Guest post by Patience Pennington
But even though I may not write novels, as an artist I understand what a challenge it is to tell a story from the heart. After all, even a photograph tells a story.
When we write, the primary goal is to create emotion. To use our words to tell a story in which characters are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. A story in which there is fear, victory, pain, intrigue, victory, loss, and love.
But, why? Why is it so important to create these emotions? Further, how do we make those emotions believable without revealing parts of our own personal story, and risking the exposure of things deep inside our hearts?
Emotion is a powerful thing. It drives us, shapes us, often overrides our rationality, and supplies us with an intangible something that fills our lives with an element of unpredictability and intrigue.
Strong emotions can be very dangerous, and because of this, we often prefer to hide them away under the pretense that they are “not real.” I know I do anyway. Extremely sensitive, logic-centered introvert that I am, I find emotions confusing and hard to classify. So is it better just to bury the pesky things before they come out and start asking confusing questions and telling you to do things that might be silly, dangerous, or irrational?
The thing about emotions is you can’t just fit them neatly in a box and forget about them. If you could, they wouldn’t really be emotions, would they?
Facts are real. You can touch them, or at least know them, and they always stay the same. Emotions can’t be trusted. Therefore, they are not needed.
Or are they?
Have you ever noticed that the parts of the stories where the writer makes you feel something are the only parts that you really remember? When the ship captain told a joke, and you laughed. When the hero kissed the princess for the first time and you cried. When the riders were held at gunpoint and there was no possible way of escape. You felt those things deeply, because you associated them with emotions you had felt at some time in your own life.
When we read stories, it is the emotions inside the story that make the strongest impact.
Scripturally, we are instructed not to let our hearts dictate life decisions. But that does not mean that God didn’t create emotions, or that our feelings are meant to be suppressed and disguised. We were not created Vulcans. Emotion is a beautiful gift and here’s why:
It helps us to interpret the events in our lives, and dig deeper into the meaning behind the moments. Without emotion, there is no art. And without art, there is no worship. Emotion is one of humanity’s most powerful ways of connecting with God. Our love is a reflection of His love for us. Our passion a mirror image of the passion He feels for us. We were created in God’s image, and emotion is a vital part of that.
It can feel dangerous, pouring our own emotional experiences into our work. But, as the common phrase “write what you know” implies, without reflecting our own life experiences—our own feelings of loss, insecurity, anger, love—the emotions we create will not feel real to our readers.
It can be uncomfortable, sometimes even painful, to feel so deeply when we write. We fear what others might think of us.
I think sometimes our biggest fear is of what we ourselves will think.
Staying inside the comfort zone of what we know about emotions—the factual, the predictable—that’s safe. It feels secure because it doesn’t fluctuate. But when we step out into the unknown world of raw emotions, there’s really no telling what might happen. There’s a fear of failure and rejection. A fear of letting the emotion get out of control. But there is also a tremendous amount of possibility and potential. The strength of our feelings should reveal something about the impact they could make on others.
As artists, we have a responsibility to reveal truth through what we create. But if we fear our own feelings too much to share our hearts in what we write, we will never create anything truly meaningful. If we do not reveal emotion in our work, then we leave the story cold and lifeless. A series of disconnected events that appear meaningless without the necessary emotional movement weaving them together.
Vulnerability transforms our creative endeavors. And beyond that, vulnerability is one of the most powerful ways to create impact in our own lives. To come in contact with the depth, meaning, and incomparable beauty in our own day-to-day lives.
Write today, with bravery and honesty. Dive deep into the ashes and the gold. Infuse your story with reflections of your own heart—and you just might just uncover a whole new layer of meaning, power, and truth.
This post is related to another one on Patience’s own blog. Head over to The Brightness Project to read more from Patience.
Patience Pennington is a seventeen-year-old homeschool graduate with a passion for finding beauty in the ordinary. An outgoing introvert, and extreme optimist, she spends most of her time taking pictures, listening to Spotify, writing poetry, and blogging about this extraordinary, ordinary adventure called life.
* Please note that links on The One Year Adventure Novel Blog to other websites and blogs do not constitute an official endorsement. We are not intimately familiar with all the writing and opinions contained in outside links.