Hello friend, I know I said I was going away, but I realized I had parting thoughts that I didn’t think I could leave in my head.

It’s not much of a secret to anyone who’s read anything I’ve written here that my stories tend to tug at my reader’s emotions. In fact, that’s probably one of the number one sentiments expressed in the many comments and emails I’ve received from my readers. Comments such as:

“You brought tears to my eyes in both sadness and utter joy…”

“I cried along with everyone else…”, or

“We laugh with them and yes, cry with them as well…”

I’m a writer.

That’s a big statement for me. I didn’t think I was. I’ve expressed at several points that my Hard Landing series was the first piece of fiction I’ve ever written. When I started I felt like a pretender, someone just playing at writing. But talking to my readers and a few other authors over the course of my series has convinced me to stake my claim.

I am a writer.

And what writer wouldn’t want to hear these comments? Our goal is, after all, to write something that connects with people. To entertain them yes, but also to move them. To make them feel a certain way. When I write, I feel what my characters are feeling. And I desperately want my readers to feel it as well. I want my readers to empathize with my characters, to want them to succeed in their fictional lives, win over their fictional loves, realize their fictional dreams, overcome their fictional struggles, to cheer for them and ache with them. Because I believe that empathy is the single most important thing that can nurture and prod people into being good to each other, to care for each other, to work together to foster a healthier society.

I want people to have a natural urge to put themselves in other’s shoes, to imagine, “What might this person be going through? How would I handle being in that situation?” which will hopefully lead them next to think, “What small thing, that costs me little, can I do to make their day better? Could make their life easier, just by a simple act that takes nothing more than a moment of my time or a simple gesture? Or maybe makes me want to go to heroic lengths to help someone? Someone I care about? Or even someone I don’t even know, but is a fellow human who is struggling, whom I may have the power to help?”

So naturally, every comment I get from a reader along these lines is a gift to me. A gem, a little jewel that I nest away in my mind to bring out and treasure during those times when I doubt myself, or think I’m not good at something.

But I get other comments and emails that are similar, but with a little twist that makes me uneasy. Comments such as:

“I’m not one to cry for the most part…”

“I choked up like a little school girl…”

“I am a heterosexual male and even I cried three or four times…”

First things first, I am not calling out these readers. I appreciate what they are trying to express to me, and I’m grateful they let me in to give them these feelings. But these comments brings me to the crux of what has been in my head for a few days that I didn’t feel I could leave unsaid. I should also be clear that I have received this type of comment from both men and women.

I want to talk about these sentiments for a little bit.

There’s a lot of chatter in the air these days about “toxic masculinity”, and I’ve seen lots of discussion whether its a real thing, or whether people are just too sensitive. I don’t want to get into a big discussion about the core aspects around that (although it is real and it’s a problem, but that’s another essay.) I just want to talk about this idea that to express how deeply something moved you, the best way to do so is to say “Normally, I don’t let myself feel things, but you wrote so well, that I felt things! Despite myself!”

This is not healthy. The effort to not feel things or to not be seen to feel things is not healthy. The effort to look tough, and by extension, strong is not healthy.

Humans are emotional beings. Heck, primates are emotional beings. Go watch videos of chimpanzees sometime. They laugh, get mad, get sad, love each other. It’s in our DNA to feel. But over the centuries, some (not all) of humanity’s cultures have developed this idea that feeling things is a weakness. That if a man shows sadness or joy, especially in the form of tears, he is weak. That if a woman cries, she’s hysterical, or girly and not a strong woman.

To me these sentiments are, for lack of a better term, toxic. When a man tells me that he liked my story because he cried like a girl, it makes me sad. I want men to read things that move them to cry and think “I’m crying like a man.” When a woman says, “I don’t normally let myself cry, but this story made me cry this one time,” it makes me upset. Why don’t you let yourself cry if you feel like crying? Crying is therapeutic! It’s cathartic! It’s good for your soul!

I don’t mean by this, that I want all my readers to cry, that you must cry to realize and own your feelings. Some people just aren’t criers by nature. Some people may never cry. But all people feel. And many people think that letting others see or know that they are feeling something, like sadness or joy, is weakness.

If something moves you to tears, and you fight it, why do you do so? Because we’ve come to think that if you feel something that deeply, you are weak. That’s not good for you! And the social stigma that makes us think that isn’t good for our society! Why is it bad for our society?


When we see someone with tears in their eyes, what is the natural impulse? In the case when the person crying because they are upset or happy is a woman, often the thought is, “Are you okay? Can I help?” but sometimes it’s, “What a silly girl.” If it’s a man? “What is wrong with that dude? What a wuss.” And here’s where we get back to the toxic “masculinity” part, which can affect both men and women. When men try to shut off their feelings to not exhibit weakness, when women close themselves off to not appear “flighty”, or “a silly woman”, to project strength, both groups deny themselves the ability to just let go and feel what they feel.

That’s why we read or watch movies, right? To escape our own existence for a bit and put ourselves in another’s place for a time.

Like one of the characters in my series, I am huge comics geek. I never miss seeing the latest Marvel movie in the theater on opening weekend. In Avengers: Endgame, when Cap is struggling to rise to his feet to face Thanos and his entire army, alone and hopeless, yet steadfast in his determination to fight to his last breath… Then his radio crackles and you hear Sam Wilson in his ear, “Cap, it’s Sam… Can you hear me? On your left.” I was bawling. In my mind I had been standing in Steve Roger’s place and suddenly was told I’m not alone! I was openly sobbing in the theater. And my friends gave me a hard time about it afterwards.

Sure, it was good natured teasing, but still the underlying assumption was “Geez, did you see BrokenSpokes, she really couldn’t control herself.” But… I didn’t want to control myself. I wanted to feel what the story wanted me to feel. And let myself feel it unashamedly, so I could enjoy the full breadth of the feelings the artists intended for me to feel.

When reading a story, or watching a movie and you feel moved to tears, but you denigrate your feelings by saying to yourself “I cried like a girl” or “I don’t usually cry, but this was so good that just this once I will,” you’re enforcing that stereotype on yourself. You’re telling yourself you are being weak, but this one time you’ll let it slide. And by doing so, you make it harder to put yourself in the place of the everyday person you meet. Because if you see someone in distress and your first thought is “Wow, she’s a weakling” or “he’s crying like a girl” your next thought won’t be “I wonder what’s wrong and how I can help?” Your next thought will be to distance yourself from them so as to not seem weak yourself. Similarly, you also won’t be able to see that person as not… less than… for being weak.

When I was crying as all the Avengers streamed out of Doctor Strange’s portals to join Captain America, I was letting myself feel the relief, to know I wasn’t alone, that there was hope, that people stood with me against the forces out to end the world. And by opening myself up fully to that feeling, by unashamedly embracing my feelings, I can more easily put myself in the place of a person who feels alone, who feels hopeless, who maybe just needs someone to put a hand on their shoulder, give them a knowing nod and say, “On your left.”

So what is the point of all this? The point is I want my readers to feel the emotions I try to evoke. I want you to enjoy everything you enjoy, to embrace the feelings that are evoked in you. But not to feel them as if “Oh this is so good I can’t help but cry this time.” Don’t think “I cried like a girl”, think “This makes me cry and I love that.” Don’t feel “Crying like this makes me vulnerable as a grown woman, thank goodness I’m in the privacy of my own home.” Think instead, how human you are that you can put yourself in the character’s places, that you can empathize with them.

And how much better of a human that makes you.

Let yourself feel.

And don’t be ashamed of it or diminish it.