I feel everything. It’s part of the reason that I shield myself from indulging in the news or too much of woke Twitter. I literally can’t take it.
Some of us feel everything. Every part of the anguish, the frustration, and devastation that this world has to offer. Remember the film adapted from the book “The Secret Life of Bees?” May Boatwright was the youngest sister that was so burdened by the traumas of the world that it eventually led to her death. In that light, it may seem like empathy is crippling, but I believe as writers, it’s our superpower.
I wouldn’t say that we never write from experience, clearly. But we get the opportunity to draw on so many other things that may have never happened directly to us. Listen, I have been binge watching Grey’s Anatomy and it gives me topics for days! Sure, I will include my own personal relationship to the topic, but it is often triggered by something else, another stimuli.
Life is happening all around us. And our knack for telling stories really begins with our ability to be present while life is happening. I think of Maya Angelou and how clearly she was able to recall her trip to Stamps, Arkansas to live with her grandmother at such a young age. She was observant, she was in touch, she processed every feeling, emotion, and thought that trip evoked. We feel. We are a freaking ball of sensory glands, lol, and so we feel and then we get to pour those feelings into the pages of our notebooks.
CLICK TO TWEET // Our knack for telling stories really begins with our ability to be present while life is happening.
I was shocked to find out that some people I know don’t really cry during movies. I’ve been letting tears rip since I can remember. And it’s because in those films, I am not just watching it, I am in it. I am Rose letting go of Jack’s frozen hand and watching him sink to the bottom of the ocean, I am Monica getting her heart broken when Q beats her at first in the game for his heart. I have a hard time separating myself from what’s actually happening on the screen and well, cue the tears. This is probably also why I hate horror films. Too much.
To be able to see the world through another person’s eyes is not just a miracle, it produces the compassion that this world could honestly use a lot more of. It’s healing, it’s an attribute to this human experience. Empathy is a connectivity that is essential in becoming the voice of many. That’s what often happens when we write. Not that we do it intentionally, but we find the way to express what many others are thinking. We lay ourselves on the altar as the sacrifice for understanding. We depict the events of history through our poems, essays, and our memoirs. How then can we serve this calling without empathy?
I’ve been ashamed that I feel. I’ve cried quietly so that no one could hear me. I’ve tried to pull it together so that I wouldn’t be embarrassed. It’s difficult to explain to people that sometimes I simply need to cry and there is no immediate reason why it’s happening, but that it’s the result of taking on so much that it all comes to a head at some very inopportune times. It’s in my love for dramas because I like watching things that make me feel something. And on the opposite end of the spectrum sometimes I am so happy for the wins of others that people may think “why is she so hype?” lol. And it’s because I literally believe that a win for some of us is a win for all of us. It’s why I love to laugh because it overtakes my body with joy.
All of it, I have learned, feeds my writing. It feeds my need to have to get it out whether it be through a blog post or in the private pages of my journal. It helps my ability to write bios for other people and have it radiate with their personality and embody their most important attributes.
Empathy, feeling everything, is not a weakness. It is one of the greatest strengths in your career as a writer. Tap into it. Stop running away from it and find every way to put it into your work. You will be better for it. It will resonate so much more loudly with others and help to amplify the authenticity that has been evading you.
CLICK TO TWEET /// Empathy, feeling everything, is not a weakness; it is one of the greatest strengths.
Fill those books, those blog posts, those journals with not only what you have seen, but also with how the experiences of others have also molded and shaped you.
Essentially this means as writers we’re superheroes right?