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Don’t Be That Way!

By Sarah Sundin

“Don’t be so sensitive!” the elementary school playground attendant snapped at me after I’d dissolved in a puddle of tears over a slight from a classmate.

“Stop exaggerating,” my mother said. “You’re always so dramatic.”

“Sarah daydreams too much,” my teacher noted on my report card.

If you’re a writer, chances are that you heard one or more of those statements as a child. But traits that are often seen as negatives may be our greatest strengths as writers.

Don’t Be So Sensitive!

The sensitive child feels every slight, senses the emotions of those around her, and expresses her emotions strongly. My playground attendant was right in some ways—I had to learn to bear those slights and not cry so easily, a tendency that only encouraged the bullies.

But she was wrong about becoming less sensitive. God made me sensitive, and sensitivity is a valuable trait in a novelist. Feeling deeply, imagining how others feel, and empathizing with our heroes and villains makes our novels richer and stronger.

Don’t Be So Dramatic!

The dramatic child has never met a story he can’t improve on. Humorous embellishments and dramatic flourishes make anecdotes far more entertaining. But my mother had good points—honesty is vital, of course, and a dramatic child can try your nerves. With His great sense of humor, God gave me a dramatic child of my own.

However, a flair for drama and exaggeration benefits our stories. One of the first writing lessons we learn is, “Make it worse!” Your hero has five minutes before the villain fulfills his dastardly plan, and he lives four minutes away. What if he gets a flat tire? His GPS fails? His girlfriend calls and dumps him so he can’t keep his wits about him? Dramatic embellishments—in moderation—enhance the mood of a scene and increase the impact on the reader.

Stop Daydreaming!

The daydreaming child lives in her own world and may have difficulties getting her work done, following instructions, and making friends. My teacher was right—I needed to become disciplined, to put my assignments before my daydreams, to listen, and to engage in the real world.

And yet imagination and creativity add flavor to life! Without daydreaming, no novels would ever get written. When we allow our minds to play, we can solve plot problems, delve deep into our characters personalities, and find fresh turns of phrase.

Be That Way!

God made you the way you are for a reason. Almost all personal traits have negative aspects that need to be addressed, but almost all have positive aspects to embrace.

If you’re sensitive, use it to add emotional depth to your stories. If you’re dramatic, use it to make your scenes more riveting. And accept the fact that your imagination is your workspace. When you stare into the distance is when you perform your most creative work.

Have you ever been told, “Don’t be that way”? Have you found value in that particular trait, a way that it enables you in a certain area of life? If so, embrace it. Let God smooth off its rough edges, and embrace it.

Sarah Sundin is the author of ten novels, including The Sea Before Us (February 2018). Her novels When Tides Turn and Through Waters Deep were named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” A mother of three, Sarah lives in California. Visit her website at www.sarahsundin.com.

 

 

 

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8 Responses to Don’t Be That Way!

  1. Kathy West says:

    Spot on, Sarah, I totally agree! Telling someone to not be sensitive when they have been mistreated is blaming the victim. Of course we all need to learn the best way to manage the traits we have been given, as well as remember that God made us as we are for a reason, will help us when we ask, and loves us just as we are.

  2. Sarah Sundin says:

    Thank you, Kathy! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. Barbara Fox says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I love this post. Sensitive people often go through their lives getting crushed until they learn that God created them exactly the way He wanted them. Creatives are sensitive. That sensitivity not only helps writers, it makes for a kinder world.

  4. Sarah Sundin says:

    Barbara – so true! Reading the book “Quiet” was life-changing for me – to realize for the first time that sensitivity is a genetic trait, how we’re created! Not a character flaw.

  5. Marilyn says:

    Great post, Sarah! I have a “drama king” grandson who sometimes gets confused about truth and fiction. I should encourage him to be a writer! How about being told you read too much into things? Is that another writerly characteristic?

  6. Janice Laird says:

    Wonderful post! As an major introvert with an extrovert mother, I grew up believing something was WRONG with me because I preferred to not chat all day, was shy, bullied and far more comfortable being in my own head. It;s taken me years to figure this out, but no. Nothing’s wrong with me, and it has converged to bring sensitivity to my writing. God always has a plan, no?

  7. Sarah Sundin says:

    Marilyn – yes, on both counts 🙂

  8. Sarah Sundin says:

    Janice, so true! We have to be so careful to be mindful of how we speak to our kids. We can’t and shouldn’t change the essence of who they are, how God created them – but we do need to encourage them to counteract the negative aspects of those traits. The shy child does need to learn to interact in the world, just as the extroverted child needs to learn to slow down and think 🙂