Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: creativity

Out on a limb

My brother is fearless. He has the mentality of ‘why not try?’ If something doesn’t work, he shrugs his shoulders and moves on. He rarely lets a failure bother him, and he takes what he has learn with him into his next venture. The downside to this is that sometimes, he wastes time, money, and effort in a project that he doesn’t take to completion, but it doesn’t bother him at all.

Now. Part of this is theĀ  fact that he is a man and that means he has much more leeway in the two culture in which we live. Boys are heavily favored in Taiwanese culture, so much so that even he has noticed that my parents give his opinion more weight because he’s male (than mine, that of a lowly female (in their eyes). It’s one reason I have gender issues, which is not the point of this post). Ian commented that my mother would ask for my opinion, but then ask my brother without accepting mine. I actually think that’s more an anxiety thing as she’s done the opposite, too. She never accepts the first answer as correct on its own. But, yes, she does give more weight to what my brother says than to what I do.

I can’t tell you how much it means to me that my brother sees this happening, too. It’s one thing to realize it on my own, but it’s another thing to have back-up on my opinion. It’s easy for me to gaslight myself and say that they don’t mean it, it’s just their culture, etc., but when my brother says it out loud, it validates my feelings.

My mother is a Debbie Downer in general. Any idea you bring up to her, she immediately crushes down. K and I have talked about our respective upbringings. Her mom was of the mindset that everything would work out no matter what choice you made (which came with its own issues) whereas mine believed that you were fucked no matter what choice you make. Not that she would use the word fuck, but that’s her mentality. K’s mother always sees the bright side whereas my mother only sees darkness.

I take after my mother in that I can always see the flaws of something, but I’m getting better at realizing I don’t always have to bring it up. And I try to make it constructive and not just complaining. If I want to complain, I do it here!

When I told her I was bi, she asked me what’s next, animals? By the way, I have no idea how that became a thing. Going from same-gender relationships to fucking goats. When I told her I was getting a tattoo, well, let’s just say she voiced strong disapproval. The times when she doesn’t actively say she’s against whatever I’m doing, it’s clear in her tone of voice or her face. Oh, and when I told her I was practicing Taiji, she said it was a way to invite the devil to dance on my spine. And she was being earnestly sincere.


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Breaking free of my mind shackles through NaNoWriMo

I’ve been in a writing rut for quite some time, and while the product is still decent, there is a sameness to it that bothers me. Most of my protagonists are Taiwanese American bisexual older women with black cats who do taiji. In other words, me. I don’t have a problem with that because there are exactly none of those in fiction, but it’s not a stretch for me to write. Oh, also they are empathetic, yet prickly to a varying degree. It’s fun to write the characters, but I feel as if I’m coasting.

It’s November, which means NaNoWriMo. As I’ve written in the past, the stated goal of 50,000 words a months (starting a new novel) is not an issue for me. I write 2,000 words a day as it is, so I can meet the goal without breaking a sweat. In the past, I’ve set other goals for myself, such as writing 5,000 words a day (made it), edit a novel (easy-peasy), working on something I’m already writing, and whatever else I felt like doing. It’s become a Thing to set your own goals for NaNoWriMo, so much so that the NaNo rebels as they are called have their own forums on the website. I’ve been a rebel more than I’ve been a regular in the past five years or so.

This year, I thought about NaNoWriMo about a week ago, remembering that it was coming up. I’m going to Philly this Thursday for five days to visit my BFF, so that has to be factored into NaNoWriMo as well. I’m bringing my laptop when I go, but we have a lot planned, so we’ll see how much I actually write. I wasn’t sure I was going to do NaNoWriMo this year, and I knew if I did, I wouldn’t do what they wanted me to do.

Look. I understand the sentiment, and it was a great way to get me to write on a daily basis when I first did it…ten years ago? Something like that. That was the best thing about my MA program, by the way (Writing & Consciousness)–it got me to write every day. For the first few NaNoWriMos I participated in, that was good enough for me. I felt virtuous for writing the 2,000 words a day (I rarely wrote less than that), and that was the whole point of NaNoWriMo.


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The Importance of Being Diverse

Yesterday, I talked about the impulse to present minorities in the best light in popular culture and why I don’t follow that line of thought. To recap, I have no interest in caricatures, and while I understand the impulse, I don’t think it ultimately helps the minority in questions to be seen as individuals. Also, as a creator, I hate the idea of dictating to people what they can and can’t create. Art should be thrilling and outrageous, and it should poke and pry in all the dark corners of human nature. Put too many strictures on it, and it becomes anodyne and toothless. The things that we don’t want to talk about are often the best fodder for the greatest art.

I ended by stating that I was somewhat hypocritical because I do criticize other creators for their choices, and I wasn’t sure where to draw the line. In thinking more about it, I realized that my criticism is based on products that already exist. I’m specifically talking about Hollywood and how amazing they are about whitewashing PoC or even worse, yellowface (and other colors of faces). Even as I write this, there’s a controversy over the Black Panther pin and how Disney lightened his skin. In the first picture, he looked white. In the second picture, he was definitely black, but light-skinned. Hollywood is unbelievable in its stubborn insistence in pandering to what they believe to be the mainstream. I’ve noted it on other occasions on how insipid Hollywood is. Most of their movies are safe, boring, and focus grouped on that mythic creature–the average, middling (white, male, young) American. When they manage to create a hit, they suck everything out of it with the energy of an emotional vampire.

Anyway, the difference is that these products are already out there, and Hollywood is simply recreating them. They are not bringing anything new to the party as it were, and the results have been anemic. Ghost in the Shell was the pinnacle for me, and it made me realize how fucking hopeless Hollywood is. It has no spine, and it lives firmly in the past. In 2017, diversely cast movies performed well, better than most of the anemic fare that Hollywood churns out these days. What Hollywood doesn’t seem to realize is that even white middle America has moved past the 1950s, and even Joe from Nebraska or Chad from Beverly Hills can handle an actual person of color in an actual person of color role in a movie that isn’t dominated by white people.

