Embracing Sentimentality: The Power of Writing That Evokes Emotion

Sentimental writing is bad. I read that somewhere years ago. It was likely written by someone who gives out writing advice but hasn’t written anything of substance — the way a book critic, who doesn’t have the stones to write a novel, has a job criticizing every new novel that hits the market.

In a world where writing advice often discourages sentimentality, it’s important to recognize the value of heartfelt expression. While excessive tenderness can be overwhelming, a touch of sentimentality adds depth and connection to blogs and essays.

## The Authenticity of Sentimentality

Personally I enjoy blogs and essays that have a touch of the sentimental. A touch is fine. Excessive tenderness is another story altogether. That’s not to say I don’t go overboard at times in my own writing. Sometimes I write things on this blog, post them, then read them over again and say to myself, “Jeez, you mushy bastard. Tone it down.”

## Parenthood and Sentimental Writing

I think it comes with the territory of being a parent. If you’ve ever seen your child being born right in front of your eyes, it’s hard not to be sentimental about the vernix-covered pudgeballs to some degree when you write about them — even years later when the biofilm covering their bodies isn’t a sterile protective layer but bacteria infested dirt and funk because they refuse to shower.

You may also like: A Father’s Letter to His Children on Father’s Day

## Loss and Sentimentality

Or maybe it comes with losing a loved one — a family member or friend — at too young an age. Save for “My Girl” when I was a kid, I never shed a tear watching a movie until my buddy Jeremiah died. My dad’s death and my friend Brian’s death were like the whipped cream and cherry on top. There’s a movie called “My Life,” starring Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman. Despite seeing it a handful of times when I was younger — it came out in 1993 — I can’t watch that movie for anything now. I become an emotional, blubbering mess.

## Music as an Emotional Catalyst

I was driving my daughter to school on Friday and we were listening to the Bouncing Souls album “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” when I found myself fighting back tears. The album came out in May 2001. For those unaware, the Bouncing Souls are a New Jersey punk rock band.

There are a number of songs on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” that pull at my heartstrings, mainly because I used to ride up and down the mean streets of Charlotte County listening to the Souls with my friends Rick, Ricky, and Brian.

There’s a song, one of the unlikeliest on the album due to the tempo, that shouldn’t make any man cry: “Manthem.” For reference:

“Manthem,” by Bouncing Souls

Yet here I was with my throat tightening and my eyelids quivering to shed a tear, sitting at a traffic light on 29.

He’s my friend
He’s my alibi
My accessory to the crime
A bond that will never die
‘Til the end of time

When my friend Brian moved away, I remember listening to this song on repeat. There’s even a reference to a “Brian” in the song:

Brian called me up, said there’s a show tonight
Do you wanna go tonight
I’m giving my girl the night off […]
Whenever I’m down, I know where my friends can be found
Whenever there’s a doubt, I just have to shout:
Oi, oi, oi, oi

## The Importance of Emotional Resonance in Writing

This is all my way of saying I would rather read sentimental writing than emotionless, literary drivel that uses a lot of multi-syllabic words and says next to nothing. Writing should make you feel something in your core.

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