Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I write. Certainly there are easier ways to earn a living that would not keep me up at night churning with thoughts about the world and my place in it. But I am irresistibly drawn to the writer’s life, which is why I willingly agreed when my friend Dorcas Cheng-Tozun (read Dorcas’ blog post at Transformative Words) invited me to be part of a blog hop about… writing. Each week, a group of bloggers are going to answer a few questions about their process and what makes them unique.
So here goes…
What am I working on/writing? I’m always working on something(s)! Between blogging here at HapaMama at least once a week, working as an editor for BlogHer, and freelance writing and reporting for a various other sites, I constantly have multiple projects in various stages of completion. In the past few months, I’ve been busy working on a feature article about food allergies among Asian Americans for the Center for Asian American Media. That will be published in August as part of CAAM’s coverage of Asian American food, in conjunction with the upcoming PBS documentary Off the Menu. I’m also wrapping up an article about gardening and libraries for School Library Journal. It’s very satisfying to delve deeply into topics involving my community that I don’t see other media focusing on.
About five years ago, I started work on a novel. It involves themes of Taiwanese American identity and preserving a history that is not well understood by mainstream society. I set this project aside when my blogging started taking off several years ago, but I’m getting the itch to pick it up again.
How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre? I am a Jack (or Jill) of All Trades, in that I love many forms of writing: memoir, news reporting, op-ed, fiction. For a long time, I saw my tendency to dabble in many genres as a weakness. Why couldn’t I focus on one thing? I am now beginning to view the breadth of my writing as a strength—one that needs to be exercised judiciously. I try to think of other writers whom I admire who work across these different genres. Joan Didion comes to mind as a writer who is equally skilled at journalism, memoir and fiction. I can shoot for the stars, right?
Why do I write what I do? Like many writers, I write because I cannot not write. Everywhere I go, I see stories. It’s just a matter of where the pieces will fit together. I think because of my experiences as the daughter of immigrants, growing up the Midwest, and later in a mixed-race marriage and often the only Asian in circles where most people are white, I am drawn to topics of race and culture. Even as a child, I was acutely aware of discrimination and differences in how people were treated and perceived because of their skin color, accent, and such. I am a very sympathetic person and try to imagine what it’s like to be inside other people’s heads, even people with whom I don’t see eye-to-eye. After having children, I became very interested in the experiences of mixed-race people and how to best support them, and so I started HapaMama.
How does my writing process work? Ideas often pop up at the most inopportune time, such as when I should be making dinner, or driving my kids to their numerous activities, or when I should be sleeping. I often find myself composing sentences in my head while I drive and sometimes will tap out entire blog posts on the notepad of my iPhone. Other times, it’s an event or a comment that jumps out at me when it happens, and I shelve it away because I feel like it will be important sometime. I also keep a notepad next to my bed for those ideas that keep me awake. If I jot it down, that makes me feel like the idea isn’t lost and I can then rest. When I gather a cluster of related tidbits around a theme, it often becomes an essay. I wish I could be more methodical and organized about my writing, but again, I’m trying to embrace my hard-wiring!
Thanks for reading! I hope that was insightful for you, and I’d love to hear about your writing process, too.
Now, I’d like to introduce you to two friends who will be blogging about their writing life the week of June 30. Check out their blogs next week to find out what inspires them!
Rita Arens is the blogger behind Surrender, Dorothy, the author of young adult novel THE OBVIOUS GAME and the editor of parenting anthology SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK. Rita is the deputy editor of BlogHer.com.
Aisha Saeed is a YA author, attorney, and educator and one of the founding members of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. Her debut Written in the Stars will be released in 2015 by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons. Follow her on twitter @aishacs or visit her online at www.aishasaeed.com