The Write Practice

The Online Writing Workbook

Why Empathy is the Key to Story

To write fiction, you must develop your capacity be empathetic. Empathy is so much a part of what the writer does that it would be impossible to get by without it.

In fact, you could even argue that empathy is synonymous with story. Don’t believe me? Plug the word story for empathy into this list of definitions for empathy that  I found on Wikipedia:

[Empathy] is what happens to us when we leave our own bodies…and find ourselves either momentarily or for a longer period of time in the mind of the other. We observe reality through her eyes, feel her emotions, share in her pain. –Khen Lampert

Empathy is about spontaneously and naturally tuning into the other person’s thoughts and feelings, whatever these might be [...]There are two major elements to empathy. The first is the cognitive component: Understanding the others feelings and the ability to take their perspective [...] the second element to empathy is the affective component. This is an observer’s appropriate emotional response to another person’s emotional state. –Simon Baron-Cohen

[Empathy is] the capacity to (a) be affected by and share the emotional state of another, (b) assess the reasons for the other’s state, and (c) identify with the other, adopting his or her perspective. –Frans de Waal

Empathy is the experience of foreign consciousness in general. –Edith Stein

It would be difficult to define the writing process better than that. Writing and reading stories requires us to leave ourselves and enter another, to put words to their thoughts, sensations, and emotions. Story is, itself, the experience of foreign consciousness.

The Challenge of Empathy

Personally, I find this incredibly difficult.

I have so many thoughts, sensations, and emotions of my own that setting them down to pick up another’s is overwhelming. Who has time for all that? That’s why writing fiction—and reading fiction, too—is so challenging for me. I would much rather write about my own experiences, or even better, my own opinions.

But that’s the great opportunity of fiction, as well.

By writing about others, we get to transcend our own thoughts, our own worlds, our own lives, and experience another’s. This is how we connect with the rest of humanity, through story.

Writers, then, are the great connectors. We enable our readers and ourselves to experience the rest of humanity, to feel a part of the whole. That’s a pretty amazing mandate.

Three Pictures

Today, we’re going to practice empathy.

Below are three pictures. Behind each is a story. Spend some time looking at each one.

Then, choose the one that you connect with the least. I want you to challenge your empathy by getting as far away from what it’s used to as possible.

PRACTICE

Once you’ve chosen the picture that you initially empathize with the least, write about it for fifteen minutes.

When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section.

Good luck!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

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  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    loved this!

    • http://twitter.com/DisposableTea Bronson O’Quinn

      Agreed! It was really fun, especially picking the one I felt the least connection with. But that’s kind of the “magic” that writers possess.

  • http://rachelheather.wordpress.com/ Rachel Altsman

    My first time posting my practice.  So nervous…Eek!

    “Dude, how the hell did we get here?”

    That was actually a really good questions that I wasn’t entirely sure I knew how to answer.  How did I end up on this precipice, looking down at the water crashing onto the rocks below?

    Six months ago, I loved my life.  I had a good job that paid just enough money to make me comfortable, without making me obnoxious.  I was enjoying the dating scene well enough, although it had been awhile since I was seeing anyone regularly.  I spent most of my evenings watching Sportscenter and most of my weekends out with the guys, playing golf, or going to a game, or trying to meet a nice girl at one of the local bars that wasn’t overrun with college kids.

    I was pretty content.  This was the life I had always dreamed of, even if it may seem a tad boring to others.  I was doing my own thing, making my own decisions, not answering to or depending on anyone else.

    So what on earth compelled me to agree when John called and asked me if I wanted to join him and Sam on their year-long trek around the world?  In fact, what compelled him to call me?  I’m not adventure-guy.  I’m the guy who actually remembers to bring food and water on a rock-climbing trip so that we don’t end up passed out from heat exhaustion on some rock somewhere, not the idiot who tries to free climb with a hunting knife in his mouth because he thinks it’ll make for a great picture.

    But for some inexplicable reason, when John offered me a year off from my good job and stable life, some deep-hidden adrenaline-junkie inside of me that I figured had been erased by years of education and evolution took over my brain and I said yes.

