Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: writing

Blogging is dead. RIP, blogging.

I have been a writer all my life. I started writing (very bad) poetry when I was six or seven and wrote my first short story (along with really bad crayon illustrations) for elementary school. It was a murder mystery set in a school in which the unpopular girl is murdered. I don’t remember by whom, by probably the popular girl. Or maybe it was the other way around. It was probably the other way around, actually, knowing me.

I spent most of my free time reading and writing. It was in part because that’s what I enjoy doing and in part because I had no friends. I was a weirdo with many home issues–and I was (and am) Asian before it was trendy. There were people who were friendly enough to me, but no real friends. I think it’s also because I was so downtrodden by the time I was seven (when I first thought about killing myself) that I wouldn’t have accepted any overtures of friendship even if they were offered.

So I retreated into the fantasy worlds of the books I read and the ones I created. I always had a storyline going in my mind–at least one, but usually several. I found the real world lacking so I was grateful to escape into my mind. And the books I read when I was younger ranged from Trixie Belden to The Scarlet Letter. I read the latter when I was in fifth or sixth grade just because it was in the library, I’m betting. I hated it. Even at that age, I thought Hester got a raw deal. Also, why was she shielding the priest? It turned me off Hawthorne. I also tried to read War and Peace around the same time because it was the biggest book I knew of. I gave up on it halfway through because the names were confusing me. I didn’t realize connect that everyone had a half dozen nicknames so I thought they were all new characters. I never bothered to pick it up again, which has not bothered me one whit.

In college, I made the conscious decision not to read dead white men any more than I had to. I had one white dude tell me it was just as discriminatory for me not to read white men as it was for the entire educational system to only have people read dead white men. Putting aside the fact that I am just one person and it’s a false equation, I retorted that I bet I had still read more dead white men than he had writers of color. He had nothing to say to that. I would still say the same to anyone who questioned me about it now. I’m also not saying I wouldn’t read white men–just that I would need an awfully good reason to do so.

I started writing fiction because there was no one like me in the books I read. Back in the aughts, Asian women became hot. But, it had to be first generation Asian women who were SUFFERING. They had to be married to asshole men and be downtrodden in their lives. They had to have abusive mothers as well and they were absolutely not allowed to have any joy in their lives. Basically, The Joy Luck Club writ large. I remembered I was in Modern Times bookstore (RIP) is San Francisco with a friend, leafing through the new Asian books, when I was pushed to exclaim, “If I never see another book about three generations of miserable Asian women, it’ll be too soon!” My friend was embarrassed, but I was pushed to my limits with the notion that Asian women could only star in books if they were miserable the whole time.

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Learning the rules before breaking them

There’s a saying in writing that you have to know the rules before you can break them. I agree. And I am at the point where I knowingly break rules I think don’t make sense. Such as using a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence as I did in the last sentence. Or ending a sentence with a preposition. That is one I do a lot because I don’t see any reason not to do it. That’s pretty much my excuse for anything I do that breaks the rules in writing–it makes the flow better. I’m about communicating, not about the stiffness of rigid rules. I will not give up my semi-colon, however; that, I will not do.

There’s a similar thing in taiji. The first thing you learn is the Solo Form, which is the basis for everything else in taiji. I hated the Solo Form when I first learned it. That was over a decade ago. I got used to it, but I never liked it. With the long form (Master T.T. Liang’s form), there were just so many things I didn’t like about it. A few years ago, my teacher’s teacher modified it to be more in line with Master Choi’s teaching and suddenly, I liked it much better, especially the Fast Form. I was talking about it with my teacher during our last private lesson because I was saying how when we used to do the whole form, my lower back would start to hurt at the end of the first section. By the end of the third section, nearly twenty minutes later, my whole back would be cramped up and it would hurt. I didn’t understand how this was supposed to be good for me!

