How to Super-Charge Your Content
With Emotion


There’s a specific reason why I wake up in the morning and end up writing 3-4 articles before I even hit the first sip of coffee. It’s because I’m all charged up.

The emotions are flowing:

  • I’m happy.
  • Or I’m sad.
  • Or I’m frustrated beyond belief.

And the reason why I get into these crazy moods is because I’ve just read a blog post. Or someone’s just written me an email that I strongly disagree with, or maybe simply asked me a question.

I don’t need caffeine to get going.

I’m now all charged up, and ready to answer that email, refute that blog post, or give a distinguished answer to the question in the forum. The emotions are raging like a river in a thunderstorm.

I don’t even pause to stop for structure. I just write, furiously.

And suddenly, I’ve fashioned out an answer. But guess what, my response is no longer just an answer to a blog post, or forum post, or email…

It’s a full-blown article, and it’s far superior to the article I was going to write.

It doesn’t matter what article I intended to write, because there’s no way on earth I can drum up enough emotion with a cold-start. I struggle through the words. I long for structure. I edit, re-edit, post-edit, pre-edit. In other words, I go nuts when sitting down to write an article from scratch.

But when I respond to a blog post or email, I’m no longer trying to be Superwriter®. I’m just trying to get a point across as I would in a conversation. And it helps a whole lot if I know who I’m talking to in the first place.

So if JoeShmoe says: Work Smarter, Not Harder, then something in my brain instantly explodes. I suddenly think, this JoeShmoe has no freakin’ idea at all. That ‘Work Smart’ cliché is a bloomin’ myth, because you actually work harder as you get higher up the ranks. Now that Joe Shmoe (whoever he is) has got me going, I’m roller-coasting my way into the answer without even knowing it.

When I’ve finished answering the post, I’ve done several things:

  1. I’ve dumped a truckload of emotion into the article (Can you feel it, can you feel it?…)
  2. I’ve written with a sense of flow. Not pausing, mulling, pausing… just writing.
  3. My answer on the post, email, forum is long, detailed, and hence stands out not only in length, but also in depth.
  4. The post I’ve answered is so nice and detailed, that it’s chunky enough to use on my own blog/website/booklet/course/presentation/podcast/video (you’re getting the idea, eh?).

But what about the structure of the article?

Well, structure matters. And it helps to learn how to write as well as you can.

But in many cases, emotion will save the day. All you really have to do is take your response, tweak it a bit and while you haven’t got the world’s best article, you’ve got one heck of an article.

Most writers need coffee to get going—they need some additional stimulant.

Well, now you have your stimulant.

Go find some posts to answer. And let that torrent of emotion run wild.

(Yes, this article was written in response to a forum post—just in case you were wondering). :)

About the Author: Sean D’Souza offers a free report on ‘Why Headlines Fail’ when you subscribe to his Psychotactics Newsletter. Check out his blog, too.

Print Friendly

What do you want to learn?

Click to get a free course and resources about:

Reader Comments (61)

  1. says

    Yes! Feel the hate–let the emotion take over. Honestly, screw structure when you’re really on a rant. Nothing destroys a good rant than 8th grade English class lessons on structure. I always need an emotion start to write any good post. It’s dull otherwise. My heart starts it, my brain assembles it, and my fingers make it happen.

  2. says

    I wonder what you write like when you do have a coffee;).

    It makes a post allot more interesting to read when you can feel the emotion in it, and their is nothing like a good ol rant to get the blood pumping!.

    Even a humorous take on issues tend to get allot of feedback too, but that would probably only happen after an apple juice;). See!:)

  3. says

    High emotion really works for me, and I get the same back from my readers; it brings whatever subject matter I’m discussing ALIVE. Hate, anger and frustration tend to make my writing funnier, perversely enough. But I don’t question how my mind works, I just let it. Structuring and editing are secondary to feeling!

  4. says

    I need to be more emotional in my post. I’ve also thought about starting to wake up early to try and hammer out a few posts before the day gets going. I’m feeling charged up after reading the post.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. says

    Absolutely! Emotions incite my writing! Give me melancholy and a rainy day anytime!

