The Likes

I changed my Facebook profile photo, finally.

I turned off the notification and hid it from the Timeline.

I thought I was in the clear until a friend texted, “Nice hat.”

Damn, the picture.

I was still getting those Likes.


I told the friend how I felt being exposed.

His reply opened me up.

It’s about being shameless and knowing what you’re willing to die on.

So what are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want?

For example: I am willing to show people sloppy versions of my scripts because I want to be known as somebody who writes a lot. Somebody else might be more of a perfectionist and do twice as many revisions, but have half as many scripts and/or notes. But that’s what I sacrifice.

Since I’ve chosen to be on social media, I’ve chosen to give away some privacy for exposure and visibility.

If you don’t like to be Liked, don’t post.

If you don’t want to be read, don’t write.

If you don’t want to be criticized, don’t do a thing.


You do it, I do it, because we know we have a voice. We deserve to be heard.


Yours truly,

PS. Listen to the latest RBYZ podcast if you haven’t already. The guest is truly one of a kind! Episode show notes here.
PPS. Clocked in 103 words. Tallying 60,406 words. 14.8 days remaining.


1097 days later

That’s three years, from September 5, 2015 to September 5, 2018, which is today.

Have I really spent three years in the U.S. without taking a single flight back home in between?

I didn’t. I had no money nor time. Plus, I was gung ho about making it in LA, getting settled and all.

When the news of packing up for China hit me, I was disappointed, distressed, ashamed that I didn’t accomplish what I was set out to do.

You gave yourself a Mission Impossible.

You had no screenwriting experience or training three years ago.

You’re writing in your second language.

Don’t you see you’ve gone so far in three years.

You should be proud of yourself.

My older wiser friends have been trying to tell me.

I refused to listen.

What’s the point if I had to be kicked back to Square One?

But truth is, I’m not.

I know so much more about the movie business, about screenwriting, about creation, about the process, about myself especially my darkest sides than three years ago, where I started from scratch.

I’ve made some lifelong friends here, whom I know would embrace me should I make my way back. And they always have a home wherever I go.

This is not a “zero-sum game” — a snazzy phrase I learned at Howard Suber‘s legendary Film Structure class.

Just now, a dear friend helped me sorted out my biggest issue: suitcases and boxes.  With her lightening-fast research and order, I’ve decided to ship all my stuff with Delta to bypass the sea-shipping hassles. Another friend volunteers to help me with the packing. saving me from yet another panic attack…


Truth is, I’ve never walked alone. Nor have I succeeded alone. Even when I fall, I know they’ll catch me.

Which brings me back to my Liverpool sojourn from a decade ago.

Never a soccer fan, but I do love the Liverpool FC song.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone


Yours truly,

PS. Listen to the latest RBYZ podcast if you haven’t already. The guest is truly one of a kind! Episode show notes here.
PPS. Yes, I’ll restart my novel again tomorrow, I promise!

How’s your novel going

I hear you ask.

Truth is, I put my novel on hold since mid-Aug.

I couldn’t work through the pain.

I couldn’t squeeze more willpower out of my fried brain.

I kid myself that my plate was full with the podcasting.

Half month later now, I know I need to begin again.

But of course, I find it hard to reboot.

The greatest resistance is always the beginning. From 0 to 1.

I signed up for this FREE online course called Start Writing Fiction a while ago.

The course started yesterday.

I think it would be quite beneficial for me to go through the motion, get the rough draft done first.

It may help you, too.


Yours truly,

PS. Listen to the latest RBYZ podcast if you haven’t already. The guest is truly one of a kind! Episode show notes here.

PPS. I’ll start posting the word count I’ve completed per day here till I finish.

RBYZ: Straight Outta Deep South (#002)

Born to a working-class African American family of five children in the segregated South, got drafted to Vietnam leaving his newlywed wife behind and handing in his fate to the unknown…

My guest today is Mr. Jess Womack, former Los Angeles Unified School District’s inspector general, who defied Rock Bottom and rose to the top.

What you’ll hear:

  • What was it like to be born in the ’40s Alabama?
  • How did he deal with race in the segregated South as a kid?
  • How books changed his life.
  • What did he learn from his White teachers when the family moved to the North?
  • What impact did Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech have on him?
  • What did his two-year Peace Corps sojourn in Kenya teach him?
  • How did he keep having faith as he got drafted to Vietnam?
  • How did he deal with self-doubt as a young lawyer?

Links from the episode:

To the rest of us, Jess seemed to start from the Rock Bottom:
Born to a working-class African American family of five children in the segregated South, got drafted to Vietnam leaving his newlywed wife behind and handing in his fate to the unknown…

And yet, decades later, he is a revered lawyer who not only served his country, but also served as the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Inspector General, twice, building hundreds of schools for kids, lots of whom first-generation immigrants.

Jess Womack
Jess in Vietnam, 1970

Note from Jess:

This photograph was taken somewhere on a muddy hill in Vietnam where we stayed for about 3-4 weeks, which was a typical deployment. The contact we experienced there was atypical and costly. We were glad to leave. As I was rounding up the last of our guys, one said, “Hey Sergeant Womack, turn around!” It was that moment he caught. 

