Using Strong Emotions as Creative Fodder

Sometimes, life swamps us like that unseen sneaker wave when we walk the beach. Out of nowhere, what we’d planned as a calm and joyful time turns sad. We attempt to make the best of things, but it still hurts.

I had such a weekend. Friends I traveled to see suffering from sudden tragedies we mourned together. Plans to stay on track with exercise and eating sidelined by bad conditions, risky locations, poor options. Weather out of control, and long drives behind the wheel. As I type this, my heart is heavy and the weight of emotions feels like a physical thing dragging my shoulders down.

But dense, capsizing emotions can serve a purpose for a creative soul. We can route these feelings into new projects, even if they do not fit within the framework of what we are currently working on.

Loss such as I’ve experienced through my friends this weekend does not fit in the plots of my writing works in progress. That does not mean the feelings merely drag me down into emptiness, however. I use them by writing about the feelings with all of my senses, and in almost any creative medium, I believe you can do the same. Here are some examples.

  • Does grief have a color, other than the usual black? Is it a brilliant blue that makes our retinas burn, or a yellow like flying into the sun?
  • Does it swirl or dance? Are the movements like a gentle ebb and surge or a crash of treetops waving in violent arcs in unrelenting wind?
  • Does its taste cause us to pucker up and scrunch our faces in disgust? Can we add another ingredient to change the profile enough to make it palatable?
  • Does sadness’s scent stay in our systems, like the reminder of an old lover or a favorite mountain walk? When we catch that aroma years from now, will it take us back to today with nostalgia and acceptance?

I could go on, but you’re a creative too. You have your own personal responses to extreme feelings. Emotions, even if not the ones we need to feel in the moment, can be captured and saved for those times when we need to pull out that exact sensation and use it. I’ll be writing about them in a scene that may or may not be used in some future work. And you?

How do you use strong emotions to feed your creative life, even if they are not the ones you need right now? How do you save the feelings that arise in you for that future work?




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