    I’m curious…what do you think of “title first” writing (which is the case for me)…Do you title your piece after or before?

    Thanks as always for a terrific post (emotional as it is!) :~)

    Best Always,

  6. says

    Excellent post and you are 100% dead on! Some of my best posts have been written this way and tend to invite the most coversation and feedback from readers.

    And coffee can actually help incite my emotion and makes me crank out a post pretty fast. It works different for everyone.

  7. says

    I loved this post especially just after reading one on BlogHer about the importance of good grammar and close editing! The posts and blogs I enjoy the most are personal, evocative and written with an authenticity that trumps carefully reworded and grammatically correct every time! Words are more than structure, they are paint….

  8. says

    I agree with JColier I could feel the emotion and now I’m getting all charged up. I’m going to need an outlet for it soon and preferably a productive one.

    You are right, when I’m emotionally involved with an article it means more to me. My best stuff comes out when I write that way.

  9. says


    I love this, and I (try to) do it every day. Those are my favorite comments, my favorite posts, even long afterward–the ones where my emotion is jumping off the page. They usually get the best comments, too, because love me or hate me, when I let the emotions roll off the keyboard, it’s going to make my readers feel emotional, too.



  10. says

    Ok, for starters, I was getting really mad writing the post, because three mosquitoes/mosquitos were buzzing around me. So I was mad. Because I couldn’t really get to the stupid mosquitoes.

    Then there was this guy on my email, talking to me about something that was so idiotic that you wanted to slap him a bit. So yes, there’s the formula. Get a trio of mosquitoes and some email to rev you up.

    P.S. I got those mosquitoes in the end.
    And finished several articles as well.

  11. says

    @ Henie:
    I have a brief title before I start, when I’m writing from a ‘cold’ start. But when I’m writing in answer to a post, there’s no title. I’m just reacting to the person. I’m talking to the person every time. Like right now as I type this, I can see Kelly’s post just above this frame, but I keep looking at your name. And I know I’m talking to you and no one else.

    This method beats the ‘cold’ method any day. Believe me, I write about 4-5 articles a day. Efficiency, without losing drama and clarity, is top of my mind. And I’ve yet to find a more efficient method of getting moving at 4:03 am.

  12. says

    Great advice… formulatic articles are devoid of spirit. The content may be sound but it doesn’t knock your socks off. I’m new to blogging, but I can revisit my articles and tell which ones were canned and which ones rubbed a scab off. I’ll strive to touch a raw nerve more often in my future articles… take the stand and embrace the debate!

  13. says

    Great advice… formulatic articles are devoid of spirit.

    Thanks for the appreciation.

    However, I have to disagree with you. The best articles are indeed structured. In fact, the best writers when ‘ranting’ or being ‘dramatic, soulful’ etc. are using an embedded structure.

    It is a formula. Like driving.

    But with enough practice, you tend to put in parts, and remove parts, almost on the fly. You decide: Ok, in this rant I’ll talk about my mother. And you’ll bring in the personal element. Or in this emotional note, I’ll bring up hard facts.

    Whatever you do you are following a formula, and just being selective about what you keep, and what you throw away. What you highlight, and what you downplay.

    And even if you don’t do add this formula, in the first pass, it is very highly recommended that you do it in the edit. It makes for a more comprehensive article. And sure beats the crappy junk out there–tons of articles without any structure or formula at all.

    As a cartoonist I learned how to evoke these emotions with just a shape. Draw the person with sharp pointy edges and that person becomes the villain. Draw them with soft rounded shapes and they become lovable. This is formula and helps the reader get an instant understanding of the rollout of the article. It’s very important to match up to reader’s expectations, leading them down a path, before free falling.

    The free fall is the rant.
    The formula is the path.
    Both are important. And neither is more important than the other.

