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Expressive Writing – 5 Ways to Write With Emotion and Hook Readers

how to write expressively For writers, expressive writing helps hook readers and keep them reading! These ways to write with emotion will help you get in touch with who you really are and what you really think.

And that, fellow scribes, will make you a successful writer.

Before the tips, a quip:

“Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.” ~ Gail Sheehy.

Writing about your feelings when you’re not used to it is about letting go of barriers and opening up to your emotions. Sometimes it’s vulnerability, fear, or the exposure of yourself as a person rather than a writer that can hold you back from writing expressively. It can be daunting to peel back the layers of your life in order to get to your feelings, but you can do it. Your writing will improve, and your readers will be hooked!

To learn more about expressive writing – especially how it helps writers heal and deal with difficult issues – read The Writing Cure: How Expressive Writing Promotes Health and Emotional Well-Being by Stephen Lepore and Joshua Smyth.

Here are some tips to help you write expressively…

5 Ways to Write With Emotion (Expressive Writing)

Articles and novels can evoke feelings from readers — feelings that may inspire them to share the article, buy the book, and share their discovery of this amazing writer with friends. One of the biggest challenges for writers is expressive writing – sharing feelings. Even harder is to be in touch with one’s own feelings, which must come before writing with emotion.

These tips will help you identify your feelings, use them in your writing, and hook readers.

Tune in and turn it up

Play a favorite song and write about the feelings that come up for you. Why do you like it so much? What does it remind you of? What feelings do you get from the song itself? I recently heard one of my favorite songs at a freestyle concert that reminded me of weekend trips to my sister’s house when I was little. Some of the best times for me were spent in her car listening to that song. One of the best ways to write with emotion is to remember those old memories and explore the feelings that come up.

Romeo, where art thou? (Shakespeare was an expressive writer)

Is it possible to write about a loved one and not write with emotion? Perhaps. But if you dig into your love and ask yourself questions (Why do you love that person? How do you feel when you’re around them?), you may find yourself writing expressively without even trying. And remember: expressive writing (and all good writing) isn’t about telling how you feel — it’s about showing how you feel.

Get thee to a nunnery! Write with emotion about someone you dislike

Why do you dislike that person? What feelings come up when you think about that person? Disgust? Annoyance? I had a co-worker once that was very rude to me when asking for things. I felt that she was not respectful of my abilities and time. I did not like her very much as a person. She was also a complainer. Complained about everything under the sun and then some. Very annoying. So much so that I started bringing my Ipod to work in order to tune her voice out. She was so loud, I could still hear her. I was the happiest person in the world when it was announced that she was moving to another department. As you can see, writing about someone you dislike is fodder for expressive writing — and it can hook readers.

Look at a favorite picture – why does it hook you?

Write about the feelings that come up when you look at the picture. On my desk are pictures of my mother with my son, Andy as a baby and a picture of myself with my sister on vacation in Puerto Rico. These two pictures keep me inspired and connected to my feelings as a mother, daughter and sister. A great way to write with emotion is to stay tuned in to those feelings and emotions that pictures incite.

Read and write about a passage in your favorite book

Reading also connects us to our feelings. If you have a favorite writer, think about the emotions evoked by that passage. What exact word or phrase brought out your feelings? How and why are you hooked as a reader?

Remember that once you get the ball rolling on writing about your feelings, you can keep it going by revisiting these tips. And, feel free to share any tips you have used to help you get in touch with your emotions.

Another interesting way to write with emotion is to tap into your dreams! To learn how famous authors use their dreams in writing, read Writers Dreams – How Dreaming Affects the Writing Process.

What do you think about expressive writing – do you think it hooks readers? Comments welcome below…

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About the author: Heiddi Zalamar is a mom/therapist/writer living and working in NYC. You can see her writing at http://heiddizalamar.wordpress.com/ and can email her at Hzalamar@gmail.com.

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16 thoughts on “Expressive Writing – 5 Ways to Write With Emotion and Hook Readers”

  1. Hiya George, it’s great to hear about your “zone.” I think everyone has one and it seems like you’ve pinpointed when you’re at your writing peak. Thanks for your thoughts about the post. 🙂

    Hi RS – Emotions are definitely hard to find if you don’t recognize them. But, it sounds like you got it. Maybe if you try the tips, you’ll be more in tune with your emotions more frequently. Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Adam, thanks so much for the compliment on the post. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for tweeting to your followers. Hope to see you again soon!

  2. Hiya Joyce,

    Thanks for stopping by. As far as sharing your feelings, you need to be the judge of what you do share. You mentioned writing about a family member. That in itself can be a challenge because it’s a family member. Some questions to think about before writing about family members:

    1) If I read this, would my feelings be hurt? Would I be angry?
    2) Is this something I’d be embarrassed about?
    3) Does the person have access online? Can he/she find my work?

    If you can answer these questions honestly, then you’ll know whether or not you should write about family. In terms of your feelings, you have to decide what you will share online.

    I do have that line not only for my family’s sake, but for my career’s sake. I work as a therapist, so I tend to stay away from any topics regarding my personal feelings about therapy. I do write about parenting, family, wellness and mental health, but only to help others and not to express emotion. If you feel that you can express your emotions without hurting others (family included) in the process, then that’s up to you. No one can really say what that line is. Just do what you’re comfortable with knowing that there are consequences for any decisions you make, good or bad. I hope this helps and please come back soon!