I’m still being hypocritical because it’s not only remakes that draw my ire, but any time Hollywood wants to pass off a white person as an Asian. I think I’ll rephrase it as not hypocritical but context specific. Obviously, this doesn’t hold true for the written word, at least not in the same way. There have been poorly-written minority characters by white people (and other people in the majority), of course, but that’s another post for another day. If you are going to have an Asian character, then fucking cast an Asian person. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot have our stories and our culture, then erase us from the whole lot* as if we don’t matter. It’s one of the most infuriating things about the GitS example. Hollywood took what is uniquely a Japanese story, then took Japan out of it. The director protested it was an international story, which is bullshit. Even if it’s true, Japan is international. Why couldn’t the main character be Japanese?


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The Frustration of Art

I remember fondly my twenties for one reason: I wrote as if the world wasn’t watching, and I was damn good. I reread some of the things I wrote back then with amazement. My writing was fresh and alive, and the words just popped on the page. I’m talking specifically about my fiction because I didn’t start blogging until later, but it remains true for the first few years I blogged. I was good, damn it, and it actually saddens me to read my old works because I feel as if I’ve lost a step or seven in the passing years. Why? I have a few reasons. Let’s tackle fiction first.

One reason I started writing fiction was because of my frustration at not seeing stories that resonated with me as a Taiwanese American bisexual woman. Even now with literature being more diverse than it was twenty years ago, finding those specific parameters aren’t easy. Taiwanese is a subset of Asian, and we’re not talked about very much. Hell, most people only know that we’re great at producing electronic goods. We used to be known for manufacturing cheap goods as well, but that’s slowly gone away.

Most Americans don’t know or care about the fraught history of Taiwan concerning its relationship with China, which is frustrating, but understandable. It has no affect on Americans, so why should they care? It’s not something I write about much, but it definitely influences my writing. In fact, I think I may inject more of it into my writing, come to think of it. Anyway, I don’t have a problem with making my protagonists Asian, specifically Taiwanese. Or women. Or bisexual. The problem is that I’ve been writing the same variance of a story for many years, and it’s becoming stale to me. I’ve reread some of the more recent fiction works I’ve written, and while they’re still good, they’re not singing to me.

To clarify, I can read something I’ve written and recognize that it’s a solid piece of work that might interest a reader who’s never read anything of mine. To me, however, it’s old hat. In addition, I like to put in black cats because I’m a huge black cat lover, and I want to mention my passion for taiji as well. Again, these aren’t problems in and of themselves, but I feel as if I’m in a rut. In addition, my fiction writing has gotten more prosaic, and I’m not entirely pleased with it. I recently wrote a sequel to a mystery I wrote sixteen years ago, trying to recapture the feeling of the original, and I just didn’t feel I did it justice. The protagonist is one of my favorites in a large part because she has no fucks to give, and she’s mostly amoral. That’s not fair to her, really. She has a moral code; it’s just different than most people’s. God, I love her so much. I really wanted to bring her back, but I’m a different person than I was when I first wrote her, and she’s different now, too.

I feel as if I’m restricting myself too much in my fiction by making my protagonists like me every time. I’m trying to mix it up, but I really want to see someone like me in fiction. I think the problem is that I need to get that novel published before I can move on. I’m not good at the business end of art, which is something I’m realizing in my blogging as well. I have this vague idea that I can self-publish, but if I want to go that route, I’ll have to do more of the business shit myself. That’s not something I’m interested in at all, but I could learn if I choose to.


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Do You Even NaNoWriMo, Bro?

write, baby, write
Let’s get cracking!

I saw a tweet that mentioned getting ready for NaNoWriMo the other day, and it took me by surprise. For whatever reason, November always creeps up on me, and this year has been no exception.

What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? It’s a world-wide event that occurs every November in which you write a 50,000 word novel in that one month. You have to start on the first day of November* and stop at midnight in your time zone. There are NaNoWriMo support groups across the country, and you get motivated messages from the NaNoWriMo team throughout the month as well. There’s no reward at the end except a badge for your website page and the satisfaction of writing 50,000 words in a month. It was established in 1999, but really seemed to take off in the past decade. There has been debate whether it’s a good thing or not because the only goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Some people think it allows more dreck to be created while others see it as a way of encouraging emerging writers. I’m in the latter camp because I know how hard it can be to just sit down and write. I’m not a big fan of the plethora of shit that is published, but that’s not the responsibility of NaNoWriMo. Most pop culture is dross, and it’s been that way since the beginning of art. It’s not as if a novel written in a month is immediately going to be published, anyway, so there’s little danger that a novel will go directly from NaNoWriMo to the shelf.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times, and it’s always jump-started my fiction writing. I’m about to say something that will make many NaNoWriMoers mad, but it’s really not a humble brag. I’ve never had a problem meeting the word count goal because, as you can probably tell, I’m a verbose writer. “Why use one word when ten will do?” is my motto, and I follow it passionately. The first three years I participated, I wrote a complete novel of more than 50,000 words plus a good chunk of another novel. I reached nearly 200,000 words (or passed it) one year, and I’ve gotten past 100,000 more than once. The last few times I participated, I decided to set my own goals rather than just aim for 50,000 words.** Before that, I had taken a break for a few years because I was just…not bored, but…not enthused about doing it. Part of the fun is seeing if you can meet the goal, and without that tension, it really just fell flat for me. By setting different goals, I reinvigorated my excitement for NaNoWriMo without aggravating my OCD tendencies.

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