February 15


5 Ways to Write With Emotional Honesty

By Diana Raab

February 15, 2014


by Diana Raab

Whether you write memoir, poetry or fiction, it is important to be emotionally honest. Emotions are complex and sometimes it takes a fair amount of skill to do this. In fact, portraying emotions on the page may just be the most difficult aspect of writing. The good news is that writing from a place of emotional honesty can be transformative for the writer and the reader.

Writing with emotional honesty is about writing from your center. It is about embodying all your words and feelings. What seems to pour on the page essentially comes from your core. They usually originated from your core and are deeply emotionally honest. Some people find this can put them in a creative trance.

Writing with emotional honesty involves the ability to look deeply at a situation. It is about being mindful of the details of an emotion, rather than simply naming it. It’s about identifying raw emotions and examining them without casting judgment. Being emotionally honest also means knowing yourself. In doing this the writer can address poignant questions.

The best writing shares emotions in a creative way. When we read compelling fiction, what the writer has done is embraced or embodied the character’s joys, traumas and pains. They can do this by tapping into their own experiences as a way to inform their character’s behaviors. Their own perspective and experiences will merge with their imagination, resulting in emotionally honest writing.

For example, if you have ever been in love, you have a sense of what it feels like. It’s not to say that your character will experience love in the exact same way, but the emotions behind your actual life experience will be revealed in an emotionally honest manner.

The same thing happens in poetry. A poet might be writing about heartbreak, and weaving a personal story into the heartbreaks had by others. Their poem becomes a potpourri of honest emotions. Poetry and creative writing is about the story and is not journalistic reportage. When writing, whether memoir or fiction, it is important to keep the reader’s interest by moving the story along with action scenes embedded in emotional honesty. The books that have an emotionally honest voice are often the ones we call “page-turners.”

When you get real with yourself, you will naturally express your true emotions. This means being self-aware. We live in a culture where everyone wants to be happy, but the best lessons in life are learnt through difficult times when we experience fluctuations in our emotions. The best art, whether visual or otherwise, allows for this free expression.

Writing a poem when in the midst of a heated moment, whether love or disdain, can create a very powerful piece of work because of the honest emotions the poet is feeling inside, even if the details of the poem are not based exactly on the lived experience. In fact, the page can become an explosion of emotions and passion, most often even before the artist is able to completely process the experience.

To create powerful art one must be fearless. Being emotionally honest is about letting down your guard and being uninhibited. The beauty of creation is the merging of reality and creative expression.

How to be emotionally honest in your writing:


1)      Practice daily journaling. Stream-of-consciousness writing is a good place to start. Write for 15 minutes without lifting your pen off the page. Do not think about what you are writing. Just let the words flow. There does not have to be a beginning middle and ending. Write about yourself and the world around you. Write what you are seeing and feeling and what emotions erupt inside of you.

2)      Write naturally. Do not force the words. Write with feeling.

3)      Don’t label the emotion; show it. For example, showing your character sitting with an empty box of used tissues might be enough to share the emotion of sadness. This is more effective than naming the emotion as ‘sad.’

4)      Write bravely. Don’t be afraid of what others will think or say. This can hinder and be stifling to your creativity.

5)      Be mindful of your senses. When experiencing an emotion really think about where it originates in your body and write from that place. Embody the sensation. Try to write a poem when you are in the midst of a heated moment. Chances are that is when you will write with the most emotional honesty.

About the author

Diana Raab, Ph.D. is a memoirist, poet, blogger, essayist, educator and facilitates workshops in writing for healing and transformation. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in Transpersonal Psychology, and a research focus on the healing and transformative powers of memoir writing.

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