“I just can’t write today. I’m too (insert emotion of choice).”
You know what? That’s the most false statement you can make to yourself. Or any other writer. I have long held the belief there is no such thing as “can’t,” there is only “won’t” and “don’t want to.” I know this for the fact that it is based on my own personal experiences. I have a collection of poetry that was published in January, and almost every piece in the book is pure raw emotion. I was sad, angry, depressed, broken-hearted, silly, pseudo-euphoric, melancholy, morose, maudlin. If you can ascribe an emotion to it, it’s most likely found somewhere in those seventy-five poems.
While I do not deny the reality of writer’s block, which I do suffer from (regarding one work in progress), I will not subscribe to emotion being a reason to not write. Why? Well, I have one scene in my stalled novel that required me to write a heart-wrenching part of my story: My MC’s wife was being diagnosed with terminal cancer. My idea for this was based on my very own life and my father having been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain cancer. His was inoperable. We all found out about it in September of 2015. Dad passed away in November of the same year. Yeah… I drew on that grief to write something I have shared with beta readers who have all told me it made them cry.
Why would I do something like that? Fiction is supposed to be an escape from the hardships of life, right? Sure. However, as a writer, I want my readers to feel genuine emotion when they read my words, whether they’re a Twitter length poem or a ninety-thousand word novel. If I don’t connect with my readers on that level, I’m not going to have any readers.
One of my favorite books of all-time, Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon, holds its place in my literary pantheon based not only on the quality of the prose, but also what it drew out of me as I travelled through nineteen-fifties Alabama with Cory McKesson and his family and friends.
I want what I write to be seen the same way. No, I will never compare myself to Robert McCammon, but I will compare myself to me, and I will write what I would want to read; poetry and prose that elicit emotions similar to what I poured into them. Here is an example, one of my poems titled Extinguished:
He lies in sadness, total blackness
Tears slip silent from his eyes,
Collecting beneath in saline pools
While inside he slowly dies.
His heart, once full, now desolate;
Naught but a broken shell.
It will ne’er repeat its ceaseless beat.
His love, now, surely quelled.
I’ll go out on a limb right now and suggest you can guess how I was feeling as I wrote those simple words. Yes, tears were streaming down my face and I could barely focus on my laptop, but I wrote it anyway. I didn’t say, “Oh, I’m just too sad to write.” Instead, I got that emotion out in a healthy way, a cathartic way.
Another thing I have been seeing a lot lately on social media is feeling too anxious to write because of the current pandemic. I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel anxious. What I am saying is stop telling yourself you simply cannot write because of your anxiety. Write something about it! Do you write poetry? Then tell the world how you feel in verse. More of a prose-type writer? Add a scene to your current work where your character has near-crippling anxiety about something. Are you a non-fiction writer? Put up a blog or write an essay to share with everyone. Readers want to feel your emotions. They want to connect to you as a person, not with a screen or a piece of paper.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is, rather than using emotions as an excuse, use them to motivate you. Open up and share. Is it scary? Oh yes! It may be one of the most frightening decisions you ever make. Have courage, which is not the absence of fear, but the ability to put the fear aside and do something anyway. Have faith: In yourself. In your words. In God, or whatever deity you worship. Believe me, it will be quite rewarding. To be able to look at something you wrote, to be able to proudly say, “Yes, those are my words,” is an incredible feeling. Even more rewarding, though, is getting a DM, or an email, from a reader who shares their story with you and takes the time to explain how and why your words touched them.
If you're any type of compassionate or empathetic human being, you will feel an immediate sense of connection. You may also find the next time you feel like saying, “I just can’t write today,” you tell your brain to be quiet, pull out your laptop, or sit in front of your desktop, or grab a pen and notebook, and write what your heart is saying.
The world may not thank you, but one person might. To me, that is worth all of the vulnerability I show.
Follow Chris on Instagram: @crtaylorwrites