Emotions are the reason we do anything. The way we feel causes us to take action, or the way we want to feel in the future can cause us to take action.
Our thoughts cause our feelings, and our feelings drive us to take action. Our actions are what cause our results. If there is a result you’re going after in your life, like writing a novel, the action you need to take is writing. The way you feel about writing is going to determine whether or not you take that action.
Once people learn that their thoughts cause their feelings, they often start trying to replace any negative feelings with positive ones. Which can end up looking like frantically trying to replace any negative thought that we may have with a positive one so that we feel better.
This works sometimes, and for certain situations, if having a positive thought helps you, that’s great. But we need to remind ourselves that the goal is not to feel good all of the time. We don't need to be constantly scanning and replacing our thoughts so that we never have to feel a negative emotion.
If you are trying to create a result, like a published novel, there may be some emotions that don't necessarily feel "good," but that you still want to experience.
It might be possible to write a novel solely from the place of joy and inspiration. But it may take you a long time, and actually, your novel might not be better off for it.
If you're trying to write a coming-of-age novel that has your character go through a lot of struggles, you may not want to only be feeling joy while you write it. You might actually want to call up some negative emotion to give you that inspiration and that passion to put into your writing.
Note: every Friday on our Instragram, I like to post a story called “Friday Feel Like” where I share an emotion that I invite you to try experiencing while you write. So if you’re not following us on Instagram you can do that @BlockbusterYA.
It's important to play around with different emotions to see which ones feel productive for you, which ones fuel your writing, and even which emotions compliment whatever particular story you're working on.
If you're working on a romance novel an emotion you probably want to feel is passion. If you're working on an action-adventure novel you probably want to feel excitement. If you're working on a tragedy you will want to feel sadness.
The ability to generate emotions and understand how they affect your writing is going to be really useful.
The other thing I really want you to pay attention to in your daily life is what these emotions feel like in your body. My coach likes to explain processing emotions as if you were describing the emotion to an alien.
This practice of understanding what emotions feel like in your body is not only going to make you a stronger writer because you will be able to describe what your character is feeling that much better, but it's going to help you as a person.
Let's go over some 6 emotions that I personally find helpful for generating writing.
If I really dive into my body and experience what it feels like to be committed, it's an emotion to me that doesn't actually feel good. It doesn’t feel awful, but it doesn't feel like joy. It doesn't feel like lightness. It feels like it has pressure attached to it and some push. But at the same time, it feels strong and it feels purposeful and can lead me to write.
I know a lot of writers try and generate the feeling of commitment, but I wonder how many of you are actually aware of what commitment feels like in your body?
Sometimes I wonder if writers resist the feeling of commitment because it doesn’t actually feel amazing. It can feel uncomfortable. That uncomfortable feeling can steer you away from writing to go buffer with Netflix, food, shopping, or scrolling on Instagram because you expected commitment to feel good.
I think motivation is very similar. I can feel good, I can also not feel good. It’s kind of on the line between a positive and negative emotion. Check-in with your body, what do those emotions actually feel like, and is it a feeling you’ve tried to run away from?
If you find that the feeling of commitment is a bit too strong for you right now (you think you might be resisting it) try approaching writing from a feeling of playfulness. To me, playfulness feels really uplifting. It feels fun–like there's no pressure attached to it. The feeling of free also comes to mind.
These feelings can take the edge off and give you that open space to write. They don’t have judgment attached to them, which is an amazing place to write from.
The feeling of captivated usually makes for moments where my writing is flowing. It feels urgent and focused and like I can't tear my mind out of what I'm doing. I'm loving my characters, my setting, my plot, and just diving into my own story. The feeling of captivated is definitely one of my favourites as a writer.
Being able to create characters, worlds, and plots, feels powerful. When I feel powerful it feels strong and rising. It has an energy to it and openness–like I want to share it. When I feel powerful, my thoughts are usually that I can achieve anything. Because writers can tend to be more introverted I think sometimes we shy away from this feeling of power. I invite you all to experience it in your writing. It’s an absolutely safe place to try out this emotion and see what it feels like to show up in the world, in your world, as powerful.
This is a tough one sometimes because many people use it incorrectly. They try to feel optimistic about circumstances that they have deemed as negative, and that never feels good. Circumstances aren't negative, they are neutral.
For example, if you’re trying to be optimistic about an agent rejecting your book and you see the fact that the agent rejected your book as negative (you have a lot of negative thoughts about it), it's going to be really hard to feel optimistic about that. It’s going to feel hollow and heavy.
But if the agent rejecting your book was just neutral (it didn't mean anything about you or about your book), then you can come from a place of optimism that another agent out there will be the perfect fit.
The feeling of optimism when used correctly, when you’re not trying to use it as a silver lining, can be encouraging to keep us to keep moving forward with our goals. To me, optimism feels like a lower level of excitement. It doesn't have weight or tension attached to it. It feels expansive and rising.
If you think you’re feeling optimistic but it doesn’t feel good, it’s probably because you’re trying to silver line and circumstance you see as negative.
Whether your book is done or not, you can feel proud of it and yourself at any time. When I feel proud it feels warm, strong, and kind of like a hug. It feels amazing. I don't know why so many of us keep that feeling from ourselves. It's like we think we need to earn the feeling of being proud by having something in the outside world by doing something.
Feeling proud comes from the way we think about ourselves – not from anything external.
We can think good things about ourselves at any time of the day. You can feel proud of yourself right now. You can feel proud of yourself for reading this blog. There are so many moments in the day or we can feel proud of ourselves.
If you're holding out on the feeling of pride until you’ve written a novel, you need to stop doing that feeling proud of yourself now. It's actually going to encourage you to write more. I know you think it's the opposite that if you feel proud now you won't want to write. But give it a try, especially if you are struggling to write your book. You have nothing to lose, be proud of yourself and see what happens.
I hope this gave you some ideas of emotions that you can start to generate and experience as you write.
Remember, emotions are created by your thoughts. If you want to feel a feeling like playful you need to find a thought that makes you feel that way.
A thought like “let's just have fun with it” or “I can do anything in this world.” It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Make sure to really experience the feeling in your body. We are not raised to understand emotions. Nobody teaches us these things in school.
The ability to feel an emotion in your body, to find it, to understand how it moves, and to see it as a vibration in your body is a practiced skill.
The more practice you get with it, the better off you'll be. The more you understand emotions in your own body the less afraid of them you will be.
Helpful emotions don't always have to feel good. It's okay if an emotion in your body feels uncomfortable. It doesn't mean you have to run away from it, it doesn't mean you need to do something to feel better. The emotion can simply be present in your body.
And again, think about the genre of book that you're writing. Think about the scene that you're writing and what emotion could lend to that scene. If you're writing a sad scene you probably want to feel sad. Don't fear those emotions, be willing to have them present for your writing experience.
Emotions are not just touchy-feely. They are the reason we do anything. They are powerful, and they can not only lead you to a published novel, but they can also make your writing incredible for your readers.