Wear Your Heart on Your Page

One of the best compliments ever given to me about my writing also served as a great check to me. My former professor, the ridiculously intelligent Robert Olmstead told me, “You know how to write well. You just need to figure out what to say.”

First of all, it took all my decorum not to break out into a happy dance right then and there, ala Elaine from Seinfeld.

Bob’s one of those people who doesn’t give praise lightly, so when he does, you know he means it (I love those people). But afterwards, it really made me think: What do I want to say?

Strong emotions, due to reasons I won’t go into on this blog, are something of a conundrum for me: I am very susceptible to them and because of that I fear them. When I am hit with strong emotion, I let them take over. Let’s be honest, I don’t use my brain very much when calm and when taken over by emotion, I lose what little sense I possess. So, for the past year and a half, I’ve been writing interesting, yet dry stories.

I read an  article five or six months ago and I can’t remember where, but it basically said MFA programs are killing literature. Obviously, I don’t agree with that, but the author asserted that literary journals are being inundated with tons of well-written, but emotionally empty stories.

I realized I was one of those authors.

So what did I do? I swallowed my fear, pulled out my laptop, and threw my heart into my stories.

And let me tell you: IT HURTS. And it’s invigorating. When my protags are in pain, I throw all of my pain into the writing. When they’re happy, I find myself grinning from ear to ear. The feedback from my writing group has been unanimous: my stories are stronger, more interesting, more captivating. They are finally starting to connect with my chars and care about them.

We want our readers to cry with our characters. But first, we the writers need to cry with them (the chars… maybe the readers, too.)

Just don’t forget the tissue.

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I write speculative fiction inspired by mythos from around the world, complex family dynamics, and my own experiences living with mental illness. After earning my BA in Linguistics from Brigham Young University in 2008, I received my MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College in 2012. I live in Denver, where my husband and I spend countless hours chasing our three young sons (and sometimes catching them!). I collect tarot decks, dye my hair mermaid colors, and procrastinate by decorating my home. My debut novel, Feathers Sharp as Knives, releases on May 2, 2023.

8 thoughts on “Wear Your Heart on Your Page

  1. I can relate to this completely. I played lots of emotional music a la Andrea Bocelli, really loud, while writing the Bitteroot Bears. I had to wipe tears away contantly in the scenes where Craig’s hurt over his father abandoning the family welled up and splashed all over the pages. Maybe I didn’t wipe as many away as I thought, but there was definitely something splashin on the pages.

    I also cried when Frodo, et al, left for the Gray Havens and Ole Yeller died. And, there was that scene in the Dirty Dozen, too.

  2. Interesting post. I wonder, is it a form of protection to write emotionally empty stories? It’s always easier not to put yourself out there. Glad to hear you are breaking through it. Good luck!

    1. I wonder, is it a form of protection to write emotionally empty stories?

      It was for me! My poor little protag Audrey has endured some very painful things. In order to write those scenes–really give them the emotion they need–I had to dig down to my darkest, most painful memories. Talk about opening a dam! I had a hard time sleeping that night.
      All in the name of love good fiction. ^_^

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