‘Am I Just Too Lazy to Be a Writer?’

Shame may get you a result, but it will never give you freedom.

Hi there,

Dream of the Divided Field comes out in one short week. The process has been very different this time around for obvious reasons, but also unexpected ones.

I did not expect to be grieving, again, in such short time after Michelle Go, for Christina Yuna Lee. It is still too much to talk about, but HK encouraged me to light a candle for her the night the news came out. That helped.

I’m holding Writing Space on Monday (2/21) again from 13:00–15:00 EST (this month’s member code is at the end of this letter).

For Asian diaspora writers, I’ll be holding Hotpot again too, in one week (2/27). That is free as usual, and I’ll be offering a collective space not only to write but also to feel, talk, and perhaps make something together.

Now, the work. Because we are still here.

Dear Yanyi,

I’ve been working on a project for years now. It’s big and ambitious for me, someone who writes poetry and short creative nonfiction, and has never really worked on a Project. With much of my writing, I made it from start to finish quickly, a kind of jauntiness I needed to be able to write. (Which, I have my own shame about because I know how much revision is a part of writing. But I told myself that those writings were just for me, so I could do whatever I wanted, and it’s how I’ve been able to find joy and freedom in my writing.) This one, though, the Project, was different because it had many moving parts. I could not do it in one sitting.

From the beginning, I found reasons to put it off -- I started a new job, namely, and didn’t have as much time. Fortunately, in the last year and a half, I’ve been able to make more progress on it than I have in the four years since I began. A friend acted as a “project therapist,” holding me accountable and meeting with me to talk about the plan for the book. I hired a writer to read what I had written so far and chat with me about it as a way to give myself deadlines and get myself writing. Both of these things helped enormously, until they didn’t.

So I’m at a standstill again. It’s crazy to me because I want to write this book. I think about what my letter must sound like and part of me fears you’ll say, it sounds like deep down you don’t want to work on this project. But that’s not true. It’s a book about a group of people in my life whom I deeply care about, a tribute to them. And I love the project for that reason, love where writing it has taken me so far, how it’s pushed me to new places, but for some reason, I find it so hard to sit down and write, especially without some kind of deadline. There’s always something easier and more comforting to be doing. I’ve been consumed with my day job. But I do have time. I could make the time. And then I go back to one of my constant writing fears, which is, am I just too lazy to be a writer?

Thanks for any insight you can provide.

A Slow Mover