Oversensitive? Good For You! by Callene Rapp

Writers often get classified with other artistic types as being overly emotional and overly sensitive.

And usually, no one says it to you as if it’s a good thing.

We writers seem to sometimes be at the mercy of the world around us as if we are leaves being buffeted in a strong wind, and events, people, and emotions can have a strong impact on us.

Being sensitive can have its drawbacks, but it can also have some major benefits for us as creative types.

Sensory Detail

We are tuned in to more sensory detail, and it can be a much richer experience just looking about us.   For example, leaves aren’t just green, they are a colorful cacophony of shade and hue and texture ranging from soft minty spring green to the mature bloom of summer.  Sensitive people can have higher ability to discriminate shade and color, and we can use that extra detail to fuel descriptiveness in our writing.

Sometimes this can work against us; I nearly came to blows with a my husband once when a sweater he kept calling “blue” was so freaking clearly “grey” to me, I couldn’t believe it.  Granted, it was a blue-grey, but still grey.  I think in terms of shades, he functions in primary colors.  We don’t have that sweater any more, either.  He now has one in a lovely shade of ecru. Not beige.

Emotional Awareness

Sensitive people also tend to be much more in tune with their inner emotional life than less aware folks.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that we understand or can control the turbulence that hits us from time to time, or even that we can put a name to what we feel.  But it can sure give us an “in” to developing rich characters that jump off the page, and more importantly, that people can relate to and want to keep coming back for more.


Sensitivity combined with introversion, a trait that describes a lot of writers, can naturally enhance creativity.  So no, it’s absolutely fine that you have complex dialogs with fictional characters in your head while you are sitting in a boring meeting or stuck in a dull, crowded party.  Just try not to speak them out loud and don’t forget to write them down as soon as you get a chance.  And remember to mentally check in at the meeting once in a while.


All that sensitivity can enhance our abilities as writers, but with every benefit comes a caveat.

Down Time

Sensitive people require more down time to recharge, and soothe those nerves and emotions that can get rubbed raw by all the inputs that come at us at a hundred miles an hour.  Don’t ever feel bad or guilty for taking the time to do whatever makes you feel human again, whether it’s going for a long walk alone, listening to music, or anything that works for you.

Other People’s Emotions

Other people’s emotions and actions can really buffet the sensitive person around. Just being around someone in a full on snit can be draining, and it’s tough to recover your equilibrium.  We may also find ourselves bending over backwards to accommodate someone else’s mood when it isn’t really our responsibility to make it all better for them.  And that can drain the energy we need to do our writing and take care of ourselves.  Don’t we all know at least one person who can suck the fun out of birthday cake? Avoid them. Your muse will thank you.


So the next time you find yourself being labeled as “sensitive”, remember overall it’s a good thing.  Just remember to spend the time and energy to make that sensitivity work for you rather than against you.

Are you sensitive?  Does it work for you or against you?  Have you ever thrown away a sweater because you and your husband can’t agree on the color?  (Kidding!)  But what do you do to keep your head above water when you feel like you’re drowning in input?


Callene Rapp



  1. This is one of my favorite posts here at ROW80, Callene! While I’ve never been accused of being overly sensitive, my mother always told me, ‘You could spot a zit on a tick’s a**, girlie!’ *smiles wryly* I took her reference to my love-of-observation as a compliment.

    I do tend to need a great deal of solitude, and I become overstimulated (that’s the nice word for cranky) with too much going on around me. Your insight into this trait is refreshing and wholly encouraging! Thanks.

  2. Great post. I often feel like an emotional sponge. Alone time is necessary to wring myself out. Otherwise I become very… un-Spongebob-like. Crabby. Yeah, that’s it.

    I do try to use my powers for good, though. Sometimes, when you’re able to pry open that sponge container, the emotions just ooze onto the page and people are touched. In a good, non-icky-ooze kind of way.

    Like you noted, there are definitely pros and cons.

  3. This is bloody brilliant, Callene! My more sensitive-souled son and I know what teal is, but the other two men in my house function on blue or green, not both. Wonderful thoughts here.

  4. After a few weeks of feeling a both weepy and overly sensitive (and praying for some downtime) this was exactly what I needed, Callene. Even though I actually knew this, clearly I had not internalized it…

    Reminders always welcome!

  5. I’m definitely needing time out right now. It always takes me a while to realize how desperately I need to step back and stop trying to produce things. Thanks for saying this out loud and painting a picture of why that’s useful.

  6. Oh, am I ever. Sensitive, that is. I’ve had to develop a shell over the years, else I’d now be emotional roadkill. Sensitivity is required for writing, but in life, it can get in the way. I’ve stopped trying to be the “fixit” person for other people. But I still get buffeted by emotions; old memories rise up like ghosts, and can whip me around until I’m frozen inside, unable to do anything except write. Sometimes that’s when the best writing happens.

  7. This is probably the world’s greatest article about this subject!

    As a writer – wait, as a person – sensitivity has been one of my “issues” and one I’ve had trouble accepting. To hear that not only is it okay, there are benefits – woo! What a joy. Seriously. And the caveats are all too true: I’ve never been able to socialize or do anything in the world without needing my down-time. Now I know that not only is it okay, it’s a very good idea.

    One thing I think all sensitive people/writers need to know – something I remind myself of regularly – is that the people you think are affected by your over-sensitivity are less aware of it than you think. Often, they haven’t even noticed. Funny, huh?

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