  14. says

    @ Sean – true… there does need to be structure even to a spirited rant… otherwise one would appear like a lunitic. I suppose I mean that sometimes the content is so compelling that we don’t notice the structure and other times the structure is all we notice. As I was writting my post, I was recalling a story I once read about an author who has long since died who wrote books with a western theme. He was created with something like 200 titles and claimed that he had a formula and that he could write a novel a day when he was in his groove. I’ve never read his work so I could be wrong, but it would seem that his work would have a color by numbers or mass production feel. You could read a couple and then have a pretty good idea as to how the next one would flow and that flow would become the focus rather than the content. Another example that comes to mind… there have been a ton of movies about a good guy getting caught up with a bad crowd usually over money or a woman. The plot development and escalation are pretty standard. However, when I watched No Country For Old Men the characters and action was so raw that it didn’t dawn on me that I’ve seen this storyline a dozen times until the movie was nearly over. Sure the movie had a structure but it also had a passion and the passion became the focal point.
    Anyways, thanks for forcing me to clarify. I appreciate the discussion.

  15. says

    What a great post.

    Emotion is part of what makes emails and responses easier to write. But I’ll tell you what else saves you — you’re writing for one person.

    When you sit down to write an article, you have to handle a whole possible range of readers. When you respond to a blog post you only have the author of the original post in mind. You want to show him how wrong he is, or why he’s right, or show that you’re just as smart as him and really he should be your friend. (Sean, be my friend?)

    Kurt Vonnegut said: “write for one person. if you open the window and make love to the world you’re liable to get pneumonia”.

    Of course you’re right that one of the reasons writing for one person works is that there’s an emotional connection between you and the person (even if it’s just one way). But there are other reasons too, I think.

  16. says

    @Dave Ramsey:

    Formula is when you put the same stuff every time. Which is boring. Structure is when you have the elements at your disposal and then like a chef, you put in this and that. And leave out this or that.

    So it’s a lot like the omelette I’m going to make for breakfast in a few minutes. I can do the same stuff every day. Or put in some herbs. Or some chicken curry. (Don’t say yuck, till you eat my omelette).

    That’s the difference between formula and structure. Knowing the sequence, but adding or subtracting as when needed.

    And of course, sometimes it’s free fall. On those days, anything can happen. To the article. And the omelette! :)

  17. says

    @ David Barnes

    Sure. I’ll be your friend.

    And you’re right. I wrote this to one of my clients today:

    You must never ever write a sales letter.
    You need to write a letter–to Mom.
    Or Christina.
    Or someone you know.

    It’s not a sales pitch. A pitch is where it goes all wrong.
    Instead if you write a letter.
    Or ‘speak’ your letter on the phone, you’ll find it’s easy.

    If I were to ask you about something you liked. e.g. Dunedin.
    What would you say?
    How would you get me to visit?
    What would you recommend?
    What bullets would you write?

    This is the core of ‘sales’letter writing. It’s a message to someone. And yes, it helps to write to ONE person. Then you’ll never have this problem of writing. If you do have one at all.

    Now I’m off to see your sales letter.

    The same applies to writing an article–where possible, of course. Some articles are written with no one in mind,but I try to keep those few and far in between.

  18. says


    Really appreciate your words. And the genuine emotion behind them. Don’t think there’s anything more powerful or sustainable (passion comes close). So much easier when you’re on a mission.


  19. says

    In just about every single top notch copywriting program I’ve studied, one of the core principles handed down is the idea of speaking to one and only one person.

    You’ve enhanced this commandment with your concept because you’ve tied it to the idea of responding to an email or post where we have one person in mind.

    I’m not a super visual person so it used to be hard for me to drum up a vision of someone in my target audience to write to, especially if it was for a market I was new to.

    But for me the content of a post always has a voice and from this voice I start imagining what kind of person this is. Bold, timid. Insecure, secure. Loving, mean. Stupid, Egghead.

    I might be totally wrong in my judgment but in the process of responding I reveal to my audience who I am and what I’m about.

    This is beneficial to a writer with a following because singling out behavior you love or hate attracts to you the kind of people who are aligned with you.

    People you’d actually enjoy doing business with. This doesn’t happen with plain vanilla writing.

    For me, this is one of those references I know will stick in my mind and benefit me for the rest of my life.

    Thank you Sean.

    Note Taking Nerd #2

  20. says

    Yes, that’s true: Note Taking Nerd #2
    You pointed out a very important fact.

    This is beneficial to a writer with a following because singling out behavior you love or hate attracts to you the kind of people who are aligned with you.

