The Rewarding Task of Emotional Writing

By Caitlin Costello

In order to write something great you must feel deeply about it. That is how I write and it is how I have always written. Joan Didion once said, “Something about a situation will bother me, so I will write a piece to find out what it is.” In other words, one writes to seek the answers to the questions they never thought you would ask. Writing is a process, an experience, an emotional release, and a rocky road to self-discovery. Much like one lives to find out, one also writes to find out.

As a writer, I find myself like Didion, always seeking to discover something new about myself and other people. If I am upset or fascinated by something, like Didion says, I can write about it and discover why I am upset or why it matters, because there is nothing healthy about spending an entire lifetime locking up one’s emotions in a psychic vault. When writers unlock these safes for a living.

Emotions are pivotal to my own writing process. I use them as a catharsis so that I can process and cope with my own feelings. They say that writers have a certain sensibility, and I like to think that it comes from having both highly emotional and yet highly intelligent traits. In fact, many writers have what is called emotional intelligence, which is the ability to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions. Emotions are a universal part of the human condition, and a writer uses their emotions almost like a shovel to get to the center of it. A writers words are like layers of dirt, flowers, and fauna, as their deeper emotions become unearthed.

Emotions can be really abstract, therefore, it may be difficult to find the right words to for how you are feeling. But don’t be discouraged if you think it won’t make the slightest bit of sense because the process is the most important part. It is about releasing those emotions through the act of writing. The benefits of this is that you tend to understand things better than before, you also work through your own thoughts and feelings by expressing them. You may even do this through the use of metaphor or simile.

If you want to try this on your own, I would suggest that you start thinking like Didion, and find something that is really bothering you or upsetting you, or bringing you bliss, or provoking your thought, or making you feel strange. Then, try to convey those thoughts and feelings into words of your own creation. Soon you will be turning your feelings into flowing vocabulary that comes straight from your core.