An emotional drain

Dear reader,

In my previous post I went on and on about the privilege of a writer probably having more fun creating a book than the reader has with the finished product.

There is of course a ‘dark’ side to this. Dark is perhaps the wrong word for it, but there are moments in creating a story that can take a bigger toll on a writer than other moments. As usual, this isn’t applicable to every writer but I have heard from many others that they go through the same (e)motions. And that is what I am referring to. Emotions.

It’s probably different from one person to the other, but for me, writing an emotional scene is very draining. Not because it’s boring to write, far from that: emotional scenes are the most fascinating ones to do. The moment that you tap into the core, the heart and soul of a character is when the character really comes alive. It’s also the moment where the reader gets to know who is inside that person on the pages. For the writer however this can become hard work. Often it’s not just one character who becomes emotional, but two, three, or even more. As the person who created all these characters, the writer is responsible for the sum of their emotions but also for each character’s personal experience of them. It’s one thing to write that someone cries, but when you want to make it clear what causes that crying, when you go inside that person and ‘live through the pain’… that is where the emotional drain appears. When something like that comes into the story, I /am/ that character. I feel her or his pains and sorrows, yet I have to keep a distance to write it all down. And then the pain can continue in another character, who experiences it in another way – and then the living through it starts again. A fellow writer told me about that: “If you leave something of yourself on a page, you wrote it well.” In that light I can proudly say that I leave plenty of myself on such pages.

Another odd emotional drain can happen when finishing a story, especially one that took a long time to write, where lots of emotion has gone into. Imagine living intimately with a few people, being inside their heads for a year or more, having all kinds of adventures with them. They tend to become a part of you that way. And then there are these two simple words “The End”. They don’t just mean that the story’s over to me. They mean an end to that time of intimately living together with a bunch of people, characters that didn’t exist before you invented them, but who’ve become a part of you through their trials and tribulations that you put them through. It’s odd that you don’t just see them suffer – you suffer with them. There’s a strong bond with them. And then they’re gone, usually living happily ever after. And the writer is left with “The End.” It can hurt. But it’s a good hurt, a sign that you did something right. When there’s no feeling in a story, it’s not a good story I would almost say. It’s strange, it’s pain, but I say: let it come. It’s a pain that shows that my heart went into it.

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