    And six months later, here I am, in a kayak on the edge of a waterfall, looking down at a drop that would kill me if my foot slipped and I lost my balance for just an instant.  You would expect me to say this has been a life changing experience, but I’m not sure that it has been, at least not yet.  I miss Sportscenter and American beer and barbecue sauce.  I miss structure and schedules and knowing where I’ll be sleeping at night.  The past six months haven’t made me a different person, but for the first time in a long while, I think I might want to be.  

    And hey, we still have six more months.

    • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

      I like the second to last paragraph. It’s so anti-cliche. ;)

      Great post, Rachel, and welcome to The Write Practice!

      Katie

      • http://rachelheather.wordpress.com/ Rachel Altsman

        Thanks, Katie!  I definitely wanted to avoid cliche.

    • Shelley DuPont

      You did a good job of providing the general lifestyle of the character and then focusing in more closely-the outer to the inner, the global to the specific. 

      • http://rachelheather.wordpress.com/ Rachel Altsman

        Thanks, Shelley!

  • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

    Life can change in an instant. You always hear people say
    that but don’t fully realize it until it happens. When I was 16 I begged my
    parents to let me get a job. It was the biggest mistake of my life. I got a job
    at a restaurant downtown. Not even a nice downtown restaurant, just a burger
    joint where business people stop for a quick lunch. My dad liked that lunch was
    our busy time. He worried less about me walking from the restaurant to my car
    in the public parking structure when my shift ended during the day than at
    night. I think he was afraid I was going to get mugged or something. I told him
    he worried too much. I’m sure he never considered the cement structure
    collapsing—in broad daylight. If it had, he would have forced me to ride the
    bus, forced me to live in a bubble. I’m a city girl. My school’s downtown, my
    dance studio downtown, and it only made sense for me to take a job downtown. I
    know the bus system and choose to drive, now that I can. No, the bit of independence
    I gained from my own transportation destroyed my dream.

    There was no warning—not that I saw. Well, other than the
    schizophrenic homeless man outside screaming just as he did every day. I don’t
    know if a boulder hit my head or if I smacked in on the concrete when I fell,
    but I don’t remember anything. All I know is I’m lucky to be alive. That’s what
    the medical staff keeps telling me. Never mind the fact that I’m paralyzed from
    the chest down. I am apparently lucky to be alive.

    “Lucky” means my dreams are gone. My hope, my future all
    disappeared in one afternoon. I had such a bright future, too. I was going to
    be a professional dancer. I know that sounds silly from a 16-year-old but
    really, I was quite good. I had scouts from the top dance studios around the
    country at every single one of my performances. I’d been that way for years.
    I’d been offered multiple full-ride scholarships at the college level, leading
    roles at a variety of studios, and even made an appearance in a Broadway
    musical—with the promise that there would be more to come.

    That promise will never come true. All of that is gone now.
    All that remains are these metal wheels serving as my
    once-ballerina-now-atrophied legs. All that remains is a life darker and
    gloomier than a late-night parking structure. There’s no point in pushing
    forward in this hopeless world. My goals will never be achieved. It was not
    even the result of own my recklessness. It’s all because I chose to flip
    burgers to pad my wallet on an upcoming international dance tour. One I will
    now sit out—literally.

  • Deb Atwood

    Fantastic exercise! I’m going to send this one to my students.

  • http://twitter.com/DisposableTea Bronson O’Quinn

    Tom said to keep following the stream. “Our camp’s that way,” he said. “We’ll get ashore before the stream crosses into the river.”

    “You sure this one doesn’t go into the falls?” Sarah asked.

    “Of course not.” Tom pulled the laminated map out of his life preserver. “That’s the next stream over.”

    So we each paddled our kayaks. It was fun at first. The rapids kept you on your toes. The hardest part about kayaking is learning what to do under pressure. If you flip and don’t know how to turn yourself over, you need to get out. Don’t worry about the paddle, you can get it once you’re above water. Not a whole lot of good it’ll do if you drown.

    The stream seemed awfully long, though. “Tom,” I yelled. “Are you sure this doesn’t go to the falls?”

    “Of course!” he yelled. “Are you saying I can’t read a map?”

    I didn’t want to say, but yeah. That’s exactly what I was thinking.

    Sarah was at the head of the line. She yelled something I couldn’t hear.

    “What’d she say?” I yelled to Tom.

    “Don’t worry about it!”

    “No!” I couldn’t believe it. “Tell me what she said!”

