Are you prone to tears?
I’m a charter member of the Weepy Women’s Club.
I cry when I’m sad, when I’m happy, when I’m deeply moved. Although I wish that weren’t the case, it’s how I’m emotionally wired. I learned at an early age to carry tissues and to warn friends of my tendency to shed tears.
Our daughter was only two when I taught her what tears of joy were. She’d see me get misty-eyed when she acquired a new skill and think she’d done something wrong. I wanted her to understand that I was happy. She’s 20 now and actually tries to make me cry at times. When I opened a gift from her last Christmas, one selected especially for me, I teared up. She got a big smile on her face because she knew she’d scored.
Being a leaky faucet can be embarrassing at times, though. At the ACFW conference last year I was privileged to sit with my agency mates, just two places from my new agent. As I looked around the table, I was overcome with a profound sense of gratitude and awe, so much so that my eyes filled. I did my best to breathe deeply, blink rapidly, and all the other tricks supposed to keep tears at bay, but they failed me.
Others noticed me weeping, and I was mortified. I apologized, explaining that nothing was wrong. I told them I was just so happy to be sitting with them in that place at that time.
To my surprise, my friends didn’t find fault with me. Instead they showered me with acceptance. My agent even got out of her chair, crouched behind mine, gave me a hug, and told me she was glad I was there, too. I smiled through my tears.
Writing can be a challenging profession. We’re told we must develop thick skin and let things bounce off. I try. Really I do, but I fail. I feel the pain of a pass. I feel sad when I find out my story stinks. I feel fear when the words aren’t flowing. And sometimes I cry.
But I’ve shed many tears of joy, too. Sure, there have been some for myself. I’ve wept over contest wins, my offer of representation, my First Sale. But I tear-up for others just as easily. When I learn that a friend finaled in a contest, signed with an agent, or sold her first book, my eyes fill. The first time I saw my critique partner’s latest book in print–the first one I’d helped her with–I blubbered like a baby. That was a two-tissue moment.
As a writer, I’ve learned that characters who cry can be perceived as weak. We’re warned not to let their tears fall. However, I’ve read moving scenes in books or watched them in movies when characters gave way to their emotions, and I didn’t think of them as weak. I connected with those characters at a deeper level because they were moved to tears. They felt deeply, and as a result, so did I.
I used to chastise myself for being a weepy woman, but I’m doing my best to accept that God gave me tear ducts that work all too well and a heart that feels things deeply. That’s not to say I’m going to become a free-flowing fountain. I’ll continue to fight for self-control just as my characters do, but when the tears fall, as I’m sure they will, I won’t be as quick to condemn myself.
What do you think about characters who cry? Do you see tears as a sign of weakness? Or do you find a character who is moved to tears during times of intense emotion one you can relate to? If you’re a writer, have you written scenes where a character gives way to tears? And I have to ask. Am I the only member of the Weepy Women’s Club, or are there other tissue-toting members out there?