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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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For posts sorted by date or label, see the links below.

For posts on frequently referenced topics, click the buttons to the right.

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Loyalties

They're messy.

This has been fairly clear to me since I started writing narrative essays. If you're going to write about events that really did happen in your life, you're going to have to decide how much to reveal about the people involved -- but what if they have no desire to appear on the page? What options do you have? You can't simultaneously honor their requests (stated outright or implied) to remain unmentioned and still stay true to your account of how things were, if your reluctant subjects happen to play key roles in your story.

Of course you can change names -- theirs, your own, whatever you need to alter so that your work can't be traced back to them. And that is probably what I will do as I'm writing this narrative; I'll introduce a protective scrim that will blur us all just enough to keep us from being identified. At the same time, there is a part of me that knows that that choice is part of the story too and that it deserves mention somehow. It's a decision driven by fear, fear of ownership -- and the coordinating responsibility for the pain my total honesty would cause others.

I attended a conference a few years ago, where Richard Rodriguez (author of the memoir Hunger of Memory) was one of the speakers. In his remarks, he offered an interesting perspective on this dilemma:

It is a writer’s business to betray the family, to betray the intimate circle. And I learned at 32 when I first wrote my book, what little girls know when they are 7 and 8 years old and they keep a diary -- boys never keep diaries, little girls keep diaries -- and they write because there are things too personal you can only say them to a stranger: Dear Diary. Today I fell, today I knew, today I met.

These words don't give permission, per se, but they do describe a certain futility in trying to stifle the need to write down those things too personal to say to the people closest to you. Indeed, Rodriguez seems to say that the very nature of those things compels the betrayal.

If only that knowledge could make it hurt less, for the betrayer and the betrayed.

Some more recommended reading, if this topic interests you: Ruth Behar's "Writing in My Father's Name: A Diary of Translated Woman's First Year," in the anthology Women Writing Culture. Any suggestions you might have for me are very welcome too.

Photo by Newly Graduated Sis

2 comments:

Good Enough Woman said...

At times, I've said that part of the reason I don't seriously pursue my writing is that I can't write what I want to write without feeling as if my mother or father or husband or children are looking over my shoulder at the page. I am not comfortable with conflict. I am a people pleaser. In other words, I'm not always honest, and that's a killer on the writing.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Yep, GEW, learning how not to lie on the page is very, very hard. I think the only thing that keeps the people-pleaser side of me from experiencing full-on panic whenever I write is the knowledge that I can use a pseudonym. It's a compromise.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Loyalties

They're messy.

This has been fairly clear to me since I started writing narrative essays. If you're going to write about events that really did happen in your life, you're going to have to decide how much to reveal about the people involved -- but what if they have no desire to appear on the page? What options do you have? You can't simultaneously honor their requests (stated outright or implied) to remain unmentioned and still stay true to your account of how things were, if your reluctant subjects happen to play key roles in your story.

Of course you can change names -- theirs, your own, whatever you need to alter so that your work can't be traced back to them. And that is probably what I will do as I'm writing this narrative; I'll introduce a protective scrim that will blur us all just enough to keep us from being identified. At the same time, there is a part of me that knows that that choice is part of the story too and that it deserves mention somehow. It's a decision driven by fear, fear of ownership -- and the coordinating responsibility for the pain my total honesty would cause others.

I attended a conference a few years ago, where Richard Rodriguez (author of the memoir Hunger of Memory) was one of the speakers. In his remarks, he offered an interesting perspective on this dilemma:

It is a writer’s business to betray the family, to betray the intimate circle. And I learned at 32 when I first wrote my book, what little girls know when they are 7 and 8 years old and they keep a diary -- boys never keep diaries, little girls keep diaries -- and they write because there are things too personal you can only say them to a stranger: Dear Diary. Today I fell, today I knew, today I met.

These words don't give permission, per se, but they do describe a certain futility in trying to stifle the need to write down those things too personal to say to the people closest to you. Indeed, Rodriguez seems to say that the very nature of those things compels the betrayal.

If only that knowledge could make it hurt less, for the betrayer and the betrayed.

Some more recommended reading, if this topic interests you: Ruth Behar's "Writing in My Father's Name: A Diary of Translated Woman's First Year," in the anthology Women Writing Culture. Any suggestions you might have for me are very welcome too.

Photo by Newly Graduated Sis

2 comments:

Good Enough Woman said...

At times, I've said that part of the reason I don't seriously pursue my writing is that I can't write what I want to write without feeling as if my mother or father or husband or children are looking over my shoulder at the page. I am not comfortable with conflict. I am a people pleaser. In other words, I'm not always honest, and that's a killer on the writing.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Yep, GEW, learning how not to lie on the page is very, very hard. I think the only thing that keeps the people-pleaser side of me from experiencing full-on panic whenever I write is the knowledge that I can use a pseudonym. It's a compromise.