I have two hometowns. I identify with 2 cultures, and I’m married into to a third. I hold two–soon to be three–citizenships.
I have two names.
This is how my next writing project begins. I plan for it to be the most truthful account of my experiences. By truthful, I mean to say it will be written without any attempt to make anything sound more interesting than it actually is; it will be written without any intention to make myself more likable.
I’ve been writing for roughly 18 years now. I made up stories about fictional characters, and I wrote about my life and experiences in various blogs.
But this is something I’ve never tried: writing something without worrying about what the eventual reader will think.
Sure, I’ve kept personal (hand-written) diaries. I have 6 notebooks of it so far, the oldest entry dating back to 1999. When I go back and read these diary entries, I realised something: even when I write in paper notebooks that I assume no one will ever read, I’ve actually been writing to impress my future self.
So the new writing project, I, ____, is my attempt at writing about myself, my past, my beliefs, without bias, or expectation.
I’m only a few pages in, and already I am afraid. Here is some of what I wrote on the first page:
I worry that by putting all of this down on paper and one day actually publishing this, I will lose everyone. My family will disown me, my husband will divorce me, and our future children would never speak to me again.
Whether this thing will ever see the light of day, I have no idea. It’s something I really should try at least once, though–writing a piece of work with complete honesty.
Perhaps that’s why some writers only write fiction; they put their horrid thoughts and feelings and pin them on some innocent fictional character, just so they can get their thoughts out there somewhere without being directly associated with having those thoughts.
And really, I tried that. I started the story of my family many times, in fictional format. Over the years, I shed my childhood fears and sorrows all over the pages as if they were happening to someone else. There are many versions of my story in the shorts and poems I’ve generated, but none of them were actually me.
What I found? Invariably the characters themselves grew their own sense of independence. They end up entirely different than I am, and forcing my own thoughts and beliefs upon them would no longer feel right. I let them veer off in the directions they wanted to go, and that’s usually when I end up with a story I like. A story about an actually fictional character with a completely different life than mine.
That reminds me of a quote from another great writer:
“This is the beauty of fiction. Giving your characters what you never had, which then comes around and is a vicarious gift to yourself.”
— David Wong Louie.
But I’ve had enough of “vicarious gifts”. Instead I think it’s time to write about the things I’ve been afraid to put down on paper. Maybe by committing past atrocities and childhood memories to paper will make them smaller and more bearable.
There’s a Chinese expression that I was taught to adopt; swallow bitterness. It’s something Chinese girls have always been encouraged to do in order to keep our families happy. Today I’m deciding to do the opposite of that. I’ll spit out all the things that poisoned me in one place, and move on.