I attended my sister’s college graduation this weekend. Traveling back to my own alma mater, drinking in the springtime air and clusters of brightly blooming flowers, the buzz of excitement and energy, was good for the soul.

But it also made me think about those times in life—like graduation—that are simply bittersweet. The good comes with the not-so-good. Reaching a new point means letting go of what’s come before.

And it made me ponder why writing about bittersweet moments is so good, so deliciously satisfying.


Photo by Werwin15

A Bittersweet Symphony

I looked up the definition of bittersweet: producing or expressing a mixture of pleasure and pain. Synonyms are harder to pinpoint; none of the words are quite complete or fully accurate: poignant, nostalgic, affecting, sentimental.

Yes, bittersweet moments have touches of poignancy and nostalgia and sentimentality, which is what makes them so interesting to write about—and read about. They are places and times that tug on our hearts in a strange, somewhat uncomfortable way, bringing back to the surface that mix of emotions we’ve experienced sometime in the past. Maybe one side—pleasure, or is it pain?—comes through stronger and sharper. We don’t know exactly how to feel.

The complexity is another reason why describing bittersweet moments in writing—putting that intricate feeling into words—is so captivating. It’s a challenge to convey the multiple layers and draw readers in, unsettling them with the conflicting emotions, while at the same time, fulfilling them with the familiarity of it all. But when we find success, it’s truly sweet.

How do you write about bittersweet moments?


Write for fifteen minutes about a bittersweet moment in time.

When you’re finished, please share your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please respond to some of the other comments too!

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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