    He shook his head. “She said, ‘Do you hear that?’.”

    “Hear what?”

    “Who knows?”

    “Maybe it’s the falls!” I yelled back.

    “I already told you, we’re not near the…” And Tom stopped talking as Sarah’s kayak flipped over and then disappeared out of view.

    “What the hell, Tom?”

    Tom turned himself and slipped out of the kayak, emerging from the water, pulling it with him, trying to run against the water. The current gave him a pretty good push.

    I started to catch up to him. “Get out of your kayak!” he yelled as I met up with him. That’s when I saw that we were heading straight to the end of the falls.

    “Where’s Sarah?” I asked. Without waiting for an answer, I turn myself over as Tom had and wade with my kayak in tow. 

    Then, as if my question were being answered, Sarah popped up out of the water. “Hey Tom!” she yelled with narrowed eyes. “I thought this one didn’t lead to the falls!”

    “Thank God you’re all right!” he said. “We were so worried about you!”

    “Yeah,” I said, although I hadn’t really considered it until just then. “You almost…”

    “I know!” Sarah reached over and punched Tom in the shoulder. He acted like it hurt. She should get another punch in before he fakes it.

    “Well,” I said. “What now?”

    “Either he gets me a new kayak,” Sarah said, “or we go looking for mine.”

    Tom neared a rock at the edge of the cliff. “I think I can see it.”

    We all gathered next to him and looked down. The only way to get there was a ten hour hike down a mountain or a ten second freefall. “Tom,” I said.

    “Yeah?”

    “Don’t be so cheap.”

    • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

      Hahaha! This is hilarious! Great job making an intense scene funny.

      Katie

    • Shelley DuPont

      Such a natural flow of events and dialogue between characters.  Good idea for young adult fiction.

  • Juliana Austen

    I’m waiting for my
    stop. Staring out at the subway walls. Keeping my back to the carriage – all those
    soft, young men. I’m wearing a tie and my medals. I don’t often wear my medals –
    Hell! I don’t often wear a tie! For years I never mentioned Vietnam – it’s
    easier that way – I never know the reaction will be. The old guys, the World
    War II veterans – they are revered now – always have been. The Korea boys –
    well everybody watched MASH – they feel as if they were there.

    But us – well – there is
    a lot of shame attached to that war. After it was over everyone just wished we
    would go away. And I did. I kept my head down, kept quiet, go on with my life.
    Put it all behind me.

    Today I’m going to pay
    my respects. I’m going to honour the boys who didn’t come home. They deserve
    that. They were ordinary guys – they did as they were told, did their best.

    There are things I don’t
    think about. No point dwelling on the past when you can’t change it. But today!
    Well it feels like it is all there just under the surface. Is that a good
    thing?

    • Yvette Carol

      Nice job Julianna

  • http://thewritepractice.com/ John Fisher

    Listen to them, chattering like birds, like monkeys.  The world is so different now, people are so different, everyone has become so westernized. They could all be on their way to their next class at some American university, not a care in the world, and with no knowledge of their heritage, of the sacrifices made.  I fought in those wars for our independence.  Gave everything that was in me because I believed in what we fought for.  But the way things turned out is so different from anything we imagined back then.  We fought for our own ethnicity, for our own distinct culture to survive.  That’s why we fought and bled, that’s why so many of my friends died.  But now, everything is mass media and instant connection, instant self-conscious imitation of a culture halfway around the planet just because it seems “cool”, and they got the very word from those they seek to impersonate and to bring that foreign culture here.  My country is no longer my country.  My grandchildren would be right at home with this bunch.  We marched over that very hill there, so sure of ourselves.  Now nothing is sure except death.  Ana, I shall be with you again, my love.  But in the meantime, I’ll put on a smile for the young ones when appropriate and smooth things over and coexist.  But I have lost my way, and looking into the eyes of the friends who remain I can see that they have lost their way too.  That being the case, what is this joy I feel at the very bottom of my heart?

