Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: writing

Try a Little Tenderness

One of the downsides to being sick is that I get depressed at the same time. It’s understandable, but it’s difficult to handle for someone (me) who has dealt with depression all her life. When I say depression, I don’t mean the blues or feeling a little down. I mean, “There’s no point. It’s all hopeless. I might as well be dead” feelings. The worst part for me is that it makes me not want to write, which is akin to death for me. My brain tells me, “Your writing is shit. No one cares what you have to say.” I read what I’ve written, and it’s horrid.* I’m hard on my writing in general, but I know I’m being extra-hard on myself.

I woke up this morning and thought, “I hate all my writing. I should just stop.” I actually considered quitting for several minutes, and then I stumbled across an article about Mr. Rogers on Facebook (h/t Krista Elliott) that made me feel better. The author, Anthony Breznican, recounts a terrible time in his life when he felt hopeless about his writing and life in general. He’s from Mr. Rogers’ hometown of Pittsburgh, and he (Breznican) caught an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on the television in the common room at his college. He watched the whole thing and felt better. Later. he ran into Mr. Rogers and poured his heart out to Mr. Rogers about how hard a time he was having and how watching one of Mr. Rogers’ episodes helped him. Mr. Rogers actually sat down with him and related his own story of grief (losing a grandfather for both of them), and said that it never went away, but the love was always there.

The story really resonated with me because of the writing aspect, and it was exactly what I needed to read at the moment. Writing is a lonely business especially for an intense introvert like me, and it’s hard to see the end of the tunnel when there’s no light along the way. It also reminded me that there is kindness in the world, which is hard to see when things are dark all around.

Breznican wrote this article in response to the Manchester bombings because the quote by Mr. Rogers about always look for the helpers was making the rounds, and he (Breznican) wanted people to know that Mr. Rogers was the kind and gentle soul he appeared to be.

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Mysterious Me

writing by hand. how quaint.
Let the ideas flow like ink from a pen.

I am an inveterate mystery reader. I consume them as if they were chocolate, which, in case you don’t know, is on a daily basis. I’ve fallen off them a bit lately, but I can still read a four-hundred page mystery in a couple hours. Side note: When I’m flying, I like to read a mystery or two, then leave it in the bathroom of the airport or the plane. If it’s the latter, I like to imagine a flight steward finding it and taking it home. Anyway, I mostly read female authors and any authors of color, queers, and anyone on the fringe. A few decades ago, I decided to try to write one. Since then, I’ve written several, and most of them have a protagonist who is female, Asian, and queer. Black cats and taiji are prominent as well. In other words, they’re me to varying degrees.

I don’t have a problem with that because there are no books about people like me. I’m at least two standard deviations away from the norm in so many ways. I’m Taiwanese American, which, by the way, is a thing in and of itself. I am NOT Chinese, and I WILL correct you if you call me Chinese. That’s not what this post is about, however, so I’ll move on with difficulty. I’m bi, which for me means liking sex with men and women, but leaning towards partnering with men. I’m over forty and not married, so I have to start paying attention to those scare warnings about women over forty being more likely to be run over by a bus while fleeing from terrorists than to get married, but here’s the twist: I don’t want to get married. I never have, and I highly doubt I ever will, so joke’s on you! I don’t have kids, and I’ve never wanted them for even longer than I’ve never wanted to get married*. I’m agnostic, which makes me suspect to both believers and atheists. I lean towards believing there’s a laissez faire kind of god if there’s one at all. It created the world and then fucked off, becoming immediately interested in something else.

I have two black cats, well, one now. I adopted brother cats, Raven and Shadow, many moons ago, but Raven died this past December. I’m still adjusting, and in my current mystery novel, the main character has one black cat (a girl) whose brother cat had suddenly died. My writing is therapeutic to me, and I’m working through my grief by writing about it. I can change and shape what happens in my fiction world to a certain extent, though my characters refuse to talk to me if I make them do things that are egregiously against their nature, and by writing about my grief in the fiction world, I feel as if I can get a handle on it. In real life, I’m mostly numb about it, but there are moments of intense grief. Shadow is much more vocal now than he was while his brother was alive, and I think it’s because he relied on Raven to do all the communicating before. Shadow is much clingier now as well. He used to be somewhat aloof, content to being on his own for several hours, before running up to me and demanding attention. Now, he’s constantly meowing at me from the other room, mostly on my lap as he is now, and I know he’s dealing with his grief in his own way. Interesting note: I discovered if I whistle in response to his meowing, he comes running to me. He’s never done that before, but I’ve never whistled at him before, either.

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The Sound of Silence

all i do is write, write, write.
The pen is still mightier than the sword.

When I was in my twenties, I had stories in my head all the time. They were clamoring to be heard, and I couldn’t wait to sit down and write. I could write for hours with the words just pouring out of me, and my biggest problem was knowing when to stop. It’s the same when I started blogging. I had so much to say, and there seemed to be so little time to say it in. I was passionate about my opinions, and I wanted the world to know what I had to say. Even when I was depressed, I could write. It’s the one thing I didn’t have to force myself to do. I couldn’t make myself take a shower, but I sure as hell could type thousands of words.

When I first started writing at the tender age of seven, I wrote poems. They weren’t great poems, but they were heartfelt. I never much cared for rhyming or more traditional poetry, but I loved free-form, and I wrote what I considered prose-poetry before it became a thing. I found it limiting, however, especially as I did not enjoy reading poetry, and I eventually switched over to prose. Part of the reason is because I loved to read, but I never saw anyone who looked or acted like me. I’ve nattered on about representation in popular culture so I’ll skip that whole spiel right now, but I felt a longing in my heart any time I read to see someone, anyone, who looked like me and/or had a life experience that was at all similar. There’s a Toni Morrison quote that has stuck with me about this sentiment:

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

–Toni Morrison

She also has said unapologetically that she is a writer for black people, and she doesn’t have a problem with that. She said it was “in the same way that Tolstoy was not writing for me, a 14-year-old colored girl from Lorain, Ohio.” I felt the same about much of what I read. Even if something was exquisite literature and moved me, there was always something missing. There was an explosion of Asian immigration stories when I was in my mid-to-late twenties (I blame Amy Tan), but they didn’t feel that relatable, either, because they were ¬†about Chinese laundries, broken English, and three generations of suffering women. It became so prolific, I remember standing in the middle of Modern Times (used bookstore) in San Francisco, seeing another spate of books like this, and loudly declaring, “If I never see another book about three generations of suffering Asian women, it would be too soon!” My friend shushed me, but I was fed the fuck up.

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