I'm at the point where my relatives back in China finally understand that 1) I love to write and 2) I'm going to make a career out of writing. (It sounds dirty to put "writing" and "career" in the same sentence.) It's a relief when your family finally stops asking what you're going to do with your life, and starts asking how you're going to get where you want to be.
For example, when I went back to visit my family this February, everyone asked me: "What are your stories about? When can we read them?"
"It's about you," I wanted to say. "My stories are about you."
Instead, I said, "Um...it's about family. Stories about family." (In broken Chinese.)
But that's only scratching the surface. My latest story is about the relationship between my grandmother and my father. I wrote about it because I find it subtle, intricate and fascinating. It's also my interpretation of their relationship, which means it doesn't necessarily paint my father in the best light.
I tried to explain this to him as we sat eating mango ice cream in the Beijing airport.
"I write about you guys. But it's just my interpretation of you guys, with some fiction sprinkled in. I'm just afraid that you won't be pleased by what you read."
I think he understood--that what I write might hurt him. Or my mom. Or my entire family.
I don't think I can let him--or my mom--read my newest story. And that weighs heavily on me, because my parents have always been the biggest supporters of my writing. They're always excited to read my work, always eager to encourage me on whatever new project I'm writing. My mom is often my first or second reader. I trust her judgment, ask her for writing advice, let her have the final word. She's my writing mentor.
What do I do when there are things I don't want her to read, maybe ever? Writing is oft a lonely, secret task, but in the end, it's also a way I connect with my family--especially my mom. What do I do when there are things I want keep from her, but share with strangers (aka if they get published)?
How do other writers do it? Writers of the world, how do you write about real people, knowing you'll hurt them in the end?!
I'm desperate for an answer.I think it's tearing me in two.