In addition, I had the habit of collapsing my back knee which gave me tendonitis around my knee. I had mentioned that to my teacher when it was the worst (about five years ago) and she gave me tips to deal with it. They helped, but it was a lot of effort to reverse the damage. Anyway, I was saying how I could do the whole current form without my lower back hurting and I couldn’t figure out why. My teacher mentioned the change in form and it clicked in my brain. I mean, of course it made sense that changing the form would ameliorate the pain, but I just didn’t think about it. My knees don’t hurt, either. The difference is that this form is focused on the martial arts applications whereas the old form was more for health benefits. It was more theoretical and difficult to get exactly what you were supposed to do.


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Free to breathe

I have a problem doing what I need to be doing. In this case, mailing in my absentee ballot. I’m registered to vote and requested my ballot in the beginning of September. I didn’t get my ballot and didn’t get my ballot so I checked the SoS website. It said it was sent September 18th. What??? I only checked my mail once a week (Sunday when I went to put out the trash) and there it was–two weeks after they said they sent it. Which meant it took at least five or six days to get to me–which shouldn’t be the case.

Then, I set it on my counter and didn’t do anything about it for two weeks because that’s how I roll. We had a bit of snow yesterday and it was predicted we’d get 5 – 8 inches today (now downgraded to 4 – 6) and it was getting uncomfortably close to the election for my taste. So, I went to mail it (I don’t trust my mailbox for good reason) and it felt so damn good to be driving with the windows down in 30 degree weather. I felt alive and refreshed; I had forgotten how much I loved doing that.

By the way, voting in my small city is so easy. I just Google candidates for about fifteen minutes and bob’s your uncle. Even for ‘non-partisan’ (yes, in quotes) positions, it’s fairly easy to tell where they stand on issues. If the first thing they mention is taxes, they’re not the candidate for me. If there’s no mention of social justice (especially with the current events being what they are), hard no. If there’s no challenger such as with judges, I don’t vote. I’m not feeling great about this year’s election for many reasons, but I knew I had to vote.

Being in the car with the window down, the brisk wind reddening my cheek, that felt good. Now, I’m on snow watch and it’s coming down hard. I can feel my soul expanding as I watch it fall. Oh, this is another reason I am not good with people. I love winter. I love snow and the cold. When the weather drops below forty, I feel more alive. Other people get SAD in the winter; I get it in the summer. Or rather, I get irrationally angry when the temperature rises about seventy. Put me in zero degrees with my weighted ‘cool’ blanket and a mug of dairy-free hot chocolate with my cat on my lap? Hell to the motherfucking yes!


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What is ‘normal’ isn’t universal

run, run away.
Just looking at her makes me tired.

It’s wearing to always be the weird one. I have to get that out there before I start blathering about whatever is on my mind. Fair warning: I woke up feeling as if I was hit by a dump truck (not as bad as a Mack truck, but still), and I’m slightly dizzy and nauseated. So, I’m going to write until my brain gives out, which could be in five minutes or it could be in an hour.

One common wisdom people give about depression is to write about your feelings as a way of tracking them. It makes sense, but I refuse to do it. Why? Because I write a lot on a regular basis, and I don’t want to make it a chore, rather than something I enjoy doing. Telling myself that I have to jot down every feeling I feel is a sure way to make me not want to write. I do it, anyway, in these posts, so making myself journal seems excessive to me.

Another common wisdom to counter depression is to get some sun and to exercise. I’ve heard the latter so much, it’s embedded in my brain. My experience with exercise, however, begs to differ.

Side Note: I have SAD in the summer instead of winter, which is yet another way in which I am not normal. I love winter. I roll down the windows in my car until it’s zero degrees. I used to do it sub-zero, but I’m more sensitive to cold now that I’m an Old. My thermostat is set at 62º during the day and 60º during the night. I did not wear a coat all of last winter, but I also didn’t go out during the coldest days. I think we reached something like  -50º including the windchill, which is cold, even for me. I do appreciate the sun, but in small doses. I like it better than gloomy weather, but it has to be paired with cold.

