Making Good Use Of Feeling Bad

There’s a piece of common wisdom about writing:

Some of the best creative moments are when you’re frustrated, angry or sad. The key is to channel those emotions into your work.

I don’t emotionally channel. I compartmentalize.

It’s been kind of a rough week (especially the weekend). Have I gone on a creative bender?


Mainly I’ve played a lot of System Shock 2 and watched King of the Hill. When I’m at work, I’ve been diving into tough development projects, keeping my brain busy solving engineering problems that have a solution.

I’m not saying that emotional experiences can’t be the inspiration for good work. But I don’t like the idea of using writing as a coping mechanism. I have used writing, including several pieces on this blog, to express thoughts and feelings I’ve been mulling over for a while. But when I write those pieces, I’m not doing it in the midst of the feelings I’ve been having. The closest I ever came was a year ago when my character was saying a prayer that at the time fit what I was feeling as much as it did for him. That might have been half a page.

Emotions should play a role in understanding how your characters are thinking and feeling in a situation, but the writing process itself is a fairly unemotional process (at least for me). If I wrote based solely on my moods I wouldn’t write at all. Discipline and daily exercise are what make for better writing (among other things).

Maybe there are pieces or projects that make sense to sink one’s emotional energy into. For me, that energy is better spent shooting cyborg ninjas and wondering when a scary female AI is going to betray me.

Do you “channel” your emotions onto the page?


Filed under Writing

3 responses to “Making Good Use Of Feeling Bad

  1. buddhafulkat

    Emotions can lead to experiences or develop into thoughts/insights which I use in writing or art, but I don’t actually write, draw or paint when I’m emotional. Writing and creating are usually calm, peaceful flow experiences for me. This may sound silly, but if I’m feeling emotional, then I’m not balanced and this is a negative/destructive force is something I prefer to keep away from what I’m working on. Though as I said, the experience may be something to write about, I don’t write while experiencing it.

  2. Chuck Conover

    “Though as I said, the experience may be something to write about, I don’t write while experiencing it.”

    Very true and well said. Speaking for myself – I can’t write about personal hurt, or pain, till I have time to process and move past the immediate experience. But THEN – (sometimes) creative juices flow.

  3. I almost always use intense emotions to write. I think it comes with the whole “(semi-)emo high school girl” thing. I just think I do it better than most.

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