Once in a while I get really emotional when writing.

Writing about love, jealousy or even thinking about a simple scene in which a father plays with his child can get some strong emotional responses from me.

I usually stop writing then, fearing that all that emotional clutter might effect my writing and turn it into something different than originally intended.

What do you say? Should I stop writing when getting too emotional or should I use that emotional response somehow?

If you have experienced the same reaction that I speak or, feel free to share.

  • 4
    You are cutting off your most valuable writing resource. If it is clutter or not, you can only decide after it is written. Even if it is clutter, it wants to get out. Free it, or I promise you a massive writer’s block. Mar 3, 2011 at 16:27
  • I agree that you should let it all out. You can always go back later and refine or remove in the editing stage, but often you may find that it made you emotional because it was just that good! Jul 22, 2011 at 5:11

3 Answers 3


Write. Let the emotion flow.

If the emotion clutters the writing, or takes it in a direction you don't want, you can fix it later, when you can look at it with a cooler view.

But even if you choose not to keep the stuff written in the heat of emotion, save it somewhere. There's energy in there for you. It may be useful on another project.

  • This, absolutely. There's always a general slush file. Writing down something in the heat of emotion can be used later, when you have a situation or a character who needs that emotion and you need an authentic voice for it. Mar 3, 2011 at 13:27

The reader is going to supply their own emotion. If you've strung everything together correctly.

But writing with 'feeling' is a slippery idea for the ages. Certainly there must be some emotion driving the writer to write the words. The fact that a thing was written is sometimes enough.

But sentimentality is the cheap knockoff that often ends up as a substitute. There is where the reader feels boxed out, defrauded from feeling, as you, the writer carry on about your incredibly harrowing near-death experience. Surely it should be exciting but it's not. Why is that?

I've written things all weepy, and sometimes they came off charged with a certain something, but often upon re-reading, it often turned out to be sappy fluff (to the reader).

However I've written other things immediately following some kind of rejection. Rejected by a lover, by society, by friends, by America, by the public, and these were often the stories or poems that had a lasting quality.

Beethoven wrote once that it was his ability to suppress his sensitivity and compassion that permitted him to compose incredible music.

There might be truth to this. But remember, the reader is approaching the story from their own perspective. They'll find emotion if the writer has provided the space to do it.

Writing with emotion and writing with sentiment are two different directions. Being able to identify one from the other is a skill that comes with time. And comes with endless writing and rewriting. I am not hardly any good at it. But I could tell you authors who are. Sherwood Anderson, William Burroughs, Italo Calvino.

I wouldn't fret over 'am I writing with feeling or not?' If you're writing, you're engaged in the phenomenon. Feelings will inform what you choose to write about. What details you show us, what angle the story takes.

Poetry is a better form for experimenting with emotions. But the novel has to have it. You'll know if it bores you. You should be able to read it over and over. A hundred times and never tire of it. There is feeling in the words.


It is important to consider the purpose of the writing being undertaken. Mostly writing is a pursuit that benefits from focus, craft and discipline. An overwrought writer is no more competent than an overwrought builder, or an overwrought lawyer or whatever. Just because what you are doing is constructing something that is supposed to draw an emotional response from others does not mean to say that you should be too moved by it yourself.

Stephen King talks about being confident that the section he has just written will "get" a reader e.g. moves the reader to be frightened or tense. My mother was so disturbed by Pet Sematary that she kept her copy in the freezer and sold the book as soon as she'd finished reading it(!) If Mr. King had been similarly affected by the novel as he wrote it then it would never have seen the light of day.

Also, just because you are moved by something as you write it does not guarantee it will be as powerful for the reader. I have only ever been moved by parts of my own story when reading them back years later and having forgotten what exactly I wrote. I can quite distinctly separate out the craftsman who wrote the story and the reader who gets hit by the emotion carried in the work much later.

So, if you are seeking to write in order to inspire an emotional experience for a third party it is vital to separate the business of being the communcator from being the reader.

Having said all that writing itself can be a therapeutic and cathartic act. If your purpose is to deal with something by writing about it in the first instance then experiencing emotion as you write is perfectly valid.

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