Writing: the Emotional Purge

Life is the stuff that stories are made of.

We have all heard that or at least something similar.  We are told as children that we should write what we know, use writing as a means of expressing ourselves.

I was recently challenged by the statement, “I understand how you feel.”  Really?  You do?  I don’t think that you do.  I don’t think you can understand the depth of my emotions, the hurt, the pain, the joy, the contentment, the relief, the sorrow.  You haven’t been through what I have been through, nor have I been through what you have been through.  There is a divide in our understanding.  There are some things that you will never quite comprehend about me and there are certainly things I will never fully grasp about you.  If this sort of talk is left unchecked we would all be very lonely and miserable, wallowing in our own self pity.  Fortunately, I don’t have to rely soley on my expereinces to understand emotions or even to understand where you are coming from.

I think that is one of the reasons why I write.   I find it comforting and maybe a little sadistic to put my characters into situations so that they can relate to how I feel.  They are perhaps the only ones who could say to me “I know how you feel.”

My characters become my emotional support, or rather my emotional cleansing. They help me to actually understand my emotions and even begin to understand the emotions of those around me.  I can make my characters respond to the situation five ways from Sunday and I can use the other characters as test cases for how people will react to me. I can safely say that writing and the process of story writing has helped me gage my responses so that I did not say what I wanted to say but say what I ought to say that way no one actually got hurt by my words or actions.

I suppose it was a very useful tool for me as a child, but I still find that premise of sorting out my problems and emotions through writing a great boon and actually adds some depth to my characters. And I learn a lot about myself in the process.

Happy writing!


15 thoughts on “Writing: the Emotional Purge

  1. This is a great post and so interesting. My writing is usually non-fiction, and I’m just starting to get into fiction and I can TOTALLY see what you’re describing here! I have found that character development can be extremely therapeutic and allow you to explore emotions in a way that you wouldn’t normally get to do. I think using the premise of this post can actually challenge writers who tend to play it safe, to take their characters to that next level. That place they’re usually hesitant to go!

    1. Keep up with the writing. Exploring your emotions in the life of your characters is a challenging, yet rewarding exercise. 🙂
      I always enjoy watching resolutions to problems come out through writing.

  2. I do find a great deal of catharsis in writing. I had a major emotional purge this week with my post about a secret I’d been holding on to for a while (here: http://wp.me/pj9tT-10p). It feels great to let go, whether in a blog, or in the context of a story. My most recent novel helps me deal with the strain following the death of my grandmother. I love fiction for that… I can be free while still hide a little in the pages.

  3. I do find reading the posts and stories from the Lantern Hollow writers very revealing. As I read your posts – no matter what they are about – it adds depth to my enjoying your stories. I have not thought about story and character writing being an outlet to explore solutions and resolutions for the things I am dealing with in my personal life. Intriguing thought….that I suddenly feel the need to go write down! Thanks Rachel!

    1. Yes, we at Lantern Hollow are always hiding bits of ourselves in our posts 🙂
      I am so glad you found my post helpful. It’s encouraging to know that we can constantly grow in understanding through writing.

  4. I do the same thing with my characters. Even though we write different genres, I can relate to your post. I needed to heal losing my regular gig as a journalist, so I purged my emotions through my comic novel–but did this at least, through cathartic laughter.

    1. Yes, purging emotions doesn’t have to be all angst. Cathartic laughter is often times better than the drama of all the real pain.

  5. Came a bit late to this post, but enjoyed it nevertheless. I too like letting my characters (or my ‘voices’ in poetry) express those feelings that I censor in myself (or maybe the characters are me in exaggerated form). And thank you for reminding us that ‘I know just how you feel’ is not all that comforting; in fact, it’s quite patronising.

  6. i love this post! i enjoyed reading it! 😀

    writing alone feels like a confrontation of the different identities that you may have in you, without actually losing yourself in the whole process.

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