Protecting this Delicate Thing Called Hope


So much of writing for me is sitting my ass down and writing, even when I don't want to.  I have really good discipline.  I can write for fifteen hours straight sometimes, and then revise and edit for days and weeks afterwards.  The hardest part of writing I can do and have done since my first workshop back in 2002.  The other crucial part of writing for me involves psychological and emotional maintenance (aka self-care), which is just as important.  Normally, self-care for me means not only exercising, meditating, getting enough sleep, eating well, and going on dates with LB every week, but also ignoring my own negative thinking and putting myself out there again and again (even when it feels POINTLESS) and not getting discouraged (even when NOTHING is happening), which has been particularly difficult this summer.  Part of that is the traumatic move from DTLA to Thai Town, which I'll spare everyone the deetz.  Part of that is that my agent and I split up amicably while I was in London, which was the best thing for both of us going forward, but which lingered with me every day of that trip to the empire.  Another part is that I decided to take a break from academia for the next year for all the reasons that adjunct labor forces academics and writers to replay their destinies.  Still another part is that a number of agents/editors have been reading different manuscripts of mine for the entire summer and beyond without a final decision.  Lastly, I was once again a finalist for a tenure track job but this summer like last summer, I'm NOT moving there because once again I wasn't offered the job (for the record, my interview went extremely well and I'm now friends with all the CW faculty there). 


Many of my cohort from SC and Notre Dame have been on tour this past year with debut novels, short story collections, and memoirs, all of which are awesome books that deserve to be published, read, loved, debated, and considered.  The problem is that since so much of PR is now left to authors, my writer friends and classmates really have no choice but to talk about their books all the damn time on social media (and honestly, I'd do the same thing if I was on tour this year), and so now I have to read about their exciting tours and interviews and book reviews every single day, even when I can't deal with that shit, even when I'm feeling like shit about my own trajectory, even when I've had enough of this singular feeling of literary exclusion, irrelevance, marginalization, and pointlessness that's unique to being a literary (non) fiction writer with manuscripts and talent to burn but NOT A GODDAMN THING to show for it except a mouthy blog that is, itself, heavily self-edited and sanitized in order to avoid appearing bitter, confused, depressed, sad, angry AF, and often, just hopeless.  If you know me, you know that I'm not any of those things but if you've talked to me these past six months, you might not always know that.  Trust me, it's been a confusing moment for everyone.


So, here I am, trying to protect this delicate thing called hope, but secretly afraid that there's literally no point in protecting it anymore because my voice doesn't matter to the publishing world right now.  Who wants to read about a hapa, mixed-race, illegibly Asian, Nisei male writer when the world is going to shit, Trump is destroying the country, and there are easier-to-identify non-white voices that give us a counternarrative we both need and can easily understand (and easily situate)?  If I were just Japanese or Japanese American, my writing platform would be much easier for people to process.  But we haven't decided how to deal with mixed-race identity or mixed-race writing yet in America.  We make mixed-race people pick sides all the time for our own intellectual comfort, often pushed by the flawed notion of authenticity and the very-real history of racism.  We even cite the One-Drop Law, racial privilege, institutional racism, and phenotypicality as reasons for forcing mixed-race people to pick a side.  We still don't question the existential logic of defining ourselves through the clumsy, unperceptive, cold, and lazy historical lens of white supremacy, pushed and reinforced by people who don't love us and have never wanted to understand us.  And when mixed-race people don't pick a side, America picks one for them.  Tiger Woods is black.  Obama is black.  Lisa See is Chinese or Chinese American.  Except they're all mixed race.  If mixed-race people want to identify just as one race, that's their right completely and I'd always support that.  But how much of that is simply because America doesn't know how to handle racial hyphenation and cultural hybridity?


So now, for the first time, writing has started to feel futile to me, something it has NEVER felt before in my entire life.  Keep in mind that language has saved my ass more than once in my lifetime, in fact, I'm trying to publish a personal essay right now that's about this very topic, so saying that writing feels futile to me is more shocking than it might seem.  I mean, what's the point of writing things if I can't publish them?  Do I just create a stack of unpublished manuscripts?  Do I just create a paper suburbia with all my rejections?  Am I being challenged to fight for my own voice or is the universe telling me loud and clear something I just don't want to hear?  I honestly don't know, and that's possibly the worst part of this uncertainty.