Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired; Terrible for Decisions – Excellent for Writing

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.

Hungry Writing

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.

Angry Writing

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 Writing

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.”

Tired WritingBench - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired; Terrible for Decisions - Excellent for Writing

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?

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18 comments on “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired; Terrible for Decisions – Excellent for Writing
  1. I saw on another blog you commented that you write articles as well as longer materials, so I had to come over and meet you! I’m a freelance writer by day, novel writer by night, so I write articles, blogs, books…I’m always writing. I do tend to wind down when I’m tired, but I’ve found with article writing, it isn’t as nerve-wracking. That seems to come more natural to me.
    Stephanie Faris recently posted…Fight Songs for WritersMy Profile

  2. Diane says:

    I have learned to deal with these emotions through the years, and didn’t realize there was a basis for it – Halt.
    Poetry is a good way to express anger, or loneliness, and put them on paper, giving someone an outlet; the same way you say to write your feelings down, but re-do before sending it.
    I appreciate your posts and the feedback is excellent for gaining new insights…

    • I don’t know if “Halt” originated with this speaker, but I remembered it. It stuck with me, and it made sense. Thank you for letting me know that you appreciate my posts. Let me know if there is an idea or subject you’d like to see addressed.

  3. Rebekah Jones says:

    Great article! HALT — I remind myself of that several times a week. Especially when I’m too tired or hungry it’s not the time for me to make decisions or even have a conversation. I learned this the hard way many years ago. 🙂

    • Rebekah I’m glad that you use this process, and I’m happy you stopped by to read and leave a comment. I’ve certainly learned about some of these the hard way too. When I heard this speaker it made so much sense. To write about them is wiser.

  4. aravindhan says:

    Nice article when I read it reminds me of my experiances.I observed it many times in my own life, to be effective to feel relaxed.But is not always writing , may be drawing, making paper toys, so and so

  5. KL Wagoner says:

    I have been so absorbed in a story or character that I’ve written through lunch AND dinner. I don’t usually write when I’m experiencing strong emotions, but I don’t have a problem tuning into those feelings when they’re important to a character’s story.
    KL Wagoner recently posted…Speculative Fiction Writing Contests: 2nd QuarterMy Profile

  6. Deanne says:

    I can identify with what Dana said – getting words on the page when you’re angry or hurt can be cathartic. (As long as we don’t hit “send”!) It’s like those words need to be cleansed from our system, and I also feel clearer when the words and feelings have been removed from my system. I don’t always use that work in my writing, but it does free me to continue writing once that monkey’s off my back.

    • With email, my wife says don’t fill in the recipient’s name even because it’s too easy to accidentally hit send. For me, most of the time the email gets edited or even deleted and even is better off.

  7. Beverly says:

    Peter, another great post. It’s helpful to have something to “do” when we are feeling strongly. Writing is the best way for me, too.

  8. It’s an interesting question, and I had to think a bit

    The issue for me is that I don’t identify with my characters to a large degree – they are ‘me’ only in minor details, and I have to go on research (and sometimes memory) to animate their emotions.

    The ‘me, today’ whose emotions might come through is far different from what most readers would expect to meet – or would like to meet. I have a high tolerance for pain, fatigue, and hunger, and an extremely low tolerance for what I perceive to be carelessness or lack of focus. Part of that’s driven by PTSD, part by terminal illness, but you can’t write that stuff into a character, nor let any significant traces in. It’s boring.

    To paraphrase a Klingon proverb…”A character’s emotions, like revenge, are a dish best enjoyed cold.”
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Love StoryMy Profile

    • Andrew thanks for your comments. It means a lot that you take the time to comment with all that you are doing and dealing with. I know that everyone’s process is unique.

  9. dana mentink says:

    I agree with you, Peter. Sometimes when I’m angry or hurt and I fire off the email (WITHOUT sending it, of course) I find that I’ve focused myself and feel clearer and more in control just for having captured the situation in writing.

    Also, writing from a point of sadness can be so powerful because it comes across as real on the page. Thanks for the cool post!

    • Dana, thanks for leaving your comments. I’m glad you related to my post.

      Yes, sadness can be powerful. I don’t know if you had the chance to read my post from last month about mine, titled, What to Do on Dark Days When Words Do Not Come. (April 17th)

      It got a lot of responses and people related to it and shared their own stories.

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  1. […] forget it. Don’t give the person control over you. Squeeze a stress ball, pop some bubble wrap or use those emotions to write something new. Take a moment, but then learn to let it go. That person wasn’t your audience, but if you […]

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