Fiction Storytelling

Thoughts On A Wednesday

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.

71 replies on “Thoughts On A Wednesday”

I took a writing class last winter and was shocked at how vulnerable I felt reading my work in the group. Maybe because I don’t see the people that read my blog and we seem to be a small, friendly community. I start another writing class next week.

Yes, we need cake friends and happy stories

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It’s much harder to write interestingly about lighter theme’s then to dive deep into sorrow and hardship. Because what counts for the ‘poetry’ of most would be poets, counts for prose as well. It’s not enough to ponder about your own tears, you must write the tears in the eyes of the reader. And the smile wrinkles in the corners of their eyes. For that one needs writing skills. And, if you permit me, your lighthearted stories always contain a deeper level of (trying to or getting to) understanding (your) life. That’s one of the reasons I very much like reading you. (And again, the lovely images accompanying the words!)

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Thanks, Peter, for always being so encouraging and sharing comments that are well thought out! 😊 And it’s true, I often have a message or like to provoke thought. But I never thought of it that way: that writing about misery is an easier option. Hmm. Perhaps it can be. We all start somewhere and evolve. Truth be told, I don’t know where the other writers are at, which phase of their writing path. Maybe some of them are starting with these big issues because they seem important and worth telling? As for me, I definitely look for entertainment or interesting facts, e.g. I might read a science article about identical twins and be absolutely fascinated.

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Of course you are right. I have no idea either where your co-writers are in their writing path, and it was much to blunt to associate them with would be poets. But I do think that the reception of text about big or personal issues perhaps is a little less critical because of the emotional weight of the texts. Where sadness is involved or concern or other notions on an emotional level one can have the tendency of judging the words less in an artistic way then in a way of empathy or even sympathy. Expressing concern about, say, climate change or the loss of a love one can be well written, but even if it wasn’t that very well wrtitten, who would object? That is was I meant. But maybe I’m awfully wrong here, again, I don’t know your writting class members. Anyway, your pieces are always entertaining and they do make me think, or what I boldly consider thinking. 🙂

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I thank all the cake gods that this was your realisation. Is there a market for happy stories?? This question of yours depressed me until I reached your happy conclusion. You go girl, give us all the upbeat that you can come up with, and that will beat you up in turn (I mean, upbeat you). Win win win! (The third win is for the “cake friends”.)

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Hopefully no one will beat me up!! 😮 But I get what you mean! 😁 Judging by the popularity of murder mysteries, reality shows, etc, it seems escapism can sometimes come in a dark form. (I love murder mysteries and detective stories myself. I guess they aren’t upbeat, but they are easy and you know it’s fiction and not a true story.)
Anyway, let’s hope the cake gods spray us with many cake friends! Good night!

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I think it’s quite natural to feel unnerved about reading your writing out loud for the first time. It’s very different from posting online! As for the theme of your writing, there will still be readers that want happy, fluffy stories. Even those fond of heavy fiction, might still want to pick up something lighter from time to time. I like all sorts of stuff, for example. I can see why a writer would want to write uplifting fiction to escape into that happy place, and at the same time I understand how a writer would want to explore darker themes in their writing. IMO there should be space for everything. But I have zero knowledge of how publishing works. I do write sometimes, I have a separate blog for that.

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You’re right. Diversity is always good. I was mostly just shocked by everyone else’s choice of topic: from suicide attempts to childhood trauma. I had no idea everyone else was harboring such dark thoughts and themes in their minds! Our commentary discussion turned to whether a character should die or not.”That’s life!” someone said, “It isn’t always rosy.” It wasn’t a very uplifting session! For me, writing about a survivor could prove inspiring to a reader, and I would rather try to focus on that. But it wasn’t my text.

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Hmmm… as I read the first part of the post, I thought of an event I attended last year (virtually). It was a festival, during which authors read their flash fiction. You could have your piece read by someone else if you did not want to do it yourself. I chose not to read mine. It was mainly because I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my identity. However, when I thought about it deeper, I realized that it was also because I was nervous about getting my work really out there. To read a book is one thing, but to have the author read an excerpt to you is a whole other experience. My piece wasn’t upbeat but it was much more matter-of-fact that the other pieces, which made me feel out of place, too. Every piece sounded so deep. I was in awe. It took me a moment to realize the value in my piece, but I got there. It was very short, but read out loud, it felt like it was much longer. Quite a strange thing. It’s funny how you and I share those similar experiences.

The second part of your post was definitely ‘not mine,’ since writing happy stuff is not really my cup of tea (for writing, I enjoy reading your stuff a lot! But I feel that your things aren’t always 100% positive…). Why do I write about complicated things? Sometimes it’s because of how I feel or what I’ve experienced. It’s also because that is just how life is, and I like to reflect reality in my writing. Yes, I know it’s somewhat contradictory when we say we try to escape from the real world and we escape into a made up one that might as well be the real one…

Whatever works for YOU, do it. I dislike pieces that feel like the author forced themselves to write about deep/hard stuff. Write what feels right to you.

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Thanks Sam/Goldie for your thoughtful comment! It really seems like we are having a proper conversation and I like that!

