During a bike trip this summer, one of the other back-of-the-pack riders told me (as we puffed, sweated, and pedaled to catch up) that she writes one “thank-you” a day. I liked the idea. After I returned home and cleaned the bugs off my bike, I stopped my to-do-list routine and wrote an e-mail thanking the ride organizer. The next day, I wrote of my appreciation to a friend who listened to me vent as I worked through a problem. The day after that, a thank-you to a teacher for sharing her knowledge with me in a class. An e-card to my mom, thanking her for proofreading everything I write. A thank you letter to an out-of-town pharmacist who—when I forgot to pack my medication and tried to get the prescription filled “out” of my area—got on the phone with the insurance company and kept at it until she received the proper authorization.
The most amazing thing began happening. I felt immense gratitude for so many things instead of the fleeting “thanks” that comes and goes and so quickly fades away with the daily grind. When I focused on what I was grateful for in an ordinary day, small joys expanded into big ones. Thus is the power of writing.
Another light-bulb moment: when I truly feel gratitude, the emotion comes through in my writing. I realized no matter what the feeling or what I write (yes, even fiction) when I allow the emotion to flow through me, the reader will experience and share in it because it is honest and from my heart.
After writing books for several years—and don’t get me wrong, I am deeply grateful and privileged to be able to do so—a project can feel overwhelming, especially at the beginning. Huge. Unconquerable. An enormous amount of work at best, at worst—an impossible, never-ending job. Then I remember why writing hooked me in the first place. I loved finding a way to make myself laugh. Cry. Be afraid. Get angry. Worry. Fall in love. Have my heart broken. Feel everything honestly through the characters in my books. And the most wonderful part of all, the opportunity to share emotions with others.
So don’t be afraid to show (and share!) emotion in your writing. Or ever, for that matter. It’s what makes us human, what connects us to each other. Your writing will be all the stronger if you open up and give us the way it truly feels. No matter what you write: screenplays, novels, short stories, journal entries, essays, columns, letters, e-mails, or thank-you notes, remember to celebrate all of life with emotion as you write. Laugh. Cry. Feel everything as you tell it to the page. Your reader will feel it too.
And what a wonderful gift, for all concerned.