, Winnifred Gallagher explains in her book Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life that “we pay more attention to unpleasant feelings such as fear, or anger and sadness because they’re simply more powerful than the agreeable sort.” We are biologically driven to pay more attention to negative rather than positive stimuli, but while our physical reflex is to flinch away from that which harms us, our emotional response is to grab it and hang on tight. No wonder we’re bleeding.

Bad news will roll in over the next four years because we’re likely to have either Clinton or Trump as president and even if we have Johnson by some miracle, he can’t work miracles and we’re in serious need of miracles right now. So, as the hard times come, it will be natural to have thoughts of freedom being lost for good, of the economy never recovering from the terrible economic policies that will come about, and to fear for our children and grandchildren who will have to live with the consequences.

We may experience angry thoughts of blame towards politicians who have allowed the principles that support liberty and prosperity to erode. It’s been going on for decades, but the current crop is making it worse and it’s hard to just accept it without protest.

Image result for image of resilienceWe can have those thoughts, but we don’t have to allow those thoughts to control us. In fact, research shows that trying to suppress unwanted thoughts leads to more unwanted thoughts, so it’s normal, healthy to admit when we’re angry and to then move on from there.

We can look at the erosion of liberty, the looming economic disaster, the unethical behavior in the nation’s highest office through the lens of our emotions or through the lens of our values.

My emotions would like to be very negative now. I don’t see any good outcome ahead. But my values act like a beacon through that dark forest and I hope yours will too. Instead of endless focusing on the bad around us, lets focus instead on what we value and what we can do to protect those ideals until a better, more-liberty-minded time emerges after people finally wake up to the tyranny they’ve voted for.



Political realities may be unpleasant, but ultimately that has little to do with our moment by moment decision. Those are and should be driven by our values and it is those values and our conscious choice to live by them in the coming years that will determine the future of liberty.

Regardless of what the elite values, I value honest, accountability, responsibility and trustworthiness. I also value learning and faith. This isn’t the first “dark ages” in history and it won’t be the last. If we get trapped by our thinking about the political reality in which we are living, we begin to live our life based on our feelings and not on our values and principles.

Feelings can occupy our minds and demoralize us to where we can’t face life’s challenges, but feelings are transitory and unreliable. What’s more, rage can prevent us from teaching others anything of value. Yeah, those who don’t understand what liberty really means are annoying. After election day you will encounter colleagues, friends, and family members who are happy about the results. Most of these people are not stupid or on the government’s payroll. Some of the people we criticize for their political views may be more responsible, more productive, and happier than we are. You can silently or publicly berate them, or you can take another path. You can be curious about the beliefs that drive how they see the world. Your respectful curiosity will help you be a more effective communicator of your own ideas.

Everyone interprets the events of life differently. That’s normal. As we truly listen to others with respect for their right to hold an opinion, others are more likely to listen to us. Everyone thinks they see the world logically, that their view is reality. If you become a student of the beliefs of other people, they become more willing to entertain your reasons for believing differently and to, perhaps, change their minds.


It’s in the American DNA to believe that everyone has the potential to lead a responsible, happy life. Right now, there are a lot of folks who seem not to understand the principles that promote liberty and prosperity, but by remaining positive in the face of adversity and respectful of the rights of others, you may be able to play a role in helping them understand those principles tomorrow.

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