View Full Version : Why can't I write happy stuff?

10-27-2006, 12:51 AM
Everything I write is dark, sad, lonely, especially since my son died. What is is going to take, now that I have decided to concentrate almost exclusively on poetry, for me to write some normal, happy stuff? I mean, enough with the therapy already.

Simon Woodhouse
10-27-2006, 01:27 AM
When I first started writing (novels, not poetry), I tried to write in a style I thought people would want to read. My characters were happy and they smiled a lot. But I got nowhere, abandoning two first drafts after about 5000 words. When I started the third attempt I decided to write in the style I wanted to, and not worry about whether it would appeal to anyone else or not. This worked much better, and I haven't look back since.

Whether you're creating the poems for yourself or an audience, you're probably only going to be able to write with a passion if your words reflect who you are. Sad and gloomy can be hard work, but I've found it's easier than trying to force myself to write in a style that's just not me.

10-27-2006, 01:36 AM
Sorry to hear about your tragedy. There are no rules that say everyone (or anyone) should have happy stories to tell. Happy things don't inspire me. It's only when bad things happen that I feel I have something to say. I can write the funniest things when I'm feeling awful, but that's just me. Read the biographies of some comedians, and see how sad their lives were. Humor can be a strong defensive reflex, a thing people can relate to, but humor is not easy.

Often, the things we read can influence what we write more directly. Have you tried reading the kinds of things you want to be writing? I'm not saying that we're copycats, just that reading gets under our skins and can help shape our work. How about upbeat music? Music also gets beneath the surface and has an effect on our work.

Best wishes.

10-27-2006, 02:30 AM
Art mimics pain. Use it. It's an outlet.

10-27-2006, 02:58 AM
If you wrote a book called "Happy Guy" about this guy who's just really got a good life, and everything was going fine...Would anyone here want to read that?

10-27-2006, 03:25 AM
My condolences on your son.

On the topic and along with what scottVee wrote, there’s always the tragicomic. Chekhov did this a lot. With many, maybe most, of his stories, you end up laughing at the characters while shaking your head in dismay over the human condition. People still read Chekhov (they do, don’t they?), because the humor makes the truth easier to bear. A lot of people consider Kafka’s work dark and sad, too (and parts of it are), but he still clearly had a sense of humor. Heck, even in Dostoyevski there’s humor.
I think gentle, compassionate humor shows the author has some perspective on the problems he or she is writing about. Otherwise, pure sadness can seem sentimental, like The Sorrows of Young Werner. (No offense to those who like it.)

Then there are some poets who became successful with sad poems. What about Poe? The poet Atilla József (http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jozsef.htm) (linked because I realize he's kind of obscure) wrote some pretty sad things, yet there are still “life-affirming” bits and pieces in them. And he’s well known in his country.

Just because a person writes sad things, that doesn’t necessarily mean those things will come of as “therapy writing.” If the work is well written and designed to communicate something to others, rather than some sentimental feel-sorry-for-me schmalz (for example. I don't in any way mean to say your work's like that.), why couldn't people other than the author also find value in it?


A. Hamilton
10-27-2006, 03:38 AM
Well Denise, I read your poetry, and love it. While you do visit dark themes, there's a release of pain and beauty in the words. I think many can relate on some level. You show you aren't afraid to address the difficult side of life. It's impressive to me that even during a trying time, your creativity has not shut down. Think how much the pain would be intensified if you could not access your creativity at all.
What you have is a gift, not just to others, but to yourself. Use it as a tool to hone what you love doing. Yes, therapeutic now, but the funny thing is, you are gaining much skill at your craft of choice, regardless of the source. One day your pain will ease, and your strengths will be obvious to you.
What a lovely legacy you are nourishing.