    People you’d actually enjoy doing business with. This doesn’t happen with plain vanilla writing.

    What’s this? Mutual admiration society?

  21. says

    Funny, when I first started writing on the net I hated getting those “passionate” emails or comments triggered by my writing but now I appreciate them.

    Why? Because it tells me that I am hitting a cord. Sometimes the writing rocks the foundation of someone’s belief system or they have been waiting to find someone else who can validate their hunch–but either way they are MOVED by the work.

    Yes, you have to have some structure but as I told my recent book editor, “People like to read my work because it sounds like I am talking to them.”

    Thanks for sharing and I am on my way to snoop on your blog!

  22. says

    It’s just weird how emotion can fire the senses.

    As you say; without even trying you have a full-blown article from one little-old forum post that bites like a mosquito.

    It’s happened to me a couple of times too and they’ve probably been my best received posts.

    Great article Sean – total eclipse of the heart!

  23. says

    Good post, Sean.

    Although I don’t do this, I think it is something worth trying. I am not a morning person and thinking straight after waking up is hard.

    Rereading the post again, of course nowhere I read above mentions that this has to be done straight after waking up. I barely eats anyway in the morning (normally) so as long as I get my shower, I can go into my strides. I think it depends on what your contents are, and what time of blog/website you have, because discharging negative emotion may not always be good.

  24. says

    They say nothing destroys genius faster than structure, and that there’s a reason why the best poetry is always written when you’re horribly depressed.

    Adding emotion to any piece of writing is what, in my opinion, separates great content from good. It makes it easier for your audience to relate to you and engages them better – and it also adds that all-too-precious personal touch that a lot of content is sorely missing these days.

    A few months ago, one of my graduate-level papers on the topic of labor legislation was penalized for not being “academically neutral enough”. In particular, I was criticized for delivering an inflammatory and borderline offense presentation that, nonetheless, reflected the reality of labor relations in the country in question.

    While the instruct was profoundly disappointed, I received the highest number of questions from the audience out of all presenters. Emotion is the key to audience engagement!

  25. says

    Emotion is the driving force, our external way of expressing internal passions.

    Put this key ingredient into your writing and you’ve turned ordinary chicken salad into a savory delight for the senses!


  26. says

    FWIW, my most popular articles have been written on the fly-all at the last minute out of haste and/or emotion. I just held off on publishing for a few days to edit the small stuff so I could make everything clear and to the point.

  27. says

    @ George

    Not entirely true.

    You write because of structure. You may not realise you’re using structure, but every word, every sentence, and all grammar is nothing but structure. The way we flow our sentences is structure. The way we express our mood is structure. And even though we think we’re being ‘creative,’ there’s a structure that’s rolling out so fast in your brain, that it’s almost impossible for you or I to realise that all we’re doing is using a specific set of neurons to express ourselves.

    If those set of neurons were destroyed, your brain could learn the structure again, but it would have to learn it. Without the structure, it wouldn’t be able to put the thoughts and the sequence together at all.

    Even the ‘last-minute’ writing is a myth. You can’t write at the last minute in a foreign language or a language you’re just learning, because you don’t have fluency over structure. All so-called last minute writing is the embedded structure rolling out at high speed.

    The better writers learn structure.
    The better writers understand that creativity per se, is a myth. That you can indeed take a random twenty people from a cafe, with a reasonable understanding of the language—and a desire to want to write—and you can teach them to write amazingly well.

    This is all structure based.
    Everything around you is structure based. The chair that you sit on. The language you speak. Even the way you walk or pronounce words. And yes, some of the most ‘creative’ stuff on the planet e.g. the Mona Lisa, or the Taj Mahal is nothing but structure.

    When that structure reaches a very high level, and the rest of us feel ‘intimidated by the sheer beauty’, we call it art or even worse—creativity. Creativity is simply a factor of structure at high speed. It’s teachable. And anyone can improve their ability to write with amazing emotion, just as someone can be taught a foreign language, and then goes on to speak it with emotion.

    We think nothing about someone learning a language using structure. We think that somehow art and writing and other things have to be in-born. That’s a whole load of rubbish. And believe me, I’m saying it’s rubbish even though I write, and draw far better than average.