Back to exercise. I’ve heard it all my life, and I’m sure you have, too. “Exercise drives away the depression!” Well, no. That’s not true. I found that it didn’t make my mood worse, but it didn’t help, either. No endorphin boost for me, except when I did dancing as exercise. Fast walking (and I used to do four miles a day) just made me actively angry, in part because I was getting hot and sweaty while doing it. I sweat. A lot. More than most people. I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s not fun to be bathing in it. Also, being in the heat makes me actively angry. Anything over seventy is not my happy place. I read about the office temperature wars, and I have to shake my head. Most people seem to think 70º to 75º is the comfort zone. In fact, women in general prefer a higher temp than men do. Me, I would cuss everybody out if I had to be that hot every day.

People who like it warmer complain that they have to cater to people who like colder temps, but it’s because at some point, we can’t take off any more clothing. One person on this temp war thread said their dad started a new job at a place where a woman kept the thermometer cranked to 85+º. Eighty-fucking-five. PLUS. The commenter said their dad almost fainted, and I would have fainted. The dad also kept his thermostat at 62º during the winter, so he’s my kind of people.

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Writing & aging don’t always mesh

all. the. questions.
Huh?

I’m reading the second book of a trilogy I’m working on, and I noticed that I completely left out a scene that I had setup to write. It wasn’t a huge setup, but I was carefully making it seem to be something important. Then, I just…forgot about it? Got distracted? I’m not sure, but probably the latter because I had setup another important scene, and that one I actually wrote. I’m going to have to write the scene and make it seamless, and I have to have my character talk to another character whom I introduced and noted I had to talk to, but then never did.

It’s not like me to forget entire scenes and characters, and I think it’s because I’m getting old. I hate to admit it, but my memory ain’t what it used to be. In my heyday, I worked in a department that had five hundred people. I checked in people to training classes, which meant I met most of the people in the department as many of the training was mandatory. I only forgot the name of two people, and one was because she was perhaps the blandest person I’d ever met. I felt bad about it, but it’s still a pretty good track record.

I’ve been losing the lyrics from 80s songs, which I’m fine with. I don’t need them, and they take up way too much brain space. It’s disconcerting, though, because I’d been carrying them around with me for decades only to have them disappear. Not all of them and not even most of them, but some of them–and that’s weird enough. I know it’s human nature to lose your memory capabilities as you get older, but it’s disconcerting. My mom and i have had several discussions about this because my father is rapidly losing his memory. He’s always had a terrific memory as well, and now, it’s really bad in some areas. To complicate matters, he never remembered anything he didn’t want to remember. If he didn’t consider something important, it didn’t register in his brain. For example. He never went to any of my activities when I was a kid unless my mom made him. He never showed any interest in my life, and I doubt he knows anything personal about me except I like cats and the color black. In addition, when he was the president of an economic research company, he had an excellent secretary (they still use that word in Taiwan) who would print out his emails for him. That’s not all she did, but that’s the extent to which his helplessness was extended.

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How to write like a (im)proper author

write it down!
All acceptable ways to create.

In the weekend threads of Ask A Manager, there are always one or two about writing. The writers always have solid tips…and they always rankle me. On the face of it, it’s ridiculous because it’s good advice, such as, have a set writing time, make sure your sentence structure is varied, and have beta readers. There is nothing objectionable in any of that advice, but I have two issues with it. One, it makes for bland and safe writing. Two, it doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s tended to be presented as The One True Way of Writing.