10-27-2006, 04:16 AM
Thank you for this wealth of responses. It's what I believe I knew all along, as they say, write what you know. I feel really much better now, I have a lot of stories to tell, not all of them sad, but certainly, considering the life I have lived, there will be no dancing bears or princesses. :tongue

10-27-2006, 05:02 AM
besides, there's only so much happy stuff to write about (and it's all been done)... nah, it's a phase :)

Soccer Mom
10-27-2006, 06:31 AM
I'm a big believer that you write from where you are. Don't worry about it overmuch. If your writing is good (and yours is) that's all that matters.

10-27-2006, 02:03 PM
When you write for yourself, people connect to your work in a bigger way...it rings more true than if you are writing for an audience. Keep on doing what you're doing.

10-27-2006, 02:57 PM
If you wrote a book called "Happy Guy" about this guy who's just really got a good life, and everything was going fine...Would anyone here want to read that?

Absolutely, yeah...but only if the novel was going to gradually explore what dark hell the wierdo was trying to cover up ;)

10-27-2006, 03:56 PM
"The more your sorry carves into your being
the more room there is for joy."
Mikhail Naimy.

This might seem a platitude after such a tragedy, but in my experence the very painful experiences can nurture true creativity and and force us to dig deeper within ourselves. It's tough but it adds dimensionto us as humans - and to our art. Who wants Pollyanna?

10-27-2006, 04:17 PM
Hi Denise,
I am really sorry that your son has died, that must be so hard for you to take. I had a sister that died when I was only 15 yrs old, and now, over 30 years later, I'm only just letting-go of it. But to lose one's own child must be so very hard to bear.

Anyway, for me personally, I can only actually write poetry when I feel miserable and broken-hearted, so I don't do poetry very often. I mostly write fiction stories, and they are always quite dark too... and yet I am not a gloomy or miserable kind of thinking person face to face; I am quite the optimist and have a very warped sense of humour! lol... I would like to write humourous stories as well as my 'dark' ones, but I just can't seem to write humour? I guess our mind's-eye makes us write how we really think deep down in our sub-conscious.


10-27-2006, 07:02 PM
Thanks, you guys are great.

Aruna, I like that saying. ;) It will be on my mind today. It helps.

10-27-2006, 07:08 PM
Denise, you need to grieve. I think you had said your son died only within the last two years. Even if it was longer than that, it takes time and everyone grieves differently. And to lose your child! I can't imagine the pain. Writing is cathartic. As others have said, use it. There are many readers who will be able to empathize with you. As as someone else here said, you are a very good writer.

10-27-2006, 07:14 PM
Thank you, Stormie, that means a lot coming from you. And of course you're right about the grieving, it was only a year ago April.

(and NO, I still haven't heard from the agent!) :flag:

10-27-2006, 07:26 PM
Our work reflects our mindset, our hopes, fears, joys, sorrows. The things that influence our writing change as we change and experience life. You are living through a sorrowful period and what you write reflects that.

I recently realized that my deepest fears are reflected in my work. I'm preoccupied, subconsciously, with something terrible happening to my children. Much of what I write touches on this topic.

I'm deeply sorry for your loss and can only imagine the pain. Write through it and see what comes out on the other side.

All the best to you, Denise.

Lyra Jean
10-27-2006, 07:42 PM
All my writing is dark as well. Most of my friends think I'm a really happy person with a macabre sense of life. Go figure.

Do what's working for you. I find it best to not force something to what you think it should be. This only leads to frustration and discontent.

Condolences on losing your son.

Kate Thornton
11-01-2006, 07:57 PM
Denise - when you write from your inside, it speaks to many of us. Those of us who have also endured the tragedy of loss can find a connection in your work. You have no idea how much good you do. Keep writing - I love your work.

11-01-2006, 08:02 PM
(and NO, I still haven't heard from the agent!)
Hmmm...I know he's busy, but I think at this point, give him a little nudge via email. Maybe your ms. got lost. Is there a crossed-fingers smilie???!

11-01-2006, 10:56 PM
I have an idea for you. After you meet your grandbaby write happy poetry about them. That might get the ball rolling.

Good luck.

Kate Thornton
11-02-2006, 07:32 PM
What a good idea, Terri! You gotta love the feeling you get from grandbabies!