    Two years ago, it would have taken me about two hours to write this response. Now it takes me about thirteen minutes. Five years ago, it used to take me two days to write an article of about 800-1000 words. Now I write about 500-1000 articles a year (not counting courses).

    I’m not saying this to boast.
    I’m saying this because we’ve been trained to think that we’re born with talent. And that’s untrue.

    Don’t believe me.
    Try it for yourself.
    Write every day for the next five years.
    Learn about structure.
    Study. Implement.
    And I don’t care whether you consider yourself talented or not, you’ll see amazing progress in your writing.
    And then revisit this post in five years.
    Most people don’t believe in themselves and in structure. And yet that’s what they use every single day.

    Genius is indeed structure.
    Structure at super-high speed.

    P.S. There I go, ranting again. And another article is completed as a result. 😉

  28. says

    Since I feel extremely qualified to chime in on this discussion (, I find that when I pen a particularly venomous article in one sitting it helps the article to maintain its high level of vitriolic candor to have someone other than myself do the editing. That way they are only editing grammar, not content, as I would do if I were doing both writing and editing.

  29. says

    I have to agree with the emotion folks. Most of the time, writing is tedious, and emotion drives us through the resistence. When you have 300 words beaming back at you from your screen, then you can think about structure. If I get hung up on the structure…instant death.

  30. says

    Sometimes I will get an idea for what I want to write or a way I want to say something and in these times I will write as fast as I can, spelling and grammar will be terrible. I just want to get down while I have the thought formed. Then I go back and correct things once I get them all written down. The article at was one such article.

  31. says

    Boy do I relate to this. I notice when I get behind in my reading, I subsequently get behind in my writing. The reading gives me the fuel (and often the frustration) that compels me to put fingers to the keyboard. I don’t think there is anything worse than struggling with a post – finding the words and muddling through the content.

  32. says

    DAShaver and Linsey:
    Yup, I relate to that disappearing thought. Sometimes I’ll be out for a walk when that happens and it drives me crazy. I want to get home and put it on paper (well, computer).

  33. says

    Forget the emotion, I find it true more than 50% of the time I end up writing about something other than what I had planned on. Something kicks in. Call that writing from the heart, channeling, or trusting your gut — it works.

    Jeff Korhan

  34. Serene Spring says

    I don’t experience emotion often, when I am writing. Pressing deadline just drains all emotions out of me. Sometimes I just write mechanically and manage to assemble some 400 words to create an article. Which is not charged with emotion, which doesn’t gush out like a powerful river. When it does, I love my work better. But that’s not often as I had said……

    How can I stimulate myself when I am not “charged with emotion”? (I don’t take coffee)

  35. says

    Thanks for sharing- I can feel the intensity. There’s plenty in this post to interact with (getting worked up!). I took note of the following areas:

    – 3 to 4 articles in the morning [how many times a week?]
    – don’t need coffee to get you going? [that’s just wrong!] :)
    – just write worry about revising later [easier said than done but I concur- revising is always required and encouraged].
    – for me (yes, I say this) and the way I’ve heard the “work smarter not harder” quote being employed makes sense. Context is everything. If students are wasting their time by not utilizing by research methods and so on, their not being efficient and causing my work for themselves (wasted energy, time- not being productive).

    This is working harder not smarter. As a student, (grad school now) having learned that just because you work (at least in your own mind) on a paper or project, it doesn’t always equal the outcome you think is justifiable given the input. You feel me? :)


  36. says

    @serene spring:

    The only way you can always write an article non-mechanically is to make sure you either go to a forum, blogs, or have customers ask you questions. Often in forums and blogs, you’ll find that people have different questions (look for questions rather than points of view). Pick a question and then answer it as rapidly as you can.

    You have to find a forum/blog that’s suited to your field, of course.

    Now this sort of writing may work as well for salesletters, but it’s harder to sustain pure emotion across an entire salesletter. A salesletter requires enormous structure, and just winging it is plain stupid. But an article can make a point rather quickly, and you should have no trouble getting 400 words on paper.