Addressing the latter first, I used to freak out any time I read these kinds of lists because I inevitably fell short on each one. I don’t plan my writing. At all. This is one of the near universal tips when it comes to writing–have an outline. Me, I laugh at your outline! I don’t, actually, but I’ve never written one. Anytime I try, I give up after one or two bullet points. I write mysteries, and you’d think that would be prime fodder for lists. It is, but not for me. The way I ‘plan’ a novel is by having the idea come to my mind or fixating on something and thinking it’s a good idea. I let it marinate for a day or ten, and the ideas slowly start flowing in. For example, the idea of a protagonist who follows her boyfriend because she thinks he’s cheating on her sprang to mind. The first scene of her seeing him snuggle up with a blond in front of his apartment as the protagonist sat, fuming, in her car immediately came to me, and I wrote it in a fairly short amount of time. As I was writing, the idea that she was from his past seemed logical, and the details started filtering in as I was writing. He went missing, and I knew from the very beginning who did the taking. That’s something that has been a constant for me when I write a mystery–I know who the perpetrator is from the start. I may not know exactly why or the reason may change as I’m writing, but the perp remains the same.

I guess you could say I do an outline, but I do it in my head. That may not be an option as I get older, but it’s easier for me that way. It also keeps things fresher, and whenever I try to force my characters to adhere stringently to my plan, they rebel by becoming flat on the ‘paper’. Yes, I’m an Old. I still think of writing as pen on paper, even though neither of these things is true any longer. I know it sounds woo-woo to say that my characters shimmer when they’re fully realized, but it’s true. There’s an energy that emanates from the paper when I keep true to their spirits. When I don’t, there’s nothing I can say or do to coax them to be real people. That’s why I like to say that I’m merely a conduit for my characters and not the actual writer. I don’t feel as if I have control over them, even though I do shape their worlds.

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An alien in isolation

the glasses are what makes it work.
However you do it, just write.

I read about how to write from time to time, and I recently learned about the Snowflake Method. I’m not going to link to it, so you can Google it if you want. I was not impressed with the website because the guy was hawking it HARD. I can get past that, though, because I know that’s part of writing these days. I skimmed through all the self-aggrandizement and hard sell bullshit to see what his actual advice was, and it would be fair to say I was skeptical from the start. I have a bias against named systems for most things, especially creative endeavors,

Putting that aside, I reached the part about him saying something like, “If you’re like most people, you dream about your novel long before you write it. You research it and–”

That’s where I tapped out because it just underscored how weird I am. I’ve seen a version of this given as advice or how that particular writer works many, many times. “I have an outline”, “I write down the names and how everyone is related to each other in beforehand”, etc. People talking about how they do all this research when they build a world is common as well.

I’m not disputing that this works for other people, obviously. In fact, it seems most writers have some sort of outline/plan/research thing they adhere to. I don’t. At all. I don’t think about a novel before I write about it. I have  ideas come into my mind, and they are usually fairly fully hatched when they arrive. I write mysteries for the most part, so let me give you an example of my creative process. Note, I tend to write trilogy, so this is what happens when I’m starting a new one.

I’m finishing up a novel, and I have an idea rattling around in my mind. For example, at one point, I wanted to write about abortion. Or rather, have abortion as a main driver in the story. I let that marinate in my brain for days as I finished whatever I was working on. Then, suddenly, I knew how abortion was going to be featured, how it would affect the arc of the story, and who was going to be murdered (the doctor who performed the abortion). I also knew that the anti-choice movement was going to be featured because of course they would be given the topic. I also knew the reason for the murder, although I wasn’t quite sure who the murderer would be. With that knowledge, I started writing.

Another example is a short story I wrote, which is still one of my favorite stories that I’ve written. I wanted to write about depression and the color red. I am inordinately proud of this story because it’s actually beautiful prose, which is not my style at all. I am not one for elaborate descriptions and an exquisite turn of phrase. I’m good at dialogue and building characters. The rest of it, eh, not so much. This short story, however, I paid more attention to my phrasing, and it was almost lyrical.

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Prioritizing priorities

Before we start, the four advice columnists I regularly read were featured in a column in Buzzfeed about life as an internet columnist. I was legit excited to see all of them in one place, but I was sad that none of them were people of color (as far as I know). It was a good read, and I thought I’d share it with y’all.