    • http://twitter.com/pootlesuzie Suzie Gallagher

      John, excellent, really got into the feelings of the man, loving it

  • Shelley DuPont

    Look at them.  Spoiled kids with their computers and electronic toys.  Why, when I was their age, I was fighting a war.  A war that lasted longer than I care to remember.  I can still feel the raw ache in my body from marching miles in the freezing rain, with gnawing hunger in my gut.  There was no time for being home sick.  Time wasn’t even a consideration.  It was all we could do to stay alive.It’s hard to believe that life existed for me.  Where have the years gone?  Oh, not everything was a nightmare. If it weren’t for the war, I would never have met my wife.  I can still see her by my side, nursing my wounds.  What a gentle, caring woman.  Every day when her shift ended, she would stop by my bed to see if there was anything I needed.  She was my shining light, my hope for tomorrow.  It’s the rest of the stuff I wish I could throw away.  The cries of the wounded down the hall.  The smell of death around me.  If I could only toss those memories right off this train and into the blackness of night where they belong.  War is a devil’s hell.Young people today don’t know how good they got it.  They’re soft.  I pray to God they’ll never know.  No one should ever know.

    • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

      Great first post, Shelley! I especially love the last line.

      Katie

      • Shelley DuPont

        Thank you, Katie.  Like anything we write, it’s was difficult to keep from editing and revising.

    • http://twitter.com/JillLawton1 Jill Lawton

      yes the change of tone at the end is what really brings this guy to life 

      • Shelley

        Thank you for the encouragement.

    • http://twitter.com/pootlesuzie Suzie Gallagher

      Young people today don’t know how good they got it.  They’re soft.  
      I pray to God they’ll never know.  No one should ever know.

      Really like the last sentence it is like gluing the rest together. Well done Shelley and welcome

      • Shelley

        Appreciate your input, Suzie.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PER4SUWKLVVPOKNHOFXYMEI2W4 Kathryn

    Like a few others, this is my first time posting! In all honesty, this was more than 15 minutes.

    The familiar pang of guilt began to bubble up in to my chest
    from somewhere deep inside. I should be used to it by now. The accident
    happened years ago, and although I can’t remember it as clearly anymore-either
    from too much time passed, or my brain’s clouded my memories for my own sake-
    the weight of the fault I felt that day has never lessened.

    Mother always used to say, “except for those first three
    minutes…they’ve never spent a day in their life apart!”

    In those three minutes I gained the responsibility of being
    the oldest. It was my job to watch and protect my sister, and for the first
    seven years of our lives I did. But once I failed…and for the past ten years,
    and for the rest of my life to come, my job is to redeem myself.

    Every day I dance I dance for her. Every practice, every recital,
    is my momentary deliverance from my guilt, and her suffering. When I’m on
    stage, I feel the warmth for her eyes and see the shine of her smile as she
    watches my body- her body- in motion, slender and lithe, almost weightless,
    because it provides for her an escape. Through me she breaks free from her
    chair and the pity of others. Dancing is what she loved, what she always wanted
    to do. I have always hated it.

    But she has always been kinder than me, more willing to
    listen to others. So when I wanted to ride horses instead of ballet that
    summer, she conceded quietly.

    Every day I wish I would have been more like her. I wish I
    would have been less selfish and more concerned with her happiness. If I had…maybe
    she’d be the one going on stage. She’d be the one in the lights, the one to get
    flowers, and she’d be glad for all of it.

    Before every show she asks me if I’m happy, if this is something
    I do for myself, because despite everything she’s gone through because of me
    she’s still concerned. She’s still putting me first.

    Before every show I look in to her warm, loving eyes and
    lie. Because I know it truly makes her happy, and if she knew I was miserable,
    her heart would break. And I cannot be responsible for any more of her pain.

    • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

      Welcome, Kathryn!
      I love the regret and empathy that shine through this piece. Well done.
      Katie

    • http://twitter.com/pootlesuzie Suzie Gallagher

      Hey Kathryn, really like this, there is oodles of empathy without being saccharin sweet sympathy. Well done, good post, and welcome

  • Jacqueline D.

    Thanks for this article!  I just figured out what makes me a good writer.  I can empathize very well.  I have no trouble becoming the story, whether reading or watching or writing.  For that little while, I am someone else and somewhere else; and I love it.  I always have.  Even music can draw me away.  And I could emphasize with all 3 pictures.  I could easily take all 3 pictures and write a story for all 3 just from the pictures.

  • http://www.kizi4.info/ kizi4

    The best part about GameVance which makes it ten times better than Kizi4 is the fact that you can WIN money and prizes on it. The higher your score, the more points you get and the more cash and prizes you will receive.