    The problem may lie in the frequency.
    You may not be writing often enough.
    As I said: The more I increased my frequency, the more I could write. And the more ideas I got. And you have to have more ideas, especially if you’ve got a big turnout of articles. I have a whole list stacked all the way to September. Just topics, outlines, and some outlines expanded.

    But these are planned articles.
    And then there are off the cuff emotion-driven articles.
    You have to have both to do well.

    The planned articles assure you a bank of articles. The off-the-cuff allows you to improvise. Just having one or the other, means you’re likely to be in trouble. Almost no writer can write off-the-cuff articles on a regular basis, and certainly not hundreds of them in a year. But you can make a list of hundreds of pre-organised articles that have a rough title + outline + expansion of that outline and then write as per deadlines.

    If you’re going to be writing on deadline alone, start with the pre-organised type of articles.

    Step 1: First create ten-twenty rough topics.
    Step 2: Then create an outline of what goes into the topics.
    Step 3: Expand points where necessary.
    Step 4: Keep it ready (like frozen food) to defrost on deadline.

    Trust this helps. If you have further questions, please feel free to ask.


    I don’t experience emotion often, when I am writing. Pressing deadline just drains all emotions out of me. Sometimes I just write mechanically and manage to assemble some 400 words to create an article. Which is not charged with emotion, which doesn’t gush out like a powerful river. When it does, I love my work better. But that’s not often as I had said……

    How can I stimulate myself when I am not “charged with emotion”? (I don’t take coffee)

  37. says


    3 to 4 articles in the morning [how many times a week?]

    At least 4-5 times every week. And I don’t work on vacation. And we take 3 months off every year. So that’s the math. It depends on what I’m trying to achieve. But let’s see. It’s now 5:27am here in Auckland, New Zealand, and I’ve been up since 5:03. No coffee. It’s 5:27 and I’ve answered two posts and gotten two ideas. By 6:45 or so, I’ll be able to churn through at least two articles. And before the day reaches the lunch hour, I could turn out at least another two. Planning helps. You can’t turn out four articles a day on emotion alone. You’ll be wasted. Read my earlier note to serene spring. I plan articles months in advance. And better still, I let my clients know which articles are appearing, in which sequence, so I’m kinda compelled to get my butt moving. :)

    – don’t need coffee to get you going? [that’s just wrong!] :)

    Ha, ha, but clients will do that for you. Or just promising clients will do that for you: See the last line of my last paragraph. 😉

    just write worry about revising later [easier said than done but I concur- revising is always required and encouraged].

    I wrote about this in my blog. It’s the curse of the self-edit. It’s stupid.

    – for me (yes, I say this) and the way I’ve heard the “work smarter not harder” quote being employed makes sense. Context is everything. If students are wasting their time by not utilizing by research methods and so on, their not being efficient and causing my work for themselves (wasted energy, time- not being productive)..

    Again another blog post will explain this concept. Working smarter is all very fine, but harder is the way things go. The top performers don’t work less harder. They work harder than ever before. But they’re more efficient. Someone coined the ‘work smarter, not harder’ and the laziness in our brains locked into that phrase. If you think you’re going to be a superstar working less harder, you’re dreaming. Work smarter, work harder–but get a three month vacation every year. Now that’s a phrase you want to believe in. :)

  38. says

    This was an awesome post. I think we all need to learn how to write a post the best way we possibly can. And then adding emotion will only make it greater. I even include myself in this, we need to start from the basics and then add things like emotion.

  39. Serene Spring says

    Hey Sean,
    Thanks a lot. Would definitely follow your advice.
    You were absolutely right abt the pre-planned articles, which sometimes bore me off. But at the end of the day I have to strike a balance between the pre-planned and spontaneous articles. :)

  40. says

    this is cool,, it reminded me of how I was able to create nice article before.. I guess it sucks when you are having the mood to write then someone is calling you to do something else… lately my articles are going on drafts and I don’t even finish then so I decide to just delete it..

    with this you share, I am all charged up again,, thanks!!!

  41. says

    Really appreciate your words. And the genuine emotion behind them. Don’t think there’s anything more powerful or sustainable (passion comes close). So much easier when you’re on a mission.

Comments are open for seven days. This article's comments are now closed.