  3. Joyce Elferdink (@harmlessjoyce)

    I’ve been trying to “discover my voice” as I write, including inserting more emotional content. Recently I wrote a blog post about a change in my feelings about a family member. Now I’m wondering about the line between expressing emotion and sharing feelings that may be too personal to divulge to readers. Do you have a line?

  4. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I used to write my emotions, thoughts, and feelings in a journal….until I got married and started writing full-time! Now I NEVER journal. I don’t miss it, either.

    But I think that free flow expressive writing in a diary or journal is very, very good practice for writers, whether they’re writing sci fi, their memoirs, or tips-based blog articles 🙂

  5. Hi Uppal,

    Thanks for the comment. I can see that the “amazement” factor is a big part of successful Sci-fi writing/entertainment. I know that I’m amazed by some of the Sci-Fi movies, shows and books I’ve enjoyed. There is alot of physicality involved that keeps readers interested and involved in the story. And you’re right about business and technical writing are part of another genre.
    Sci-fi is really a world unto itself, one that I can’t really speak to because I haven’t written anything like this. If you want tips on this I can recommend Stephen King’s “On Writing.” He shares about his writing process and how he came up with his ideas. I really enjoyed reading his book and watching all of his movies. He’s a great writer expressive and emotional. Please come again for a visit.


  6. Hi Heiddi,Thanks.My concern here is about popular writing.Science-fic too has enormous emotion that of ‘amazement’ which is generated by unbelievable plot structure and unchartered flights of imagination.There is also a lot of physicality involved(passive)in the sense that it keeps our adrenaline risen.Business and technical writings are a type of impersonal communication.These belong to a different genre altogether.

  7. Hi Uppal, welcome to Quips and Tips. I agree that good writing has both styles and that’s what gets readers connected to it. I think the challenge comes when a writer is used to more technical, business-like writing and then tries to write pieces with more emotion involved. Thanks again for visiting and please come again soon.

  8. A good writing has to be a fusion of both expressive and emotional quotient.Since writing is all about life and its manifold avatars ,an expressive piece of writing can hook the reader only if it is threaded with the beads of emotion.I think there is always an interplay of both these styles in an interesting write up.

  9. Hi there Palani. You’re quite welcome. I’m glad that it’s helping you. I’ve benefited from writing out my emotions since I was a child. I look back on old journals and am amazed by the detail in my writing. And reading them allows me to revisit those old feelings. Thanks again for reading and I hope you visit again soon. 🙂

  10. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for sharing the difference between expressive writing and emotional writing, Heiddi. I bet it could be the subject of a whole book or writing course 🙂

  11. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks again for letting me share. I do think that the terms can be confused especially when in comes to writing.

    I looked up both terms on Google and here’s what I’ve found.

    According to WikiDictionary:

    expressive – means effectively conveying thought or feeling

    emotional – associated with mood, temperament, personality and disposition.

    Based on these two defitions, expressive writing is any that allows the writer to share thoughts or feelings. And emotional writing allows for a description of mood, temperament, personality or disposition.

    Ex: I think kids are great. (expressive)
    My son is an amazing kid and I love him so much. (emotional)

    Adam – thanks so much. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    RS – Writing with emotions isn’t easy to do at will. What can help you is to use a journal to write about your feelings as you experience them. I keep a journal now about being a single mom (which will be a book by the time I’m done) and it has helped get through challenging times while also giving me the chance to process my feelings about the experience. You can do it! 🙂 I carry it around with me all the time so that when I do have that moment, I can write about it.

    George – I can’t speak to writing SEO articles. My writing is more to inspire and challenge others to follow their dreams or to just appreciate the things they have. My goal with my work is to help others, so my passion shines through it. lol I’ll have to try my hand at SEO writing so that I can incorporate emotions. Thanks again for reading.

    Laurie – I can see how the terms can be confusing. Hopefully, what I’ve written here can clear it up. Thanks again.

  12. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for this post, Heiddi!

    But I wonder — is there a difference between “expressive writing” and “emotional writing”? I know that I tweaked your title, and that you didn’t originally title your article “expressive writing.”

    Do you think there’s a difference between the two? Like, expressive writing is to help people get over traumatic events…and emotional writing is how writers connect with their readers?

    Maybe I’ve blurred the two terms, which should be distinct…

    George — I KNOW — it is totally hard to write with passion and keep long-tail keywords and SEO in mind! I hear ya, my friend.

    RS – I agree; if you deliberately try to write with emotion, it may come off as phony. But if you just connect with yourself in the ways Heiddi suggested, it’s more real.

  13. There is no doubt that things written in passion hook readers. The hard thing for writers is to write with passion about a long-tailed keyword article. Yikes.

    Fiction is different and comes from a different place (for me anyway). I know that when I’m in that writing zone, it puts me in a place of passion


  14. I wish I could write with emotions at will but sometimes the harder I try; my writing become more ridiculous. But when my emotions flows and I just have to write it down even I get touch with what I wrote. I guess connecting to our emotions is the key and the recognition of it.