“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” – Robert Frost
There is much truth in this quote, I believe. If you don’t feel the emotion behind your writing, your readers won’t feel it, either. If you’re bored, they’re bored.
But what about emotions you’ve never experienced? Loss? Anguish? Terror? Euphoria?
Having bipolar disorder, I’ve experienced an extremely wide range of emotions. But there are feelings I’ve never experienced before. For example, I’ve never felt the anguish of losing a parent, a sibling, or a child.
I like to think of it as “extrapolating” your feelings.
When I was writing a scene involving death and loss, I had to sit for quite some time — we’re talking weeks, here — and think long and hard about what emotions I have experienced. What sort of things would I feel if I were watching someone die? I’ve experienced hopelessness and despair in depressive episodes. I’ve faced death in the past and feared for my own life. It took time, but I drew from what I know. Admittedly, I cried when I wrote that scene. It wasn’t easy to dredge up all those old emotions.
Of course, there are good parts to extrapolating your feelings when writing happier scenes and remembering the better, easier memories. Falling in love. Camaraderie with your sister who has always been your best friend. Receiving that acceptance letter from your first-choice university.
I think I’ll go have a good cry now.