When Ali Hale sends me a post, I know it’s going to be good. And this one – on what to do about writing when life sucks – hits the target. Feel free to let us know in the comment section what you’ve done with those “life sucks” moments and how you can use them to create emotional content that packs a punch.
This isn’t news to you: sometimes life sucks.
Maybe a bunch of things have gone wrong. Family issues. Financial hiccups. Teenage dramas. A business downturn.
Perhaps you’ve lost some of your usual energy and zest. Maybe you got too busy. Maybe you’ve had a big disappointment. Maybe you’re juggling a lot of balls at once, and you can’t let anything drop.
However it happened, you ended up here. Feeling like life sucks. Feeling tired, angry, stressed, afraid, and upset. And when you sit down to write (if you even get that far), you feel like you have nothing to say.
That’s the best time to write.
First get the head space to write. Writing takes energy and focus, and on good days, that might come easily. On bad days, you need to make it happen.
So carve out two hours from your day. Put your worries aside. If you’re afraid you’ll forget something important, just jot it down on a bit of paper. You can come back to it later. Close your email. Switch off the phone. Shut the door.
Now you have a place where you have the mental space to focus on writing. That’s not going to change how you feel, though. How do you get over your feelings so that you can write?
Truthfully? You don’t need to.
Use Your Feelings to Create Powerful, Emotional Writing
“Nothing can be made to be of interest to the reader that was not first of vital concern to the writer.” – John Gardner, The Art of Fiction
Have you ever read words that really grabbed you? That stuck in your mind for weeks? That brought tears to your eyes? They shook your emotions because the writer cared.
Emotion shines through your writing. If you’re filled with enthusiasm, it comes across in your work. If you’re passionate about your topic, your prose engages more than a polished piece on a subject the writer didn’t really care about.
But enthusiasm and passion aren’t the only emotions you can use in your work.
Use your anger to write an article railing against something that makes you furious. Pour fear and sadness into a short story to bring your characters alive and give them something to fight for.
For example, I’m working on the climax of my novel for an assignment with a looming deadline. My month has been stressful… and my writing has improved to no end. More fear, more suffering, more nastiness.
Use Your Emotions to Share and Connect With Readers
We all love to read uplifting stories with happy endings, but, let’s face it: happy stories don’t always reflect what we’ve lived through.
How about sharing that time you screwed up so that your readers don’t have to go through it too? If you want to change lives through your writing, you don’t want people to think, “Yeah, that’s nice, I’ll do that someday.”
You want them to get on with it, to do something about it. To think and feel and take action.
Let’s say you’re writing about WordPress security. Not the most exciting topic in the world – but it can be if you use your emotions to connect with your readers:
“My wife and I had that nightmare once. Our dream was taken from us by someone we never met, someone who could care less that the website they ruined for us helped put food in our kids’ mouths.” – John Hoff, How to Use Emotional Copywriting to Kick-Start Your Sales, published on Copyblogger
Take some of those times when life sucked – times when something went wrong, or when you said the wrong thing, or when you felt really small and stupid – and use them. Share them with readers. Let your emotions shine through. Connect with people.
Your feelings will make your work more vivid and powerful.
Use Your Writing as an Escape from Your Emotions
The hard times in life are good for your writing, yes. But writing is also good for helping you get through those hard times.
I write fiction because it makes me feel good. It’s hard work, and it pays nothing. (In fact, I’ve paid out money to study an MA in creative writing.) It takes much longer to produce a thousand good words of fiction than a thousand good words of blog post.
But I’d sooner quit chocolate than quit writing fiction.
Find a way to make your writing an escape. Work on a memoir that takes you right out of the bad moments of present day and into happy times of the past. Write a blog about a hobby that you’re keenly interested in, which gives you an outlet from the day job you hate.
You could even work on an epic fantasy novel that takes you out of this world into a glittering one of infinite possibilities where you get to play god.
Writing is absorbing. You can’t write with your mind on a dozen other things. Writing pulls your thoughts into line and forces your focus onto getting your piece right.
And often, when you’ve finished writing, you’ll find that life doesn’t seem so bad after all.
So, tell me. What’re you writing? And how can you take the times that suck – whether they’re happening right now or happened years ago – to make your work stronger?
Want more from Ali? Check out her home base at Aliventures, where you’ll find all sorts of posts that remind you life’s pretty good – even when you don’t feel it is.