5. The Tracks of Your Tears
In personal writing—or, for that matter, fiction—a few tears go a very long way. They are not a legitimate shortcut to emotion. If misused, overused, or used too soon, they’re a bobsled to sentimentality. You have to earn your tears.
You often don’t need to mention them at all. (I’m constantly editing them out.) If you’ve successfully conveyed the emotion of a scene—through, say, halting dialogue, body language (hand movements can be key), or the way the light or the knickknacks on a shelf have changed—it can be redundant or over the top to say you were crying. Yes, even if the tears flowed in real life. “But that’s how it happened!” is, ironically, a specious argument in personal writing.
When it is important to introduce tears—and such times do exist—think of indirect ways: You suddenly realized the Kleenex in your hand was damp or matted. Your vision blurred. You felt a cold stream on your cheek. Okay, that one might need work. Just, please, no lump in the throat.