Yesterday, my mom called me brave.
I have this tendency to write about the negative events and aspects in my life, using them as fodder for my creative nonfiction pieces or as explanations behind my personal issues, but rarely do I make a point to express the good things.
Yesterday, I’d called to make an appointment with a temp agency, as my current job search has gone nowhere fast. While I’ve gotten a few leads on jobs and made tons of calls over the past few weeks, none have led anywhere. I was getting frustrated. My friend made a comment that she’d had success with a temp agency coming out of school and I felt a flare of hope. So I called, made the appointment, and then mentioned it to my mother during our later phone conversation.
“Wow,” Mom sighed, “You’re brave.” She meant that I am brave for trying so hard and not giving up. For talking to strangers. For doing things she knows give me anxiety and make me uncomfortable. I appreciated the sentiment a lot. Just three words from my mom and my day was brightened. I also felt successful, as though even if I hadn’t found a job yet, I was still doing something right.
As a writer and as a person, I want to make the conscious decision to remember the positive moments. When I was working at my graduate magazine, myself and a few of the other staff had the conversation that much of the nonfiction we were reading was, for lack of a better term, depressing. Everyone had cancer, or their mother died, or their brother was disabled. All beautiful and important stories. All sad and, most often, mainly negative. In real life, the hero doesn’t get the girl, the kid with cancer dies, and not everyone can love their brother. One day, a cute piece about a little girl and her grandmother came to us. It was short, funny, and happy. We loved it. It was such a change of pace that it made us realize the trend of most of the other submissions. It got me thinking about my own work, about what I write about, and how maybe the influx of written “negative” moments were influencing my own choice of topics.
One of my professors broached the topic, saying that negative or difficult memories were easier to write about because they had built in tension. Nobody likes a story where everyone is happy all the time, because that means there is no conflict, no struggle, and therefore it’s not relatable. Happy moments are harder. You have to layer them, make them more vivid, more alive, because they need to connect with the audience. They have to feel that that joy is earned and savored.
Thinking about that last bit actually inspired a short story that I’m now working on, the first “for fun” project that I’ve started in a long time. Here’s hoping that this attitude lasts!