11-02-2006, 08:56 PM

I am a terribly morbid person but I have learned since childhood to have a morbid sense of humor as well.

I also have your same problem in more ways than one. I too had a daughter that died. I too, know, realize and accept that almost all of my short stories deal with a "dark side" to life. And in some way or another the pain of my daughters death is in almost all those stories. That is life. It is part of life. I wish it could be all ice cream and baloons and clowns...but that stuff is only for TV.

My short stories which have been sold are almost all part of that dark gloomy side. They pack a punch and they are about life..or about how we relate to life. You and I, we belong to a very special club. We did not ask to get into it, we did not want membership. But nevertheless we have it. We see the sunrise differently. We see color's differently. We view people and their petiness much differently than others. Our wisdom is far beyond our years and our pain is so great that no words could ever do it justice.

The following is true - actually recently happened.

I decided one day I was going to abandon the "tough" stuff, and write a short story that was FUN. I happened to have had a GREAT time writing it. It is called "Love In A Cafe" and I have sold it actually (though I still must edit and change a few things in it.) You know what? I gave it to three friends who know my other work. Know what they said? Don't like it. No pathos. No punch. No tears.

I said, all I wanted to do was JUST ONCE write a nice story (with a twist) about something nice happening. No one dies, I don't have to find my daughters death somewho intertwined with the story line. No great emotional stress. Just a fun story. - Doesn't work.

Stick to what works for you. Dont worry about the sad and gloomy. If it comes from your heart and you can write it will hit the reader. It will make them think, or cry or get sad or possibly even THINK.

And guess what? That is what is supposed to happen. Forget the happy. Write about life.

Oh btw...dont listen to the people that will tell you ... oh if you get the pain out in writing, no matter how good or bad the writing is - the pain will get less. Sorry to tell you.. it does not get less. It is there. It haunts our lives every minute of every day. But it may just help for you to be that much more finely attuned with your emotions than other people are. It may just help to really touch upon what is real and important in life in your writing.


11-02-2006, 09:57 PM
I've been subjected to a new trauma on average every other year of my entire life. I think that is why I write. I know that is why I write what I write. Teddy knows. I know. Everyone that has ever lost someone knows. It never goes away. I don't think it gets easeir either. We just get used to feeling it.

I'm over fifty. When I was five I had three friends that were run down by a drunk. As if the loss wasn't enough, I managed to stumble across the bloody scene. I've written poems, I see it in my stories -- even the fact that I disclose it here is testament that even time doesn't help. Maybe we just need to share it. Maybe we want to drag others in with us. Perhaps it is that misery loves company thing. All we can do is pick up our baggage and carry it with us.

Just write it the way it comes out. I don't think we really have a choice.

11-03-2006, 12:07 AM
Denise, I can identify with you completely. Since my dad died, all I seem to write about is him. It's like everything goes back to him, and my writing can be very depressing. But what I've learned is that it's healing to write what you're feeling. There must be a reason - a need - that you're writing is a bit gloomy. Just go with it and in time, I'm sure you're writing will perk up. There's nothing wrong with you. HUGS! :)

11-03-2006, 06:02 AM
There's nothing wrong with you. HUGS! :)

I feel that is the best it has been said. Thanks Freckles.

11-03-2006, 07:17 AM
Sometimes darkness is not sadness... it's just a perspective of life. And I don't mean darkness as a depressing or "bad" connotation. When something traumatic has happened to you, it has opened your eyes to the way of life that includes the downs, as well as the ups. What is life but a fearful journey? Who doesn't experience pain, fear, loneliness? Must we push it aside to be "positive"? Can't we share the reality of life with others? Shouldn't we encourage others to embrace life and love because of our experiences?

You can be happy. You can feel happy... but you don't have to write happy. When you write your soul is incorporating everything into that medium.... what you have learned leaks out to create a true picture of life...

At least, that's my thoughts in this poetic moment... please note... I have no poetic ability :)

11-03-2006, 07:35 PM
Good point, Rashen! :)