It was the morning of a work day again. Nursing my espresso on the couch, work laptop open in front of me, I had the TV on in the background. After Caribbean Life ended, Cake Wars began.
The host was a waxed-looking, overly positive young man with a teeth-baring smile that I could only describe as cheesy. He announced the start of Cake Wars, and I thought, Wars? Why not Cake Friends? I turned the TV on mute and focused on work.
At some point, my thoughts turned back to last night. I had attended my writing workshop again, and we had a reading session. For the first time ever, I read aloud a text I had written and it was more nerve-racking than I had anticipated! Reading for a tiny audience of five had me racing through the story so quickly I almost passed out because I forgot to breathe. The story seemed to continue forever, though it was only around 500 words, and I quickened my pace to get to the end sooner.
I was surprised by this. For 6 ½ years, I’ve casually published blog posts for a potentially much larger audience, without any feelings of panic (except during my very first few posts as a blogging newbie.) Why did this live reading session have so much more of an impact? Whatever the reason, I’m happy I went through with it – maybe next time, it’ll be slightly easier, just like pressing the publish button has become easier through practice.
As the five of us read our short stories, I noticed something. Everyone else had chosen to write about something deep and profound. Their stories were full of pain and heavy with life’s darkest injustices. In comparison, my fictive dialogue of a bickering couple, written in a light tone attempting to gain a few chuckles, seemed quite naive.
I’ve often said that writing is my happy place. I only want to write (and read and watch) stories that are uplifting and put a smile on my face. Life is full enough of hardships and depressing news, I don’t want to dwell on negative thoughts.
Writing is no doubt therapy to the authors of such stories. But writing is another type of therapy for me: not because I write out all my troubles, but because, instead, I steer myself into thinking happier thoughts by writing something lighthearted.
I had to google to see whether a genre like mine even exists. Can I write about happy things and be taken seriously? Is there even a demand for upbeat entertainment at all? During the writing group’s session yesterday, I had the impression that the mainstream interpretation was: if you are a true artist, you must exhibit pain and suffering. And I wondered why.
It’s like the cliché of an artist dressed in black and wearing crazy, heavy glasses paired with a tilted beret, living a lifestyle outside of society’s norms. Can I even try to be a word artist if I’m just an ordinary-looking person, the working mum next door? Artists try to break stereotypes, yet fall into them themselves.
As Cake Wars was ending, I had an epiphany. “Happy place” stories are my signature dish, as they would say if I were on Masterchef. I’ll just stick to cultivating my own style – a yellow ray of sun trying to peek through in a stormy sky filled with dark stories on life’s mishaps. Take me seriously or not, my dish is my interpretation. It’s the story I choose to tell.