Now. On to the post. I have several things I want to do in the new year. So many things. All the things. It’s the story of my life. I’m not satisfied with anything. Wait. That’s not completely true. I am satisfied with writing 2,000 words a day. I could do more, but it’s a good base. Other than that, though, I am dissatisfied in all areas of my life. I know I need a therapist, but I don’t have wherewithal to find a good one. My last one came recommended, but I don’t have anyone I can ask this time around. Also, I really appreciated my last therapist, but there were a few glaring issues. One was concerning race issues. She wasn’t cognizant of the nuances, or rather, she had a hard time with stepping outside the American way of thinking. It’s the same issue I have with advice columnists, come to think of it. Any time race comes up, I just cringe. Even if the columnists themselves do a decent job with their answer, the comment sections are a mess (at least the three I read. I don’t read the Dear Prudence comments because they are a hot mess and not moderated as far as I know). It’s simply different for someone from the dominant population, no matter how many friends, lovers, family they have who are minorities.

The problem with finding a therapist of color, however, is that I live in Minnesota. That’s the first problem. Secondly, finding an Asian therapist who is also amenable to queer issues makes it even harder. Let’s face it. I’m a freak in so many ways, finding a therapist who is empathetic to all the issues is a fool’s errand. I know some of this is self-defeatist talk, but it’s also the reality of being a weirdo. In addition, I have to have a therapist who is intelligent enough to call me on my bullshit. Because I know psych lingo and because I have brains, I can run rings around many therapists. I’ve done it in the past even when I knew it wasn’t to my benefit. My defenses are so ingrained, my impulse is to protect my neurosis, much to my detriment.

First up.

Publishing my book

Or rather, a book. Any book. Which book? I don’t know. Or rather, I have a few ideas, but I’m just not sure which one I want to push. I have a trilogy I started sixteen years ago, and I’ve finished the second book in the trilogy. The first book is on my fiction website right now, but I may pull it down if I focus on publishing it. I really like it because the protagonist is unlike any other I have written. She’s brash, confident, and gives no fuck about other people except in a very basic moral way of treating everyone with common decency. She cares about very few individual people, and even with them, it’s limited.

In the second book, she’s aged sixteen years, and while she’s older, she’s not always wiser. She has the same friends she did from the first book, and she relies on them when she gets in trouble. It was fascinating to me to write her sixteen years later, and I look forward to another sixteen years later when I write the third book.

The other option is the current trilogy I’m writing. Yes, I like trilogies, so sue me. I write mostly mysteries, and I think that the series drag on for too long. I’ve decided that seven is the maximum any series should go, but does anyone listen to me? No. My current trilogy is an urban fantasy mystery, and the protagonist is pretty similar to the protagonist of the other trilogy I mentioned. Pragmatic, not very emotional (though she has more of an excuse as she is not human), and not much of a people-person.


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Navel gazing for the new year

One of the worst things about my depression is how it makes everything at least twice as difficult. I am my own worst enemy, as I have noted time and time again. For those who have never experienced depression, it can be difficult to comprehend just how time consuming it is. A small example: when I have to go out, say to taiji, I first have to convince myself that I will go. Even if I want to go, the idea of driving fifteen minutes to get there is daunting. On my worst days, it seems impossible. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it in my past. It doesn’t matter that I can do it in my sleep. Every fiber of my being does not want to do it ever again.

It used to be that way when my BFF and I used to go out dancing. Both of us suffer from depression and the overwhelming desire never to leave the house. We’d talk about how we both had to stop ourselves from cancelling, and we always had a blast when we went out. Not only was it difficult to make myself leave the house (my leaning towards inertia is high), but I would imagine everything that might possibly go wrong while I was out. Again, even for something as simple as going to taiji, I ruminate about will it drain me (not completely invalid when I’m sick), can I put up with talking to people for that long (an hour and a half. Not exactly earth shattering), etc. I go to the co-op afterwards, which brings with it a whole new set of worries. Even something as banal as talking to the cashier can tie me up in knots.

