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Taking The Emo Out of Emoticon

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A lot of people have blogged about this, and most of them have said it more eloquently than I'm about to, but part of the perks of still being a teenager for a few months is that I'm allowed to keep talking like a teenager. So, in the spirit of teenagerdom, I'm going to use a word a lot of my teenager friends use.


Despite Mr. Emo Smiley here, we don't always use "emo" to describe kids with black hair in their eyes or even kids who listen to "emo-rock" music. Usually, among my friends at least, the word "emo" is used to describe ourselves or others when we/they are being Debbie Downers - complaining about everything, being anti-social, finding fault in the little, inconsequential things. You get the picture.

So, now I'm sure you're wondering "What in the world does being emo have to do with writing?" I'm getting to that.

All writers know that the publishing industry can be a tough one. At every stage there are hurdles to deal with. Querying, submissions, editorial revisions, bad reviews. There is stress everywhere, no matter how far into the process you are. It's a lot, and sometimes it can really get you down. If you let it, the stress and negativity can really start to take over your life. Soon you're tweeting about it, blogging about it, Facebooking about it.

That's when the emo starts infecting others, too. I don't know about you, but every time I scroll down my twitter feed and see that someone I follow is complaining about their bad day . . . well, it makes me sad, too. It's hard to be happy yourself when you are being exposed to negativity by others. All the :-( faces really start to get to you.

Which is what this post is about: taking the Emo out of emoticons - or, um, just offline.

Emo is unavoidable, but it can be controlled. Here are a few tips for how to control your inner Emo Writer when it has the urge to unleash itself.

First, take a few deep breaths. A lot times, Mr. Emo comes out when we're too anxious. Those very normal fears, "What if people don't like my book? What if no agent ever wants to sign me? What if no publisher will buy it?" start to get way too overactive, and they leave our heads and end up on our Facebook walls. Eek! But those fears and worries - which all of us neurotic writers have - are no reason to panic. Just take a breath, tell yourself that no matter what happens, you are going to be okay.

Because that's the truth - no matter what happens, YOU WILL BE OKAY. Remind yourself that there are things you can and can't control, and that you are not the only one with these fears. Published and unpublished writers have them. They don't go away, even after a book or two or fifty are published. So you are not alone. Remember that, and breathe.

If you need to, vent to someone you can trust. Sometimes the stresses do get to be too much, even when you do everything you can to fight them, and you just need to tell someone. Venting is normal and sometimes very necessary. However, you might be better off venting to just one or two people instead of your entire Twitter feed. Most writers seem to develop close friends in the industry that they know they can trust. I know that, when I'm stressed, I can turn to one of my lovely YA Highway girls for support. If you have someone like that, whom you know you can count on privately, talk to them. But be considerate and willing to listen if they need to do the same down the road! If you don't have a friend like that, talk to a family member - sometimes that's even better, because you can get a nice outside perspective on things.

Think before you post. Sometimes, when Mr. Emo really comes out, you don't even realize he's there. There have been many days when I've started to type something into Twitter, then paused and thought "Wow, that sounds really, really negative," and realized I should keep it to myself. Other times, I haven't caught myself.

On those icky emo days, take a moment to think before hitting the '"share" or "tweet" button. Ask yourself, "Is this comment really going to benefit anyone?" There are some things worth being negative about - things that one feels passionate about and wants to share an opinion on. There are other issues, though, that are less helpful to the public. Those posts, the ones that don't benefit anyone, don't benefit you, either, because they just make your followers or friends feel uncomfortable or sad. Consider how you will be making others feel before clicking that button.

Be happy! Yes, it is far easier said than done. But one trick that has worked pretty well for me is, whenever Mr. Emo appears, reminding myself of all the good things I have going on. "I got a bad review, BUT a teenager just emailed me to say this book meant a lot to her." "I'm still on sub, BUT my new manuscript is almost done and I love it!" "I got a rejection from an agent, BUT she said there were a lot of strengths in the manuscript, maybe I can revise." There are a lot of cliche sayings about this: look on the sunny side, see the glass half full, etc. My favorite, however, is "Tell Mr. Emo where to stick it." Your positivity will rub off on others, and we'll all be better for it!

Or, since you're a writer, you could write about it. There was something to be said for the bad poetry you wrote in high school. It got your angst on the page and helped you "express yourself." Well, YA can be your new bad poetry. Feeling emo? Chances are, some of the teenagers in your manuscript are, too. Channel your own angst into them. It's a great way to express yourself AND get some good, raw emotion on the page. Believe me when I tell you that every character I've written has been fueled by my own neuroses at one point or another. So if you really need to let Mr. Emo out, put him to work!

Like I said, you can't avoid emo, but you can control it. I'm going to sound like a hippie, but . . .

Spread the love. Not the hate.

Give me some smileys!

:-) :-D :-)

and tell Mr. Emo to back off!

- - - - -

Debbie Downer - the Ultimate Emo

Kody Keplilnger

Kody is the NYT bestselling author of The DUFF, Shut Out, and A Midsummer's Nightmare, all from Little Brown/Poppy, as well as Lying Out Loud, Run, and the middle grade novel The Swift Boys and Me, from Scholastic. Born and raised in Kentucky, she now lives in NYC.

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  1. Awesome post, Kody. Definitely something we need to keep in mind! And Debbie Downer from SNL lolololol

  2. I shall make an effort to not be emo anymore! =) :-) :-P 8)

  3. Thinking before you post is so very, very, very, very, very important.

    A keystroke in anger could start wars! (Flame wars, but wars nonetheless.)

    That video brought back memories and laughs, thanks!


  4. Well, you definitely didn't sound like a teenager in this post. It's a great reminder that our online presence doesn't have to mirror our offline one. I agree...constant negativity from someone else can make me feel down, too.

  5. Wow, this post was just what I needed right now. I've been being super emo about my writing lately, but I finally realized that being emo does nothing but bring yourself, others and your own writing down.


  6. Great reminder that our words and shortspeak carry power.

    Hmm. Think I'll stash a few smilies up my sleeve for days Mr. Emo comes knocking.

    Thanks for this terrific post!


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Item Reviewed: Taking The Emo Out of Emoticon Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kody Keplinger