  • http://twitter.com/JillLawton1 Jill Lawton

    William Walter Bell Snr – Bill to his
    friends, got on the subway on the corner of 8th and 33rd
    Street. It was crowded, as usual, with shoppers and kids with those blasted ear
    things going home from school – a little early for commuters but crowded
    enough. No one offered him a seat. He wasn’t sure what bothered him more – kids
    today that have no manners or their adult counterparts who looked right through
    him like the ribbons on his chest meant nothing to them at all.

                William
    Walter – Bill to his friends, stared out of the window at the office blocks
    flying past – glitzy high-rise, all glass and soulless industry – you could see
    your face reflected but you couldn’t see the man at the desk behind.

                William
    Walter – Bill to his friends, clutched tightly onto his bag of groceries , some
    milk and potatoes, a little rye bread for his stomach – his stomach hadn’t been
    so good of late. Brenda, his daughter kept nagging him to come over more but he
    kinda liked the peace and quiet – sure he loved his grandkids, but they always
    had the TV blaring when maybe he might just like to tune into his radio and sit
    in his big chair.

                William
    Walter – Bill to his friends, thought about the service – it had been nice -
    dignified – he hadn’t liked the hymns much but then he’d never been a great one
    for hymns. The minister had given a good word and shook his hand firmly at the
    end.

                “How
    are you, William?” he’d said.

                “Call
    me Bill,” he’d started, “all my friends call me Bill” – then he
    choked as he remembered he’d just buried the last of them.

    • ameliorated

      Nice lead from the name repetition to the last paragraph reveal.

    • Oddznns

      this one is nice. it gets into the head of the old man really well.

    • Marianne

      That was a good story and very well written. I think you should submit that somewhere or work it into a novel.  Really good!!!!!

    • Shelley

      I like the “Film Noir” style of it.  You can almost see the light and shadows at work.  The last line brings about a new turn.  Very good.

  • http://twitter.com/pootlesuzie Suzie Gallagher

    The noise, I hate the noise in subway trains, I hate the squealing of rusty brakes on rusty tracks. Since glasnost there are no workers to grease the tracks. I hate the noise of youth, no longer in the groups of my youth, now tribes determined by drug use, music preferences and orientation, not forgetting wealth. I hate the noise of wealth most, when we were all communists, we all had the same.

    Yes some of us had more same than the others, but we all had important jobs to do. My job, I was in charge of an internment camp on the outskirts of Moscow, to the east, in a forest near the town of Balashikha. I lived there, in Balashikha with my wife. She was in charge of a factory there. We had more floor space than the neighbours because of our jobs.

    And yet here I am in the middle of Moscow, freezing because the heating doesn’t work and when it does work it leaks, and every one has pets now and the noise of them is incredible. I’d kill the lot, like in the old days, a prisoner who couldn’t be cowtowed, we just dropped them off the roof, job done.

    There is too much softness now, too much America, too much noise. At my camp, in the forest, it was peaceful, there was no noise, there was no ….. life.

    • Oddznns

      Wow… I love the way you transite this story into Moscow and made the guy a Russian vet. I love the way you inverted the American ideas as well, the fact he liked Communism better.  I like the juxtapositions too … everythinge equal, but his was bigger. No noise… wasn’t peace … it was no life.  

  • ameliorated

    The rock ground hard beneath the kayak’s plastic hull, its sound lost in the pounding sledge of water. Mia could barely see her boyfriend signal through the spray.

    “Bring it over!”

    She glanced down into the churn–a whitewash of rock and water and awful distance–and felt her stomach do that post-sweet-binge thing.

    “I’m … good.”

    Marc again.
    “Are you fucking kidding? You’ve come THIRTY miles! You’re going to puss out now?”

    Mia managed a full two seconds of rage before panic shoved her lungs throatward, cutting off her retort. If she had an anxiety attack here… She couldn’t decide whether the humiliation or near-certain-death would be worse. Or the fact that she might die still dating Marc.

    He was, as usual, maddeningly unruffled.

    “If you want to snuggle, YOU move.”

    Good. That sounded brave.

    She could work on the feeling part another time.

