I have had people consider me as a smiley, cheerful person before, whether I know them well or not. So, when they read a piece of writing of mine for the first time, especially if it’s poetry, they’ll compliment my work, but they’ll also find it jarring. Who is the girl in front of them versus the girl they’re reading on the pages in front of them, or seeing perform in front of them?
I promise you, it’s the same girl, it’s just that the one you see on paper or on stage tends to be a bit more honest with herself when she’s in her element.
A lot of people tend to go “Oh, wow, I’m so glad to know you!” or “Oh, wow, this is really good, thanks for showing me!” And there are some who love to ask the question, “You’re usually a pretty happy person, why do you write a lot of sad or angry things?”
That question doesn’t rub me the wrong way, as long as they say it in a way that comes across as “Why don’t you write more happy things?” It has come across that way for a bit.
It’s not that I never write about happy things, or that I never write when I’m in a good mood. It’s just that writing gives me the opportunity to unapologetically talk about the things I want to talk about. And you know, what, yeah, they do contain subject matters that may be saddening or frustrating, and that’s because no one talks about them enough outside of the writing space.
Some pieces I have written that no one will read because of the tough subject matter, other pieces I have allowed others to read so that others can relate to it.
When one of my friends committed suicide, the first thing I did was write a poem and share it on Facebook, to express my grieving process and see other people’s grieving processes. When I saw someone ask, “Hey, why isn’t Christianphobia a thing?” I pitched an article piece to The Tempest that got published on the site to express my frustrations while also acknowledging the privileges I have as a Christian, and Christians, Atheists, Muslims, and more gave me really good feedback; The Tempest is a great platform to be a part of in that respect.
My racial identity, even, and its fluidity affects the content I’m writing. I have written a lot of mixed race content online, especially for The Tempest, however, I have also identified as black whenever writing pieces about growing up in black churches, or being black and having depression. There are times when I wonder whether or not more people would have read them if I explicitly identified more so as mixed race in those pieces, but I’m still very proud of those pieces, because they were honest. They weren’t flowery stories of overcoming something to the point of joy, they were real.
Writing gives me permission to be real.
So if you are one of those who still find it jarring to read pieces of mine that have different emotions on its spectrum, well, tough. Sure, writing can be entertaining, and even meant for entertaining. But I respect it and do it so much because it’s my therapy. It’s my process. And, it actually makes me happy, if you’re concerned about whether or not I’m happy enough.
Moreover, I’d highly suggest checking out this Ted Talk by Michael Lee, because he presents a great constructive response to “You’re so happy, why write sad things?” question.