How to Feel

Sara Benincasa
8 min readFeb 17, 2023
The earliest known skeletal reconstruction of a sauropod: Camarasaurus supremus by John A. Ryder, 1877. Source: Osborn and Mook (1921: plate LXXXII) via Wikimedia Commons

Artists are known to be a bit off, inclined to sadness and loud weeping and hours of gazing into the middle distance whilst wearing black turtlenecks and/or stained sweatpants. There are all sorts of terms to describe this type of individual — “highly sensitive person;” “melancholic temperament;” “raging alcoholic with a penchant for whimsical site-specific dance sculpture” — but ultimately, I have always known I was one of them. Perhaps, if you are inclined to read an essay with this title, you are one of us, too.

I am more than a bit off, probably. I like to think I live in a modern witch hut or a tiny magical library, but in truth my little apartment looks like a moody third year Mythology and Folklore minor (Communications major) découpaged her feelings all over mid-2000s generic NYC bro decor.

As an aside, regarding said bro decor: my kitchen has three different types of wood. They don’t look good together. They don’t even make sense together. I moved back to New York in 2021 and have had few visitors, but most of them comment on the wood thing at some point.

This is the trouble with artistic friends: they notice.

One tough thing about being an artist inclined to loads of feelings — which is to say, being an artist — is that when one is down in the dumps, one may have a very hard time motivating oneself to actually make one’s art.

I found it easier to churn the words out when I still drank and wasn’t in good therapy. After all, working is one of my favorite ways to not feel my feelings, and if I could create work for myself in the form of deadlines, I could stave off the inevitable emotional crash and burn for quite awhile.

Taking care of oneself is, as it turns out, not easy. It is time-consuming, which I did not expect. It is quite irritating to have committed oneself to feeling one’s feelings as they arise, accepting without judgement the accompanying tears, temporary stuffed nose, difficulty focusing, tight jaw, swollen eyes, tense neck and back.

I get up in the morning and do my stupid little stretches, which help with the physical pain; I do my therapy sessions, which help with everything. I fucking meditate, of course.

I am not used to feeling things so clearly and distinctly in my body and otherwise. I used to…

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Sara Benincasa

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS & other books. Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast. Patreon.com/SaraBenincasa