The caption — Perspective!  Years later at a very dark and difficult time in my career and life, I happened to find the photograph. I blew it up and put the caption on it to always remind myself what real hardship was.

Give it up to Mr. Jess Womack, my dear friend and mentor.

And one more thing: Happy Birthday, Jess!


Listen and subscribe to Rock Bottom with YZ:
A weekly podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic


Yours truly,

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.

A confession

Math and I have had a complicated relationship.

We first met in my kindergarten.

I know it was too early to be serious.

But we understood each other.

I thought we did.

Until he had my primary school teacher test on me.

I felt betrayed.

Against my will, he wanted to meet my parents.

I’m underage. It’s kinda illegal.

But he wouldn’t listen.

Dad was livid.

Conquer that little shit. He demanded.


So I managed. I created my marching orders.

Fast is never fast enough.
The cream rises to the top.
Hard work pays off.
Don’t you dare quitting.
Be the change. 


I talked with swagger.

I walked like a New Yawker.

I was going places.

I shoved that kid to the dodgy end.

She begged me.

I kicked her in the teeth.

She got lost.

Give me a map. Nope.

How ’bout an iPhone? Not gonna happen.


I’m a thirty-year-old now.

The weight on my chest is crushing me.

I can’t breathe.

I wonder how she’s been doing.

I found her.

It wasn’t hard.

She ain’t pretty.

She is the Elephant in the room, couching on my chest, weighing five tons, give or take.

Geez, what’s eating you?

I was perplexed.  There is nothing here except the moss.

She glanced over at me.

Plenty to feast on.

Anger. Rage. Frustration. Sadness. Melancholy. Distress. Misery. Depression…

Your shit nourishes me.

Let’s go to the gym.

Let’s go Whole Foods.


I tried to push her out of the alley.

It was a tall order.

My training shall pay off.

But she didn’t move.

We were stuck.

Well, she was.

I was spent.

I lost it.

You fatso.

Don’t you dare quitting.
Hard work pays off.
Be the change.

Com’on. Let’s go!

Uh-huh, doesn’t work on me.

I’m immune now.


Here is my confession:

I’m a Bully with a capital B.

I’ll stop typing now.

She needs me down there.

However long it takes.


Yours truly,

The mixtape

On repeat.

Not LMM’s Hamilton Mixtape. But the most scathing comments I’ve heard… about me.

Composed by me, mostly.
Mixed by me.
Produced by me.

My brain collected them and made a mixtape just for me in times like this.

“You’re a piece of shit.”
“You don’t deserve success.”
“You’ll rot in hell.”

“Even though you can be fun to be with but you’re a nerd [Translation: straight talker] who can rub people the wrong way like the time you told me you need to focus on your schoowork [Actually suggested by my screenwriter mentor]. I knew your intention but it can be quite disastrous otherwise to the others.”
This, is a direct quote from the Chinese director the other day.

“Have you asked yourself why the landlord situation keeps happening to you over and over again?” She probed.

“Misfortune? And I did ask my more experienced friends to vet the landlord for me before I signed the lease exactly because I wanted to avoid another lawsuit.” I fought back.

“Since you came to me, I’ll be quite honest with you. I know you want to be yourself. But there is a side of you that can be quite offputting, no matter where you are, conservative China or liberal America.” The director kept on going.

It was I  who came to her with SOS flags sticking out of my hair after all.

“You can be quite a bitch.” Another dear friend said for more than a few times. I don’t blame him. I called him up at 11 p.m., knowing exactly he had some house guests from Holland, just to prove a point…


Here is the theme song from my mixtape:

Look around, look around…
Look at where you are
Look at where you started
The fact that you’re not dead is a miracle
Just stay alive, that would be enough…

To prove my point that
You don’t have what it takes.


Yours truly,

Write or don’t

Why call yourself a writer if you don’t write? Just so it sounds good?

Okay. So what job shall I take when I’m back in China to keep me aloft?

If your parents can support you back home, I’d say don’t unless it’s a writing gig.

Here is the thing, if you can prove to yourself that you’re an “Extraordinary Alien,” you can apply for green card right away. That is, if you really prove yourself. 

I woke up with a headache and a tight neck this morning.

I dined at a Chinese director’s house yesterday. Our conversation couldn’t be more realistic. It couldn’t be more scary. Because she was telling the truth before I was 100% ready.


Just how bad do I want to be a writer before I’m anything else?

You have to be kinda crazy to be a writer. I’m a director and I still get to talk to people. You writers live in your head. It can be quite dangerous. 

Every word, cut to the chase. Every syllable, a sucker punch.

I’ve seen so, so, so many friends who are wannabe-aspiring writers for decades. Years later they’re still talking about the same story they told me eons ago. 

Shit. I’m gonna be that soon, if not already…

Sure you can earn buckets of money back home. But really ask yourself what you want.

Money is tangible, but it’s endless. 
Happiness is invisible, but you can feel it.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write every single day. It’s a verb before it’s a noun.

You’re fooling no one but yourself.

Write v.


Yours truly,