Callene Rapp

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


Playing Nice With Others—And With Yourself by Callene Rapp


Until about a couple of years ago I pretty much existed in a writing vacuum.  I didn’t know hardly any other writers.  I hid anything I did write behind a ridiculous pseudonym and refused to put myself ‘out there’ for fear of ridicule and rejection.  But I finally realized that if I were going to actually write and get published, then that was going to be part of the game and I could either get in and play, or continue to ride the bench.

So I cautiously edged out of my comfort zone, took a few online classes, actually stopped using that fake name as my email address, and edged my way into the community of writers.

What do you know…no one sent me packing and told me to go back home where I belong!

I learned that the doubt, insecurity, fear and fragile optimism that I felt, nearly every single other writer I met experienced also, even the ones who had attained that Holy Grail of writing:  Successful Publication.

I also discovered that writers are some of the most compassionate, helpful, encouraging, wonderful people to be around, and will go out of their way to encourage a newbie, offer advice, a sympathetic ear, or anything a fledgling might need to feel good about what they are doing.

So why can we be so mean to ourselves?

I was having a conversation with a good friend a while back, in which I was apparently bashing myself up one side and down the other for some writing failure I had committed.  I thought I was just being honest, but my friend didn’t see it that way.

She told me if I didn’t quit knocking myself, she was going to hit me.

I didn’t.

She did.

Right on top of my ball cap, right on that little metal button. I saw stars for about a second, but she had my attention.  I heard myself for the first time.  I heard how much venom I spewed out about myself that I considered, in my own mind, just being honest.

Nasty stuff.

Stuff I would never expect to hear anyone say to me without getting my size 7 ropers in their keister, and stuff I would never ever ever say to anyone else.  Not even my worst enemy.

So why in the hell was I saying it to myself? 

Those little voices in our minds can be so insidious, and because we get so accustomed to hearing that negative loop we don’t even realize it until someone smacks us on top of the head.  They become part of the surroundings we take for granted, the wallpaper, the music in the background, the very air we breathe.

The critics would never get a chance to say anything negative to me.

I was poisoning myself, and defeating my own dream of being a writer before I even gave myself a chance.

Until someone smacked me on top of the head and made me listen to myself for a change.

And I imagine there is one or two of you out there that may be listening to a similar loop in your mind.

I can’t be there to smack you on top of the head, but I can challenge you to stop.  Listen.  And then say something kind to yourself about your writing, your progress, your goals, your dreams.  Talk to yourself like you would someone who needed a friend.

You deserve it.

And yes, that friend that smacked me on top of the head and I are still close.  I just watch what I say around her.  And myself.  I don’t wear my ball cap as much either.


Callene Rapp