Even if they don’t, even if our stories are met with apathy, with disdain, I believe our enduring anger and our passion require them. These stories sustain my activism because they make concrete the issues that, for me, have always had a certain looming intangibility to them. Scripts are not enough, and they were never meant to be enough. The best thing my scripts ever did was open up a channel to the people in my community. To force me to ask the questions that I had never thought to ask.
On September 30, I received an email from my neighbor that our apartment building had caught on fire.
I learned, in those years, how to write when I did not feel like writing. I learned how to write when inspiration did not come. How to write when every word felt wooden and false. And I learned, also, how to feel guilty on the days when I could not bear to write even a single, shitty sentence.
Needless to say, her signature dishes were delicious. Yet it became strange and almost uncomfortable to see her bent over the stove, night after night, in a way that it never was in the past when I’d seen her, bent over the stove, night after night. One dinner, she stood in the kitchen for what seemed like hours, searing small batches of sweet and salty bulgogi beef. I wanted to tell her to sit down, to relax, but instead, I just ate everything she put in front of me.
Even after I decided I wanted to be a writer—a career path that everyone, especially my parents, agreed was nebulous at best—I eventually saw how one could become a “successful” writer. Get into an MFA program, get published in a literary journal, get an agent, sell a novel, win a prize maybe, and, obviously get writing. I don’t think I’m alone in this way of thinking. I think we all, generally, have some idea of the signifiers of success.