And yes, it’s true that my posts aren’t 100% positive… maybe I should’ve phrased myself better. Positive posts are what I aspire to do more of, it’s the direction I want to head towards and see what I can do there. I’m still searching for my stories, my angle… if I were to write a longer story, what would it be about? Certainly more upbeat than dark, unless it was entirely fictional like a murder mystery. Even then, it wouldn’t be full of gore but more Agatha Christiesque.

And YES, we should each do what feels good to us. I’m still exploring.

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I think it’s very normal to feel vulnerable reading out loud to a writing class. It’s a world of difference from blogging. You can see and sense so much more of the reaction, which can often be criticism. But if it’s a decent group of people, it will quickly become apparent that the criticism is carefully expressed and meant in a positive way, to help class members become better writers, which is after all the idea.
As to the topic, people should write what they want. In my experience, humor and lightness can be a very effective way of getting a point across, sneaking uncomfortable little facts past people’s guards. And we mustn’t forget, readers read what they want, so there’s room for everyone.
I follow your blog because I like your writing (and photos). I’m sure the same is true for many others, so keep it up!

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Thanks for the encouragement, Graham!

The writing group was very polite and the feedback kind. I guess I’m still insecure about comparing my work in a situation like that, live in the same room with other writers (and for most of them, it was their first writing group experience as well.) It’s a different context than online blogging, but I didn’t really realize it until I read out loud! At work, I’m used to getting feedback on my writing, though there, too, it’s almost always been positive and delivered in a chat.

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i teach several different creative writing classes (with different types/ages of students). I stress that we write our heart out – whatever is in our heart, and in every genre. Most of the stories are happy, a few are not. We have lots of laughter in my classes, and some tears. We write in the class to my prompts, then read the stories out loud. SO scary to the newbies. I remember that feeling, with the heart pounding, the voice shaking .But the more we do it, the easier it becomes. Now I have students raising their (60-year-old) hands saying “me! Me! It’s my turn!. 🙂 I think it’s wonderful you’re going outside your comfort level. Stay happy and write happy. Write what’s in your heart.

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Interesting to hear from a writing teacher! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
In real life, I’m not all happy-happy and have a busy day-to-day filled with problems to fix or endure. So “happy place” writing is an escape for me, a fantasy that I deliberately look for and go after. I have decades of writing experience but had never taken any kind of class before, so this workshop – meant to inspire more than teach – was such an interesting experience. Just the fact that I was meeting other writing souls, live, was fascinating. Until then, I guess I had been under the impression that I existed in some sort of void.
Wishing you a happy weekend! 🙂

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I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this post!
“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.” This is me exactly! I get so sick of the focus on the negative, and also annoyed that in order to be taken seriously one should dwell on all the pain of life. It breaks my heart actually – it’s the reason for much of the world’s suffering. Imagine if we all focused on the positive all the time. What a different world it would be. So happy for you that you had your epiphany. Your signature dish is the best kind there is TSMS.
Alison xo

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Thanks so very much, Alison! I’m thrilled to hear you agree! I feel like negative and worrying news has become clickbait and in writing, well perhaps the cliché of a suffering artist is not a new but rather a tired one.
I do sometimes address things that aren’t super cheerful, but I always, always try to end my posts on a positive note. I want to inspire readers, not make them depressed! 😀
Happy weekend, Alison!

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Once again, I see we are on the same wavelength. I’ve always tried to focus on the positive, but in the last 18 months, I’ve found myself more militantly rejecting violent, antisocial, brooding, negative forms of entertainment (books, movies, shows, etc.). Sure, I know that people have darker pasts or presents than I do, and some of them need to get that onto paper, airwaves, or film, but I feel less of a draw toward consuming it myself.

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Yes, Lexi, once again! I stopped watching sad films maybe a decade ago (or films about e.g. mental health problems, drug abuse, etc. Heavy topics) and then after that I started filtering my reading list. Now my writing topics, too! I’ve had it! I feel like at 40+, I already know enough about the horrible fates people can have and adding to that info just isn’t useful or educational anymore. Unfortunately, it seems harder and harder to find comedies to watch (sit-coms or funny movies), perhaps it’s not on trend? At the writing class, someone younger than me was critisizing Friends for being bland mass entertainment, but I miss shows like that, which just aimed to get some laughs and good vibes going. We are from different generations, I must add: I was the oldest one in the class! Maybe the young grown-ups from today have just grown up too soon and never learned to appreciate comedy?? Hopefully I’m wrong in this judgy generalisation. Anyway, nice to see you here! Take care

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I still think it’s important to focus on the positive, too! The course actually ended up being more therapy (for some, and discussion for the rest of us) than an actual writing course – but it was fun to meet other aspiring writers in the flesh!


Such lovely thoughts. And yes, we all have our signature style—though most don’t write enough to discover it—and I admire your stance on sticking to what you want to write regardless. Reading your own work can be a bit unnerving for sure, especially when I share your blasé over posting on WordPress. Thanks for this post!

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Thanks for reading, Stuart! That’s a good point, ”most don’t write enough to discover it” – it took me decades of writing to discover my style. And I’m still working on it, but now it’s become more deliberate and thought out.


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