Are you too much for your writing?

4 minute read
Author: SarahWHQ

Here is your Monday Buttkick orientation – today we will be covering a few very important topics (take notes if you need): throwing cakes out of car windows, weeping at magnolia trees, writing the good stuff and, of course, patriarchy.


Let’s go.

We’re jumping straight in with the big guns:

Do not be scared of your emotions.

(Context interlude: I just cried because my son wouldn’t get out of the shower after the third time of me asking. Oof.)

Despite everything that’s happened since 2020, we keep telling people that we’re ok when we are clearly not.

Despite everything, we say we are fine because we feel we owe the world our rationality.

The narrative around emotions is that we must control them, to be calm and cool, not to get upset or angry, to be mindful. That our emotions can be positive, or – the horror – negative. And when we do experience the ‘negative’ ones, we need to not feel them, to let them float out of our heads like bubbles in the wind.

But emotions, especially the big ones that crash into us with a shocking physicality, are not de facto bad. They are, in fact, what makes you a writer.

(Double context interlude: Like one of my first editors who told me my writing had too much energy, that I needed to calm down, be more like him; a serene, zen-like rational man. Or the hate mail we got last week, saying we were too much and needed to be different, less, smaller.)

Well, my friends, Writers’ HQ is here to reclaim some of that glorious emotional, irrational space. Because here’s the thing: we have been patriarched into conflating strong emotions or going big with being irrational, and that irrationality is considered A Bad Thing TM️.

Emotional women are hysterical, emotional men are the worst possible thing: effeminate 😱.

This matters a lot because we need all this stuff that is being denied to us. These things don’t make us weak – quite the opposite.

It is through those strong emotions, that particular kind of irrationality, that we clear the way to sense. Stories are completely irrational. They are lies that show us the truth. It is the verisimilitude of visual arts that opens the window to reality. We cannot process and express the complexity of human experience using the blunt instrument of rationality.

(Triple context interlude: I often cry when I see magnolias and blossom in spring because they are just so beautiful and so misplaced in our towns and cities and it makes me want to weep in joy and grief and create things to show that someone saw them, someone was here, someone felt them; to bear witness.)

This is why young children art first and art hard. How else can they explore and explain the world if not through the free and furious exploration of it in whatever medium is most readily available – making stuff up, playing games, burning through a 500 page packet of printer paper in 30 minutes, and only later moving towards rationality, science, more complex philosophical thought.

Maybe, just maybe, if we are stuck in our writing or our work is falling flat, it’s because we don’t feel like we can throw everything into it, we don’t feel as though it is rational or acceptable or safe to let ourselves weep or laugh when we write, to explore the horrific and the wonderful with abandon, to pour out something shocking and depraved and find out what those urges really are, to sit with those big emotions and see where they lead us.

(Quadruple context interlude: whenever I struggle to do big emotions I think of my friend who once threw a cake out of a car window because, and I quote, “I realised I’m not someone who bakes fucking cakes” and, well, why wouldn’t you think about that more often than not?).

Sitting with the emotions doesn’t mean ignoring them or suppressing them. It means sticking with the discomfort, feeling it in your body, looking it in the eye and asking it: are you about fear or are you about love? It is, as Donna Haraway says, about staying with the trouble.

You are not letting anyone down by doing the big emotions, certainly not yourself.

The work of the artist is to get comfortable with our fears, to wade deep into the difficult stuff which might well feel scary and risky and yikes, and that’s okay – that’s where the good stuff really lives.

We are writing to try to understand ourselves and each other, which maybe doesn’t seem so irrational after all.

Go write (and cry and wail and gnash).

Sarah & Team WHQ

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