Letting off steam

We often talk about creativity, and in particular writing, as a cathartic act, a way of letting off steam. Counsellors recommend keeping journals or scribbling down your thoughts to give them form. Many writers expel their inner demons through the pen or the keyboard. Even when I was answering complaints for a living I found satisfaction in venting my real response onto the page, then deleting it and crafting the tactful reply we sent out.

Letting off some real steam - picture by Peter Shanks via Flickr creative commons
Letting off some real steam – picture by Peter Shanks via Flickr creative commons


It’s not always about venting negativity. In ‘Surprise Me‘ I tried to express both the frustrations I’d felt doing tedious jobs and the excitement I felt when I was younger and first falling in love. Because venting those emotions can help get bad feelings off your chest, but it can also give you a chance to relive the joys that you want to dwell on.

We like to think that readers can see that passion on the page. Maybe it’s just a lie we tell ourselves to help us cope with the darkness, this idea that letting out our real pains creates art and so pleasure for others. Certainly it’s a comforting thought.

But maybe there’s something in it. After all, if you’re re-living a real emotion then you can describe it better, pick out the little nuances and the parts that we blot from our memories later. Maybe letting off steam makes better writers of us all, as well as healthier human beings.

So how about you? Do you find yourself venting your feelings as you write, whether it’s stories, essays or just emails to friends? Does writing help you get emotions off your chest, and is it normally the good or the bad ones?

And if you’ve just read ‘Surprise Me’ what did you think – did I succeed in getting those emotions across?