Back at university, during my first year, we were told once a week to write a short story that would be criticised by the rest of our class in groups. I was more than happy to comply. My thoughts would instantly run towards grief, drama, tragedy, how my characters would face these challenges and overcome them.
At the end of the my first year, we were told to write three stories for our end of year portfolio. Immediately I was brimming with ideas: teenage issues, a family tragedy, bullying; my list was endless.
Before handing any piece of work in, I would always ask one of my closest friend’s opinion. One afternoon while we were basking in the glorious short-lived summer sun, having finished reading my work, she sighed, placed the papers on the grass, looked at me pointedly and asked, “Why can you never write anything happy?”
I frowned and repeated the question to myself.
Why couldn’t I write anything happy?
Up until then, I hadn’t thought much about the themes to my stories. It was natural for me to write something tragic. That was all I knew. I’m not trying to sound like someone who has had a tragic childhood – yes, shit happened but not enough to ruin me for the future. It was, honestly, just what I was comfortable with. Even when I was 16 and was told to write a 3000 word story, I wrote about a girl being raped and how her best friend helped her deal with the tragedy. I know, morbid is an understatement.
I gave my friend’s question some thought and decided for one of my portfolio pieces, I was going to attempt a love story of sorts. So I sat down at my desk and started to type.
And it was the hardest thing I had ever had to do.
Writing about someone being in love, being happy, cheerful just didn’t sit with me. It wasn’t as if I was depressed. I had made good friends at university, I was fitting in well at my new place and I was genuinely having the time of my life.
So why did I find it so difficult to pen my happiness? Why did words fail me when all I wanted to do was express my emotions into my characters and create a cheerful, upbeat story? Do any of you writer’s out there suffer from this inability to express or am I on my own?
Frustration and anger was boiling through me as I repeatedly deleted letter after word after sentence. I could not, for the life of me understand what was happening. What ever I would write would sound cheesy and outdated. It didn’t sound real, as ironic as that sounds. I couldn’t bring the characters to life, the dialogue between them was cold and the scenes were non-existent. But I wasn’t going to quit.
So I compromised with myself.
Instead of opting for a complete upbeat story, I met myself half way and chose to write about a couple who needed to remind themselves why they fell in love in the first place after being on the verge of a divorce/break up. This way, I could write about their problems.
And this is the moment when I realised that I like to write about problems because only I have the power to write their solutions.
Years later, I look back at some of the things I wrote and I am in awe at how far I have come. What seemed so childishly written before is now a part of my history – something I can look at and learn from without being doomed to repeat it.
I may not have written an epic love story yet, but I know now that with discipline, determination and honest friends, it doesn’t seem impossible.