I mention this because there are two things I really want to focus on in 2019. As I’ve written before, I am not big on resolutions, but I do like to set goals for the upcoming year. The difference to me is that goals have steps with concrete actions that seem achievable. By the way, I hate ‘actionable steps’. I know what it means in context (something you can actually do as opposed to a theory or an idea), but to me, actionable means something that you take legal action on. It’s a personal pet peeve, but it sticks in my craw every time I read it.

All of that is explanation as to why I tend to have the same goals every year, even if I have concrete steps I can take to actually meet the goals. I  have to overcome my inertia to even get to the point of doing something about it. Then, I have to deal with the negative self-talk. No matter what I’m doing, there’s a voice in the back of my head saying, “What’s the point? Why bother? Nobody cares.” Some days, it’s better than others, but it’s always there. It’s happening as I write this post. Most of the time, I can ignore it enough to get what I need done if it’s part of my routine. But, if it’s something new, then it’s much harder. Or if it involves driving. Which is one of my least-favorite activities in life.


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50 goals for turning 50

In taiji yesterday, a classmate was talking about celebrating her youngest stepdaughter’s birthday. She (the stepdaughter) turned 51, and my classmate said that ‘young’ is relative. She also mentioned that the stepdaughter made a crack about some old man, and her sister said that someone who had just turned 51 should be careful about calling someone old. It got me to thinking about turning 50 and how I’m not ready for it. I’m 47, and, yes, I know that’s closer to 45 than 50, but this birthday was really hard for me for some unfathomable reason. I don’t usually care about age, and I’m not upset about being 47 specifically. It’s just that it crept up on me, and I don’t know what happened to the last ten years. I’m nearing half a century on this planet, and I have nothing to show for it. It’s messing with my mind, and I think par of my current depression is because of this.

So. Resolutions.

1. Health. I’ve talked several times about not being happy about my weight. It’s not about health, though I’m sure that could be improved as well. It’s that I hate the way I look, and I want to do something about it. I thought giving up gluten and dairy would help, but it hasn’t. Probably because I started eating rice again which is SO GOOD but calorific. I haven’t eaten as much as of late, so that’s probably helpful. As much as I love rice (and I love it a lot because I’m Asian), it doesn’t really have any nutritional benefits. I’ve also cut out potato chips, added them back, and cut them out again. I’ve slowly added back fruit and veggies, and I cut down my caffeine intake by four-fifths.

Which, by the way, was by far harder than giving up dairy and gluten. I was so logy and cranky, I could barely function. It was two weeks before I felt human again, but I’m still adjusting. I have one cup of tea/coffee a day and have completely given up pop. I had some while I was in Malta, but those were extenuating circumstances. I will have a glass occasionally if I’m dining out, but more often than not, I’ll stick to water.

Side note: I want pizza right now. I want it so bad, I can taste it. There are many tasty substitutes for many gluten and dairy foods, but gluten-free/dairy-free pizza just isn’t that tasty. A local pizza joint had a fall special a few years ago that had sausage and sauerkraut, and it was amazing. So delicious! Heavy as hell, yes, but I would eat it every day all day long. I have a feeling I’ll break soon and get one because I can’t stop thinking about it, but I don’t want to fall off the gf/df wagon. I did while in Malta, but again, it was extenuating circumstances. How the hell could I not try pasta in Malta? Especially pasta with cheese in it?

I need to start cooking. I’ve said it several times, but I’ve yet to do it. I’ve boiled gf macaroni and added spaghetti sauce to it, but that’s not exactly cooking, now is it? I should get a pressure cooker because it’s magical, but it seems like a lot to learn. I could be wrong and probably am, but that’s how it appears to me.

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