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  • Writer's pictureLeeyanne Moore

"Overcoming Self-Consciousness: How to Tap into Your Writing Talent by Expressing Your Emotions"

handsome man looking at his journal
If you angst over starting a story, try starting with a strong emotional point in the story.

Hi lovely people! Last week was one of emotional lows and highs. The week before, a foster parakeet that I looked after for the local S.P.C.A., a parakeet named Louie, flew into a wall. So the week started off with Louie's death. (R.I.P. Louie 😭) This was very distressing. I was feeling strong emotion--yes, even over a parakeet. I wrote some really excellent poetry on the back of that strong emotion. I also had some powerful writing sessions with my students. The weekend was packed as well. I volunteered with another organization and caught a cold. Overall, there were a lot of strong feelings bouncing around in my heart. Emotions are a gift--how you use them can help you develop into a dynamic writer.


It's a challenge to start writing. Sharing your thoughts with others is an act of bravery. Other people will know you more intimately after they've read words that you've written on the page. On the other hand, what a powerful feeling--to have your words, thoughts, and emotions sitting in someone's consciousness! This intimacy is probably why when we hate books we really hate them. After all, that disgusting bit of thought was inside our brain. Eeesh!

I always encourage people to write when they're experiencing strong emotions--especially strong negative emotions. Pouring out your feelings in words onto the page provides you with a chance to build your strengths in articulating emotional states characters are experiencing. This is a fundamental skill to have in novel writing. When you write as you are suffering or full of joy, you are experiencing what a character would feel when experiencing dramatic upheaval in a book. The sentences tend to be shorter, more pithy. The emotions are more unfiltered. Choices are more intuitive and abrupt.

One battle that new writers have is overcoming the feeling of self consciousness as they start to write a book or a story. They are all too aware that they are writing--that others will be reading what they wrote, that others will be judging what they wrote. However, being in the grip of strong emotion helps you to get over that hurdle. It helps you to be brave. Write like no one is ever going to read what you're writing. It's a first draft--the stakes are actually very, very low. Have at it!

IT'S ALL ABOUT ESTABLISHING HUMAN CONNECTION:  Sometimes when you're in the grip of strong emotions, it's easier to believe that people will relate to what you're writing about. When you're preoccupied with what's going on, you also don't have as much mental space to worry about what others think. Reassure yourself that this is a rough draft, and you will go over it and remove anything really super-embarrassing later.

LET YOURSELF ESTABLISH TRUST: The other aspect that can help a writer to overcome self-consciousness is to really trust yourself or a person (like me) that's coaching you. Having faith that they're an adult, that they've had uncomfortable experiences in life too, that they have experienced and understand strong emotions. You want to have faith that they will relate to what you write on a profoundly human level and embrace you and your meaning, not judge it. That's what a good writing coach or teacher will do. Sometimes it takes my students a few weeks (or a year!) to trust me. I do what I can to build that trust and to keep the writer writing and connecting with emotions.

THE PROCESS IS SO MUCH FASTER WHEN YOU CAN STOP SECOND GUESSING YOURSELF: One benefit of working with someone else is that if you're receiving coaching, or collaborating, or have a trusted alpha reader, is that you don't have to second guess yourself. Your job is only to put it out there. Their job is to tell you to take it out. I believe this increases a writer's speed exponentially. So many would be writers are slowed down (blocked even) by angsting and second guessing themselves. Professionals find strategies to overcome this hurdle. They work with a coach, a trusted first reader (who is sometimes their editor, but sometimes not), or a writing partner. They remove the anxiety and speed ahead. "If you don't want to get better, don't get help." So true! There's also what Steve Martin wrote in the preface of his first book: "If writing is such a lonely endeavor, why are there so many people to thank?" Because it's faster to bounce what you're writing off others--that's why!


What I deeply loved about the writing that I did this week is that I felt an awareness of places where I might self-censor myself, but then I wrote over those feelings. I wrote about the importance of a core feeling--one of almost trembling hypo-manic creativity and possibility--that I felt when I was first began grad school in snowy Syracuse. My mind kept pointing to places where I could be misinterpreted. Then I kept writing down the words anyway. Yes, I'll revise it. Yes, I didn't expect that my first reader of the poem would understand it. I will have patience with misinterpretations, and I will work to clarify my meaning. This all comes with the process of revision. But that magic, the powerful feeling of being unleashed creatively--that is an excellent space to occupy. In an ideal world, you'd become familiar with that spot and tap into that feeling almost every time you sit down to write. Powerful writing is being emotionally unleashed in a certain way. It involves a disregard for what others might say. The first step to powerful writing books that move people is to train your brain to accept writing strong emotions without self-consciousness. So journal out the dramatic points in your life. Get used to saying the unsayable on the page. Your bravery now will pay off later.

I don't know why in my M.F.A. program we didn't discuss the power of emotion in writing. Even the most literary of writing is often imbued with some kind of deep emotion. Venial emotions have their place just as much as lofty emotions do in literary novels. Readers and listeners--even those in top literary MFA programs--always respond to emotion. I would almost like to say you cannot have a novel that connects with readers without it. Oh, you can write something that is the length of a novel and seems to have the form of a novel, but without emotions that matter, there is no story--and without story (even a story in some wild, weird, and broken form) there is nothing for readers to grab onto. You must know how to infuse your writing with the emotions and thoughts of the characters to carry your readers through the book.

START NOW BY CONNECTING WITH YOUR OWN EMOTIONS DAILY: If, like me, you were raised to strongly ignore and repress your own emotions, then one way you can start now is by making a habit of observing and connecting with your own emotions daily. I still struggle with this. Feeling emotions within yourself--I would argue--has more immediacy and therefore more power--than observing feelings in others.

If it's too hard to start with yourself, then start with observing the emotions of others and write out what they're thinking--and more importantly--what they're feeling. Then work your way back to yourself when emotions are high and more obvious. But keep tracking so you can learn to witness accurately more subtle feelings. There are habits you can build: asking yourself how you are feeling several times throughout the day. Name them, convey them in description and thoughts. Working with stronger emotions at first will help you learn how to adroitly wield more subtle emotions in your writing later on.

Bye, my friends! I hope this was helpful. Have a great week. Feel free to leave comments or questions below. 

As always, if you or someone you’re raising is interested in writing a big project, you can let me know in the contact form and we can chat about you/your learner and the project to see if I can help.

Leeyanne Moore bio


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