    • http://twitter.com/JillLawton1 Jill Lawton

      love the way the intensity of the scene amplifies the intensity of their relationship – you painted a whole world of feeling in a very short scene

  • Hal

    Not super happy with this. Needs a lot of work to be more than what it is. But it is what it is: practice.

    She sat in silence, watching the girl in the mirror move gracefully, refining her movements and feeling the expression of feeling through movement. Controlled, measured breathing and the silent shuffle of her feet was all the music she needed; the music she danced to resounded in her head. It crashed through the fog of memory and the fuzziness of recollection. The music was inside of her; the music transformed her.

    Her first, halting, steps of the dance had been made when she was still a gawky and unkempt cygnet. The music, the rich tendrils of melody and rhythm, had been working on her, with her, and through her, changing everything she had been into something new.

    She was Odette. In the mirror, Odette danced, feeling the music, telling her story with movements so precise and so hauntingly beautiful they seemed to be not of this world. The dance was her story, and the music the backdrop in which the story played out.

    She was Odile. She looked like, felt like she could and should be Odette, but something had gone wrong. She glanced down and stared at her hands, resting in her lap, fingers pointed and posed. This was not right! Odile felt the need to stand, to show the world her story, to paint her tale on the backdrop of the music, so sweet. So haunting. So tragic.

    Odette paused for a moment as she told her story and looked to Odile. Odile stared back at her, the tears, the jealousy, and the rage clear on her face. Odette smiled softly and sadly back at Odile. She tilted her head slightly and spoke words of comfort into the heart of Odile.

    “The dance still lives in you, sister Odile. Your fear and anger consume it, but your heart is full. Tell your story. Find your way.”

    Odile stared back at herself in the mirror, her face awash in anguish and redemption.

  • http://twitter.com/JillLawton1 Jill Lawton

    Really great exercise – we did this together in my writing group – hope the others will remember to post. So true what you say about empathy – I think we all find it easier to project our own thoughts and emotions onto others than to really get inside someone else’s head, but thanks for the challenge!

  • Bjhousewriter

    I am writing my comment on the article about “Why Empathy is the Key to Story”

    It was hard for me to relate to the middle picture as I have never have done or seen anything like what is taking place in. the middle picture.

    Being that I am a person who likes adventure this picture puts me right there with the three people.

    I might be saying, “Should we give it a try now we are here?”

    “Wait a minute it didn’t look like this in the picture we had. This is even better. We don’t need to worry now for are canoes had a place to stop and we did not go over the falls.”

    “WOW, what great fun, excitement, and we are all safe and we can now go home and tell our friends and families. They will never believe our story.”
    I wonder as I LOOK AT the picture what are these people thinking? Maybe it is,

  • Alexandra Massey

    The
    blackness behind the plexiglass echoed its void back at him. He was not there.
    His eyes stared out but they were ignorant of the flouncing, too-loud
    hair-scraped back chav teens chattering their inanities into the back of his
    broken mind. The rattling of the train along its predetermined track was the
    metal clang of rifles clunking against ammo on belts attached to marching boys
    who thought themselves men. The lurching motion of the ride took him to the
    hoisted heavy wheelbarrow, and him lumbering along in that other life with its
    cargo of fallen flesh, as he shook with the cold, and the wet, and the horror.
    A sudden stop snapped him back, and his eyes remembered their place. He turned
    into the light of the train car and took in the tapping fluorescent trainers of
    a young buck, bouncing along the rhythms in his ears and the ripe possibility
    in his heart. He felt the ache in his bones, the weight of his memories, and
    the burden of his generation. The young man caused bile to rise in his throat –
    his freedom from the trauma of history caused resentment to burn within. He
    couldn’t help it. He wanted him to know. He wanted him to suffer so that he
    could know.

  • Pingback: Why Empathy is the Key to Story | Empathy in the Arts | Scoop.it

  • Pingback: Asperger’s, Empathy and Emotions | Writing & Random Thoughts

  • John Zhou

        The kayaker, little more than a boy, paddled along with swift

    strokes, slicing through the roiling river. Great trees, ancient and

    gnarled, young and straight, on either side shielded him from view. At

    first, he was barred from these rapids by his father. Lectured about

    the dangers, he remained stubborn, his heart set on the glorious,

    frothing waters of that river. However, he nodded, smiled, and

    received a pat on the head and a promise to go to a children’s

    kayaking river soon, which inwardly he sneered at. He was far more

    skilled than others his age, if only he could prove it! Now, less than a week later and supposedly at school, here he
    was.

