Happy All The Time

It has been slowly coming to my attention in the past few months that I have, for many years, been quite the literary snob.

If I’m being perfectly honest, it’s something I cultivated without thinking too much about it. Much of my thinking was roundly dismissive — commercial women’s fiction has little to offer the intellectual person — and, as tends to be the case, woefully incomplete.

Recently one of my favourite newsletters listed Happy All The Time by Laurie Colwin. I knew nothing about it except that the authors of said newsletter loved it, and that was good enough for me.

Turns out it’s a romantic comedy (commercial women’s fiction, *gasp*) and it was a delight.

I read it in a day and felt the day was perfectly spent.

The writing was deceptively light. It was funny and vivid, but it was also insightful and cutting, and it made me understand better that sometimes that the easiest read can require some very hard writing.

Romance as a genre is so easy to dismiss, despite the profound role of romantic love in our lives. As I think more about it, this uppity gate-keeping seems more like a cultural defence mechanism than any valid literary concern.

Don’t feel too much. Don’t get vulnerable. Don’t show the soft parts of yourself.

Yes, there’s a lot of risk in letting yourself feel what you feel, want what you want.

All love carries within it the spectre of anguish.

That’s frightening. But to succumb to that fear is to shut your life out. That’s how you force yourself out into the cold, watching other people’s joy from a distance.

Dismantling my own defences about love has taken years of writing through it, and continues to be a work in progress.

But reading a bit of romance helped a lot more than I thought it would. It gave me some models to ponder, and a residue of joy that has stuck with me.

This is why it’s so important to read, no matter what you’re writing. Sometimes you just need a different lens to see things in a whole new way.

So no big writing tips today. Just a nudge to let the love in, and to be brave in allowing it to stay.