So, the Chicago-style version of me drives a car, much to my surprise. As I’d mentioned before, the women in my family probably set back any progressive notions of unfair stereotyping when it comes to Asians, women and driving (think the count was up to five cars totalled by my mom and sisters in total).
What hasn’t changed, again, much to my surprise, is that despite everything: the economic downturn, the lack of jobs, crap pay and even the ultimatum of my soon-to-be ex that I find something more lucurative , I remain a writer.
All these things did nothing but galvanize my resolve as a storyteller. It surprised about what I was willing to give up – just about anything – except the practice.
Both of these activities have their hazard to personal well-being, but I think it’s more dangerous to act in fear than live in faith. I’d avoided driving because I feared I’d be a bad driver – and missed the sense of freedom and autonomy that comes with being able to head out, on my own, in any direction that has a road. It also kept me from practicing my faith in humanity: what is a greater faith in a perfect stranger than to trust that he or she will stay on their side of a thin yellow line?
Any act of writing is an act of faith and courage. Every time I send anything, from a pitch to blurb on booze, I’m wracked with the fear that I got it all wrong and that it reads like a Sears catalogue. But then the work dribbles in. The ideas come. And sometimes, there’s a turn of phrase pulled out of the *ss that is worthy of honing.
My greatest source of inspiration and gratitude this summer has been to learn from master storytellers who invested their time and good advice on me. Through the AAJA Knight-Poynter fellowship, I was allowed the opportunity to study the personal essay under Keith Woods, a veteran storyteller with NPR. I learned so much more than just about cherry-picking which details or how to structure a non-chronological essay from him, though just those two made an immense impact on me (He says: “I don’t live my life in a chronological way, so I don’t see why I should have to write that way.”).
It was about seeing and feeling in a more authentic way. To say more with less, by letting the emotional honesty of scenes speak for themselves. What’s more, I felt a new confidence that I had a voice and that I could trust it because someone so talented who has been writing successfully for so long liked a phrase I’d crafted. And confidence is the inverse side of faith.
Even while working 12-hour days as everyone’s b*tch on TV and movie production offices, I somehow managed to cobble together a better version of an essay that was important to me during this course. (You know you really want to do something if you’re willing to shave 20minutes off of a four-hour sleep).
Since the Knight-Poynter Fellowship, I was also fortunate enough to win a scholarship to the Wesleyan Writers Conference to further develop, in the fellowship of writers from all different backgrounds and levels, as a personal essayist. It didn’t matter that I was giving up a five-year relationship and moving out of my home. It mattered less that I would have to do without some luxuries to get to the conference and give up some paying writing gigs to it.
But that’s the writing life: I get to explore any roads before me on my own steam, along with a lot of support and a good compass supplied by master craftsmen before me. It’s an honor and privilege.
On wheels and feeling winged, I was grateful to be included in the fellowship of other writers under the tutelage of those whose skills and talent I aspired to. And that’s enough to carry me.