Monday, April 4, 2011

Anti-Acknowledgements or Why You Don't Want to Write In A Chinese Family

I shudder when I read author acknowledgments - they show me what I don't have.

After reading Elizabeth's post about support (or lack thereof) at Liz Writes Books, I was comforted by the fact that I wasn't the only one who didn't have a family or town of people rooting her on.

When I read Trudi Canavan's acknowledgement page for The Magician's Guild, where she thanks her father for being her number one supporter, I laughed (in a bitter, so-I-don't-cry way).

If I were to mention my dad it would go something like this:

To my father, who has consistently put down every artistic pursuit I've ever undertaken and made me feel ashamed for not being a banker or owning a private jet.Thanks for making me wish I were anyone but myself. I'm sure you'll find a way to put down the number of books I fail to sell and point out that Stephenie Meyer is still much richer than I.

(I feel the need to interject that luckily my Tiger Mother is exceedingly supportive of my artistic pursuits.)

My boyfriend and I had a big laugh over my fake acknowledgment - it's a common one for our generation of Chinese-Americans. Though it's taken me decades, I've come to accept that my dad and his friends (because the Chinese are kind enough to lecture their friends' kids too) and even random people (that's how intimate the Chinese are) will never support my writing(/singing/dancing/acting/composing/etc.)  I will always be a lazy hippie to my dad and that's okay.

I used to envy my white friends whose parents actually told them they would love them no matter what they did with their lives.

What the heck is that?!?

I can't even imagine a concept of unconditional love for the Chinese. It's laughable. And ridiculous.

Even my boyfriend, who is 100% supportive of my chosen career, is not that husband authors thank profusely for being their first beta readers blah blah blah. My boyfriend's Cantonese. If you're Cantonese, I don't need to say any more.

For the rest of you, I mean he's blunt and, in his own words, "wants to get sh** done." To this day he hasn't read a single complete manuscript of mine, short story or otherwise. The most I've dared show him is one sentence. You heard me.

ONE SENTENCE.

He managed to make me cry over that one sentence. (We're working on the "good feedback first" policy...)

Sometimes You Have No Choice
It sucks going it alone. I landed in Hollywood by myself with zero connections and pulled myself up. I booked the first national commercial I auditioned for (Hewlett Packard - I played a skater girl). It's not that common to make SAG (Screen Actors Guild) after just two months in L.A.

That didn't impress Dad.

My father spent the entire time sending me letters about why I was making the biggest mistake of my life.(One was accompanied by a highlighted article of a Harvard graduate who gave up acting to be a lawyer.) We had shouting arguments on the phone. I had a much older boyfriend who was jealous of my success. (Father issues much?) One rejection was so painful I curled up on the floor of my closet and cried in fetal position. Oh yeah, I've been there.

Eventually I left the entertainment industry, too burnt out to fight anymore.

I would never do it alone again. I'm grateful that the writing community is (mostly) founded upon support rather than competition. I was amazed at how instantly friendly my critique partners were though they'd never met me IN REAL LIFE (soon to change...) These are people whose names are engraved in my future acknowledgments page.

But sometimes you have no choice. Whether it's writing, or dealing with horrible life crap (my involuntary specialty), sometimes you gotta do it alone.

And that's okay.

20 comments:

  1. *hugs* Thank you for sharing this with us, Sophia. As an Asian American, I can completely understand and sympathize.

    For my parents, nothing less of being a doctor is ever an "acceptable" career choice. I agree with you on being envious of writers who mention their parents' support in their acknowledgement -- I'd thank them, but probably not where my writing is concerned.

    And I also agree that that's why the writing community's support is so important, especially when you don't have it in "real-life."

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  3. (Sorry, had to delete previous comment. Spelling error and that drives me crazy.)

    Awww. Well, you can thank your many blogging friends who support you a 1000%!! We're rooting for you!!

    It's funny that you mention your Asian culture. I'm half Vietnamese and let me tell you, it ain't just the Chinese that are hard on their children. If I were to write my fake acknowledgement, I would also add "And thanks mom for pointing out all my pimples during my high school years, among my other psychical blunders."

    Okay, I know I'm straying but did you read "The Kite Runner"? The character in the book points out many times how disappointed his father (his father-in-law as well) sort of look down on his fictional writing. (Afghan culture). Anyhow, it's a good book and your post made me think of it. :)

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  4. This nearly made me cry. Doing it on your own is the hardest, but the most fulfilling. When it comes down to it, having the drive gets you further than all the support in the world. And the drive is definitely something you've got. :)

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  5. Great post, I'm glad I added you to my daily reads list! I actually had a similar, though I'm not Chinese so it's not quite the same, post today. :)

    Keep writing.

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  6. This is beautiful and sad and so very strong. Most people spend their whole lives in LA trying to get somewhere, and never land a role or even get a callback. It might not have impressed your dad, but it sure impresses me. (I'm too chicken to even do the "go to LA" part!)

    I write all of my blog posts on the weekends and schedule them for the upcoming week. It was my intention to take that post down before it published, because the more I thought about it, the more naked I felt. Most people think I do the alone thing because I'm a loner, and it's so much easier to let them think that, you know?