    For a time, the way had been smooth, and he reveled in the feel of the

    ocean spray. Suddenly the kayak shuddered. With ease, he guided the

    kayak through the rapids and down a five-foot drop. His confidence

    grew. Long had he practiced until the techniques had been

    indoctrinated into his mind. Once again, the kayak trembled. His eyes

    widened at the sight of another drop, this one twenty feet. Screaming

    with terror, he plunged downward with his craft, landing awkwardly as

    one paddle was snatched away by the waters. He took a deep breath, but after the trial, the waters grew still once more. The dark
    forest

    melted down into rugged rock, and he knew he’d reached the end of the

    river. The thundering of the falls tugged him towards the edge. He

    stared down at the waterfall, the rocky cliffs. He realized how small he must seem to a viewer, how peripheral. Tears sprang to his eyes as he lay down on the rugged rock.

    Before now, he had never known how small, how unimportant he was to

    the world.
     

  • Connie_Z

     Sometimes
    I sit in the abandoned building near my house, it’s open space welcoming me to
    roll into. It s during these times I wonder about what could have been. My
    imagination, vivid with practice of observing the many PE classes I have sat
    by, the sports games I had watched. And yet, the one thing I had always envisioned
    myself as was a ballerina. It was something about the grace and the beauty of
    the lines that was indefinable that held me in its grasp. It was something that
    I knew I would never be able to attempt and yet it was the thing that I long
    for most. It was so different from my current state, I had to constantly wheel
    around in my heavy, clunky wheelchair whereas they ballerina I saw in my head
    was weightless and every movement effortless. I would sit for hours on end,
    envisioning myself, in pointe shoes, tights, and a tutu, dancing myself
    content. It was only then that I could be truly happy; that I could, in a
    sense, have what I had always wanted. There is a ballerina there, in that
    abandoned building. Whether a figment of imagination or a haunting ghost. Yet
    each time I see her, she begins to look more and more like what I would imagine
    I would look without a wheelchair. Healthy, happy, and graceful. She leaps and
    turns and stretches as I look on, an ethereal creature that haunt my dreams.

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  • Beth

    Yep. I’m going to revive this post.

    Kerri stood at the edge of the cliff, staring down into oblivion. 
    Her two companions stood by her, breathless with awe. It was beautiful. They held their kayaks and paddles in their hands. It had been a marvelous trip so far but now she was just tired. Tired of everything that was happening to her. It felt like a cruel joke for her to see so much beauty. Waterfalls, massive cliffs, the hazy fog around them. It was all too unreal. 
    “We’ll what now?” Said Derrick “we can’t just go back.” 
    “It would be way too hard.” Agreed Maggie. 
    Kerri stayed silent. She didnt care how they got back. Part of her just wanted to jump off and be done with this life. 
    “Kerri? You coming?” 
    Kerri was snapped back to reality by Derrick’s voice. She glanced back down before turning her back on it. 
    “I’m coming.” She said. What had she been thinking? Commit suicide? Kerri shook her head as if to shake off her feelings. She had friends. She had a job. She had a house. What was wrong?  She loved life, but hated it too. How could that be? Whatever the problem was, she didnt wait to find out. Following Derrick and Maggie was hard. Harder than she could have ever imagined. And Kerri had no idea why. 
    “This was an amazing trip!” Said Maggie though it was far from over. Derrick nodded. 
    “I knew you would like it. But you haven’t seen the half of it yet!” 
    “What could be better than this?” Asked Maggie incredulous. 
    Derrick grinned. “You’ll see.” 
    Kerri had to smile, even if it was a sad smile. She had been on this trip before with Derrick. The half of it would turn out to be the fabulous food at the resort. But she didn’t spoil it for Maggie. The dark haired, green eyed girl from small town America was always so excited to see new things. Kerri herself had grown up in Kansas. A boring place where there was nothing for her. She had longed to see the world. That was why she was here. She had been traveling with Derrick for most of the last 10 years. Doing things she never would have dreamed of in Kansas. But Maine was her favorite place. Her home was there. The center for all her endeavors and projects. 

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