96. Writing Through Your Anger

If you’re like most humans, you probably get angry when you or someone you care about is mistreated.

You get angry about all the injustices in the world.

You get angry for all types of completely valid reasons, and I can almost guarantee some of those topics that raise your blood pressure will be relevant to your book.

In this episode, you’ll discover why it’s perfectly acceptable and sometimes necessary to write about your anger and how to do it effectively without having a total meltdown.

For more writing tips and inspiration, follow me on Instagram @candiceldavis.

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Episode Transcript

Hey there, and welcome to Nothing but the Words, I’m your Author Coach Candice L. Davis. I hope your week and your writing are both going well.

Today, I want to talk about writing about subjects that make you angry, topics that push your buttons and raise your blood pressure.

I don’t know about you, but there’s plenty going on in the world today that makes me angry.

So often, especially if you’re writing your own story in a personal or professional memoir, part of that story will include moments that infuriated you.

Even if you’re writing as the expert on a topic, not writing your own memoir, you may have come to that topic because of your own negative experiences.

For example, if you want to take a stand against sex trafficking, or the injustices of the so-called criminal justice system, or the failures of the American health care system, or you’re writing about the history of the Jim Crow South, then you might reasonably feel some sense of anger about these topics.

That’s just real.

But how do you handle that anger when you’re writing your book?

Your anger can come out on the page in a number of ways, some destructive and some that serve your readers.

Obviously any use of negative terms to describe people who disagree with you can come across as immature and biased and will likely harm the success of your book.

It will certainly have a good chance of turning off anyone who was on the fence on the issue.

Writing that focuses on the problem without offering any solutions or which offers no hope can also come across as angry and unproductive.

Snarky language and sarcasm can turn off readers, especially since the meaning can be lost on the page. (Although I’ll confess I do love well-done sarcasm.)

Some experts might tell you that you shouldn’t share your anger in your book at all, but I don’t believe that’s always the case.

In my experience, there are ways you can channel that anger that will help you write a book.

So how do you do that?

First, consider your audience.

Different people will receive your anger in different ways.

I remember walking through the student union as a first-year college student during a festival.

There was an older, Black man in a vendor booth. And by older, I mean he was probably in his 30s or early 40s, but compared to me at 17, that was older. 

This brother had a commanding presence and a strong voice, but he was clearly angry. He was yelling and gesticulating. 

For small-town me, what felt like aggression made me completely tune him out.

But my friend, Cameron, who was with me, was totally into what this man was saying.

Even though I had been exposed to a lot of ideas, my experience was extremely limited. Most of what I knew I’d learned from books. And I did not like to be yelled at by anyone.

Cameron was a grown man. He had served in the Navy and returned to college after completing his service.

He was older than I was, and he had seen more of the world, and after his time in the military, men yelling didn’t faze him.

When Cameron asked me what I thought of what the vendor was saying, I told him I had no opinion because I can’t listen to people yelling at me.

The vendor lost one of us, but he also hooked one of us. Cameron was his audience, but I wasn’t.

Consider your audience. 

You’re not likely to win anyone over to your side of an argument with anger.

But if you’re trying to rally the troops, people who agree with you and who you want to fire up to take action, then they might connect with your anger, especially if you give them something to do with that anger, some way to channel it that can make a real difference.

Second, consider how you want to be seen.

If you’re writing about something that’s personal to you, perhaps some abuse or mistreatment you suffered, you can absolutely share the anger you felt about that experience.

You can even express that you still feel anger about it.

But show us other sides of you too. Because you are more than your anger.

Show us your sadness, your insights, your growth, and your joy.

Show us your flaws and your gifts.

Listen. When you publish your book, you send your representative into the world.

So many people will read your book and form an opinion of you before they even meet you or instead of ever meeting you.

If you want to be seen as an angry person, if that’s the image you’re cultivating, by all means, go ahead and be the angry author.

But if you’re human and multifaceted like the rest of us, consider balancing the anger you share with all the other sides of you.

Consider your audience and consider how you want to be seen.

And third, consider what you want your readers to do.

If your writing is destructive in such a way that it appeals to your readers’ lowest impulses, if it might spur people to behave in a destructive manner, then I’m going to say you need to tone down the anger.

You can call for your readers to tear down the patriarchy, but the methods you give them to do so will make all the difference. You can’t call for them to burn down an all-male social club, but you can encourage them to protest those systems in other ways.

Show your readers how you channel your anger to make meaningful change and give them ways to do the same.

You can share with your readers that you’re still angry about being harassed on your job, but also show them how you’ve moved on from that situation and what you learned.

Your book should serve your readers in a constructive way, whether it enlightens, instructs, entertains, or illuminates. 

But in most cases, that doesn’t mean you have to be emotionless in your writing or hide your true response to situations.

You can write about what makes you angry and still leave your readers better off for having read your book.

You’re a complete human being with the full range of human emotions, and even anger can have a place in your book.

That’s all for this week’s episode, my friends. For more writing tips and inspiration, follow me on Instagram @CandiceLDavis.

Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach Candice L. Davis, and I’ll see you next time.

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