Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The morning has a ethereal quality to it, as I'm still carrying the feelings from my emotionally-charged dream. So often my moods are shaped by what I was dreaming when I woke up that morning, and while the images sometimes don't make enough sense to hold on to upon waking, the emotion always does. I've battled strong emotions my whole life. Defined them, boxed them up, let them peek out in situations my forebrain deems appropriate. Sometimes they sneak out on their own, and that's mortifying.

Lately I've realized that's not healthy. Emotions are not a deformed and murderous twin who must be chained to the basement floor. They are part of me. So I've been working on feeling whatever emotion comes to me. Not necessarily letting it manifest outwardly, but looking at it, accepting it.

Well yesterday morning I sat down to write, and got that same old butterfly nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sometimes when I get that feeling, I stand up and do something else without even thinking first, just my instinct telling me I need to run when I feel that dread. But yesterday I looked at it and wondered about it, and opened the document anyway. The next scene to be written was a hugely emotional one. When I finished I was drained and lonely, needed a hug so bad, but there was no one here but me.

Huge breakthrough. Because I'd examined my emotions at every step, I was able to make an important and previously unseen connection. The dread came from subconsciously knowing I would end my writing time feeling lonely and lost. All those emotions swirling around, yet there was no one I could unburden myself to. Even if my husband had been home, I couldn't very well expect him to understand what was bothering me. He would probably just tell me, Get over it, it's not your problem, it's your character. No wonder novelists, actors, and other artistic types seem to have so much trouble with substance abuse. We take on emotions which aren't our own, and which in the context of our lives have no ground. There's no event to pin them to, yet we carry them with us. It can make one feel quite bonkers.

But seriously, now that I've realized this, I can start working around it. How about you? Do you find that your character's emotions affect your life?

{ 13 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. For what it's worth, here's a hug the next time you need one. *hug!*

  2. I wrote a blog similar to this about a year ago when I realized that all of the unease and certainty I was feeling over the course of the week was actually something I was carrying over from one of my characters being in a jam and being unsure what to do. Once he figured it out, it was like pulling a giant rotten tooth out of my emotional core. I didn't realize this was the case until it happened, and it really affirmed for me that I do have an ability to get emotionally close to my characters, which was something I wasn't sure I could do at one point. On a sorta related note, I feel that when I dream about my characters, I end up writing them better too. I wish I could dream about my book every night. It would practically write itself.

    On an unrelated note, I absolutely love your new design. :)

  3. *tucks Ian's hug in pocket for later*

    Allie, thanks!

    I'm sort of hoping I can create some sort of emotional distance to my characters without losing any of the story. Not sure it's possible, but I'm going to examine that possibility from all angles.

  4. Sublimation is one of the more positive defense mechanisms where people take inner turmoil and turn it into something positive. That may be something to consider in these instances. Like for me, instead of smoking (which is what I used to do), I go for a walk. Of course, writing in and of itself is a form of sublimation. It gets very complicated when one's form of release becomes yet another anchor pulling them down and you need a release from your release. I go through regular cycles with this myself. I think artistic minds are just so damn complicated sometimes. lol

  5. First off, Sherri, your new template is so so cool. I get your posts by email, now, and didn't see the new design until yesterday. Here's the other thing, and I know I say this a lot, but God, Sherri! Your writing and ideas and expression is getting more fabulous by the day...whatever you're working on, keep working on it. I get that dread all the time, and your description is so exactly excellent and perfect! For me, prayer works really well there, but reaching out to other writers does, too. It's like getting "talked down" from an acid trip sometimes - my mind doesn't need LSD to get me pretty far out, so to speak...and friends can help me to see straight again. I don't have any "characters" as such in my book, but I think that my moroseness, if there's such a word, carries into my writing for sure.
    anyway, I've been on an extreme deadline and haven't been commenting, but I love getting your posts in my mail and I'm so damn impressed. Lord you're smart.

  6. I don't emote well in the first place, so no, this doesn't happen to me. But I think it may also make it hard to figure out how to write an emotional scene in a story, because I'm too distant.

    A catch-22 for sure.

  7. I haven't really pondered how my characters' emotions affect my life, but what I do notice is that I have to relate to their emotions as I'm writing/describing them or I cannot get it right.

    So, regardless of whether I have ever had that particular emotional event (loss of child, murdered friend, whatever) I have to dig inside for an equivalent emotion or situation where I felt that emotion and milk it for detail and reaction and for the feelign of the emotion so I can get it right.

  8. Well, personally, no characters, no emotions. But I loved your line of emotions being the evil twin chained to the basement floor. That made me laugh out loud.

    Okay, maybe not evil twins ... sometimes. But NEVER good masters, only tolerable servants. :) You are always in charge of your feelings sis. Maybe knowing you are in control of them will help you with writing through those emotions going forward. *hugs*

  9. Knyt, you know when you did an exercise to improve your dialogue it led to a novel. Maybe you should practice channeling emotions into your work, see where it leads.

    Wyrdd, I'd be interested to hear what you think about this after you've pondered it a while.

    Fal, I think I actually need to let them loose more often, then maybe it won't be such a big deal.

  10. Yeah! What Claude said. When are you coming to visit??

  11. [...] been thinking about my huge breakthrough yesterday, the realization that sometimes I resist writing because I don’t want to feel my characters’ emotions. Yet I don’t remember having this problem with the previous book, and I was trying to figure [...]

  12. Well, I suppose we all get a bit of "character hang over" where we feel the echo of the emotions we were just writing about. It's sort like a love affair, we become so entangled in the minds of our characters.

  13. Sher: Now there's an idea I hadn't had before! Thanks!


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