I once heard a dynamic speaker teach on making significant decisions.
He told us all to remember the word “halt”.
Halt is an acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. This leader said if you’re feeling any of those emotions strongly, then put off (halt) the decision. One or more of those strong emotions can skew your judgment and you’re likely to make an unwise decision. It’s great advice – for making decisions. So, what do you do with strong emotions?
A Remarkable Truth about Writing
Amazingly, these emotions, which are terrible for decision making, are productive for writing. Have you tried to write an angry character when you’re in a wonderful mood, or tried to write about a starving shipwreck survivor after pushing back from the table? It’s hard. You’re not in touch with those emotions. Take advantage of those moments when you are. I don’t recommend that you write for large amounts of time in any of these circumstances. But, for a time, it’s helpful in two ways. You can capture the emotion for your writing and deal with it in a constructive way.
Everyone knows that stopping for a snack every ten minutes is counterproductive. What about when you are hungry and it is time to eat? Denying yourself occasionally is fruitful. Writing through your lunch time might be what you need to get you from chapter one to chapter two.
Hunger can make you irritable, but you can turn that into a positive. Let it push you instead. Use that tension to finish an assignment or tap out 1000 more words before stopping. The adrenaline rush from your accomplishment will make up for the hunger. Physical hunger helps you write about soul hunger or hunger of the heart as well.
Writing an angry letter when you’re upset can help you get your thoughts out instead of stewing over them. It will help you express your frustrations. Note: I’d strongly advise that you revise the communication in a better mood before sending it anywhere.
Similarly, writing about an irate person while in an irritable mood will give you ideas for your fictional depiction, and it is healthier for your own character than doing other things that might come to mind.
Lonely moods are often pensive and quiet. Is loneliness what you need for your battlefield story? How lonely is a Bushman in the Australian outback? Use your sense of isolation to write about a difficult news story, or even put it into a poem. The loneliness and loss Edgar Allen Poe felt are quite tangible in the classic poem, “The Raven.”
Write down how your brain feels when it is tired; notice how it thinks in different ways. In survival mode, you make odd connections. This doesn’t always make for solid writing, but on occasion it can work to simply get something written. It often does work well for title or idea generation, and for those important “what if” questions. It’s no secret that I like Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone series. The amount that Rod Serling wrote proves he was disciplined to write regularly, but I imagine that a few episodes came to him in tired moments and on sleepless nights.
So, if you think that you are not in the mood to write, maybe you are. Maybe, the emotion you feel is one that needs to be written, where it can be productive instead of destructive. There is one decision that is okay to make when hungry, angry, lonely or tired. If you can’t find anything else to do with it, trap the emotions between paper and ink (or on your computer) where they are likely to do more good than harm.
Have you written through your lunch or dinner?
Have you written when you were angry? Was it productive?