I am an emotional person.
For much of my childhood and early adulthood, I saw it as a weakness. You’re too sensitive, people would say. You need to get a thicker skin. Comments like these would inevitably send me into a spiral of depression and angst compounded by depression and angst that I was so susceptible to depression and angst. Super fun.
And then, I grew to see that my empathy and sensitivity was a real asset. I was able to put myself into other people’s shoes, resonate with their pain and struggles and offer them genuine words of comfort. And not just the bullshit throwaway lines of “Sorry you feel that way.” (Which, to be fair, given the right level of intonation and placement of hands gently caressing back, can be a thoughtful thing to say. When it’s done dismissively and with the slightest of eye rolls? Yeah, then you’re an asshole).
I think, as writers, we need to be tuned into the emotional complexity that comes with being humans in order to breathe realism into our characters.
The downside? SO.MANY.FEELS.
Like this week. It’s Wednesday and I have had at least six different hysterical crying spells that come in bursts of 2-3 minutes followed by intense giggling and then a somber realization that challenges everything I had previously accepted true about myself. Exhausting.
I wrote a book. 73,237 words. This book just came back from the editor with all her comments, corrections and feedback. This is the first time anyone has ever read a book of mine. Probably because it’s my first book.
I literally cried writing this book. And don’t get me wrong, this is a sweeping angsty tale of a redeemed love or any nonsense like that. It’s like 7% angsty and all the angst is really like #champagneproblems but jus the mere fact that I was able to do this? Tears.
Writing is a really solitary, lonely process. It’s hard to do with someone, let alone explain what you are working on. It’s hard for non-writers to understand the emotional toll that comes with writing a book: the hours spent agonizing over a laptop, the frustration when your characters are pissing you off, the euphoria when a scene just works. It’s a fucking rollercoaster of emotions.
Monday, while on one of these benders, my husband forced my laptop closed and told me to go downstairs and do the dishes. Every feminist bone in my body wanted to shout back “YOU DO THE DISHES! I’M GLORIA STEINEM BITCH!” But when my husband explained that he was seriously concerned that I was tiptoing the edges of insanity and that our health insurance plan wasn’t that good, it clicked for me. I need to mellow out. I cannot keep underestimating the emotional impact that writing has on me and I need to remember to keep working on this balance nonsense I am still trying to figure out. There is no way I can be a good writer- or a passable human being- without harnessing this balance in my life.
So yeah, I did the dishes, took a nap, and watched some SNL videos on YouTube. My book didn’t spontaneously explode and I ended up getting back to the grind the next day, headed to Starbucks for 5:00am and got a ton of editing and revision in. So, I would have gotten a lot more done if I had worked the night before, but it was actually really nice to clean my kitchen, get my lunches prepped for the week instead of grabbing an MRE (don’t judge me) and eating it at my desk. It felt good to do other things that helped nourish me, which in turn will only make me a better writer/human.