    But after reading your post, I'm glad I left it up. I don't think we're the only ones who don't have people to fill our acknowledgments pages with, or who push through even though the only person pushing us forward is ourselves.

    Alone isn't necessarily a bad thing. It might be a little tougher, but in a lot of ways, doesn't it make you want it that much more?

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  7. I'm sorry to hear you can't share your writing with your father. My father went ballistic when I changed my major from financial management to english at the end of my junior year of college. He's come to accept that I am who I am, but it doesn't mean I'm not bitter or that I share my accomplishments with him. We pretend that side of me doesn't exist.

    And you should totally find a bf who supports you in everything. My husband's crit is sometimes blunt, but he doesn't make me cry...

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  8. Sophia, I'm so sorry you don't have more support at home. If it's any consolation, my husband has never read my work (published or otherwise) either.

    Writers have to stick together!

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  9. *HUGE Hugs* Sorry to hear that. Stay positive and strong. Hang in there.

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  10. Thanks for this Sophia! We can commiserate more on the topic at a future (soon-ish?) boba meeting. I don't think either of my parents are as down on the whole writing thing as your dad sounds. They're generally supportive, but I do get the feeling they wonder what the heck I'm doing and wish I was doing something else. (I think it also helps that I have quite a few artsy fartsy friends, who ARE successful - but that has its own can of worms.)

    And don't worry: my parents and my sister have never read a word of my writing, and I don't know if I want them to. XP

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  11. Thanks for sharing this Sophia. I smiled when I read the part about your boyfriend only reading one sentence and then made you cry. I sniggered because that is me with my hubby. He once read a short story, tore it to pieces and left me in tears. Like you, I am working with him on giving some positive feedback too. Sorry to hear about your family not supporting you.

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  12. This is a powerful post, Sophia. I imagine it can't have been easy to write and post, but I am really glad you did.

    I can't tell you how much your support has meant to me. You're the first person, in the writing community, who offered to help me when I first decided to start blogging about my writing! Thank you for that :) I hope, in some way, I've helped you too!

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  13. Whoa. I came here to thank you for the awesome comment you left on MY blog, only to find this deep and poignant (and yeah, really kinda sad) yet somehow beautiful post. I'm not even sure what to say, except that I'm proud of you (though for keepin' on despite EVERYTHING. I'm honored to know you and I'm emboldened by your example.

    Thank you!

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  14. I think you're amazingly talented and intelligent. I'm sorry your family has trouble appreciating you for you.

    Getting my husband to read my writing is like digging a hole in concrete with a plastic spoon. My begging and pleading bounces right off. The rare occasions that he has read anything convinced me that he is an phenomenal reader, but he won't. do. it. Drives me nuts.

    I think a good critique partner is better than family input anyway. At least, you have been so far :) You know what you're talking about, you're honest, and you love writing as much as I do.

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  15. Having a good critter (who you will be meeting IRL in less than a month!!!) is better than having a supportive family :) While my family is supportive of anything I do (yeah, I'm one of those lucky kids), they haven't really read anything of mine. My mom read the first draft of FE and all she said was "it needs more sex" :P

    Jordan, on the other hand, will not be going into my acknowledgments page. Unless it's "thanks for all the fights over NaNo, and thanks for constantly telling me my writing is awful, except that one time when you said someone else's writing was worse". He's starting to come around, but it took NINE YEARS.

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  16. A first-time visitor here and I'm happy to have found myself reading the above entry. I'm sorry about your issues with your Dad but I guess most of us can relate to that...(or am I only saying that cos I'm also Asian?..haha!) Anyway, thanks for being inspiring. I'm struggling with calling myself a writer because I haven't really 'produced' anything (other than a few academic publications from a past life and my blog entries). But again, it's great to find a community of writers online who inspire me. Thanks and keep dreaming and doing what you love most! I''m looking forward to reading more of your posts :-)

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  17. Love this post, thanks for sharing. I totally understand what you're going through as an Opera Singer in my late twenties chasing this impossible dream. Keep goin girlfriend.

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  18. This is one of my favorite posts of yours ever! It's honest and funny and sad and it makes me want to root for you even more!

    Your writing community will push you, but they will also love you unconditionally! My writing friends have done that for me. Bring on the love and encouragement for Sophia! Way to follow your dreams!!!

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  19. Hi! Joy's Versatile Blog award post led me to your blog. This post is totally relatable. My mom's half-Chinese, and when I opened my upcycled clothing shop early this year she wrung her hands by phone: "You're not using what you learned in college." It's called burnout, Mom. And reinvention.

    Your former bf sounds like he never heard of the sandwich method of offering feedback: Start with praise, offer constructive criticism, close with praise.

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  20. Can't believe I missed this post when you first wrote it, but I read it just now and was nodding along with every sentence. You're right, right, right... except for the last sentence? You're wrong. You're not alone, because we're all here right alongside you! That's why I'm so thankful I have my blog/writerly friends. Also, do we have the same dad? Because if I were still talking to mine, he'd probably ask me every day if I had changed my mind and was going to medical school yet.

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