Thanks to everyone for participating in my forum earlier this week, and my apologies for not getting results up sooner. The week slipped away from me again. Pesky days!
The question was: as writers, where do we mine our emotions? From ourselves? From others? If from others, why don't we work with our own?
You gave me lots of good responses, a number of which said that emotions came from inside and outside of themselves. This makes sense, of course. I think it would be impossible for someone to write completely outside of their own emotional experiences. Of course, some of the physical experiences are beyond us (as Hart said, she's never randomly found a dead body even though she's writing her cozy), but that doesn't prevent the emotions from being real. They just come from somewhere else.
One of the things I tend to worry about in my writing is that people will automatically assume it's autobiographical in some form. (Random connection: Has anyone read "The Young Painters" by Nicole Krauss in the 20 under 40 issue of The New Yorker?) So I tend to try pulling from other experiences so that I can be more assured when fighting against those comments.
Beyond outside criticism, using our own experiences does mean dealing with those feelings and emotions. As j.leigh pointed out, that can be extremely difficult for us, throwing our real pain into our writing. If I did more of that myself, I don't think I would ever finish a piece because I would be too angry or crying too much to get the words onto the page! It doesn't make the emotions we use any less real, but it gives us more of an external position from which to approach them. And as Amanda said, with time, using our own emotions and experiences can become less frightening.
Finding emotion everywhere is vital, since we've only lived in our small worlds. But we shouldn't be afraid of using our own.
Any other thoughts? Did I miss anything?