Choice

Maybe two months later when I read this blog entry, my future self may have a better idea.

I was born and bred in Shanghai, the most expensive and exciting cosmopolitan city in China. Via my dad’s calculation, its food and beverages are even more expensive that those in LA – although I would defend that Shanghai’s rent is much cheaper than that in LA. 

The Chinese people (other than folks born in Beijing) seem to make Shanghai her goal as “making it.” But I never feel like I belong here. Shanghai is all about money and efficiency. It’s not a place for writers, or artists in general. 

Today, my cab driver told me that he just couldn’t stop but work in Shanghai. He can’t afford to rest because of its high living expense for his family of three. I listened and felt grateful that right now I’m rent-free.

So this evening, I went to downtown Shanghai, at a place where Chinese and expats mingle for a dinner with a friend who runs her own company. This friend came from a family of businessmen and women. It was only natural when she set up her own shop in her early 30s. After several rounds of wine and beer on her part, she tried to reason with me why moving back to the US sounds like an unwise idea. “You’re Chinese. You would never feel like you belong there.” She then gave me a cautionary tale of her friend; she listed her resources that we could exchange to do something big and interesting together; she told me tricks of how to set up my own  studio (aka. gong zuo shi) so I could charge much larger fees when I negotiated with brands and firms, creating an illusion that I ran an army instead of working as a freelancer. 

This was all new to me. The artist side of me resisted and rebelled. But the pragmatic side of me wanted to learn more. After all, who doesn’t want financial freedom and more flexible working hours plus having extra to take care of the parents?

I told my friend that I would like to explore those notions going forward. I promised that I will pop at an event she hosts on Monday so she can start to introduce me to her acquaintances.  I’m not a star sign believer, but I do relate to and adore her Pisces-ness – flexible, creative, and resourceful. 

“God, things we could’ve done.” John Sculley told Steve Jobs when they met again more than a decade later when Jobs was hired back to Apple. Steve replied, “Things we could’ve done.” 

Of course, this moment, this line were all created by Aaron Sorkin who wrote the award-winning script for Danny Boyle to shoot. But to me, it’s also a reminder in moments like this. I don’t want to be another person to confess to my potential ally that why the he’ll we didn’t end up working together when we can?

For the past three years, I closed myself off opportunities that are not film related. I think I need to think different. There must to ways to utilize my talent… on a bigger scale, stage-wise and pay-wise.  

And this morning, a fourth student director came to me to fix her script. I was flattered albeit overwhelmed.  Every day I feel and think more like a screenwriter. But I’m not happy with its power limitation in filmmaking. Or, maybe two months later when I read this blog entry, my future self may have a better idea.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Reinforced reality

Whoever we think we are, whatever we think we can or cannot do, we are reinforcing that notion about ourselves.

Two updates buoyed me today. 

  • First, the short film I wrote for this other student director got great reviews from the student’s chair and screenwriting professor, saying that it was lovely and cinematic.
  • Second, the feature director read my rewrite and said, “Great work.” 

Both would require some level of follow-up and touch-up, but I think I can finally conclude that I’m a legit working screenwriter now since I played with the notion roughly four years ago…

Yesterday I was still in the dark of what was going to unfold with these two projects.  I was scared to be exposed as a fraud, that I was sub par of what the feature director was looking for; that the student’s revered department chair and her seasoned screenwriting professor would frown at my speedy but shoddy script. 

But fear no more. I got the right amount of validation I needed. They didn’t come in the shapes of plaques or trophies or human figurines. But those intangible words measure up my “pipe dream” as a screenwriter. 

Just now, I calculated my writing earnings since the sudden halt of my California dreamin’. At this rate, I think I can move back to LA and survive and maybe even thrive. 

My current challenge is:
How shall I take on interesting writing assignments to make a living as a writer while still keep producing my own work, shaping my creative voice and style?

As you may have noticed, I still haven’t shipped my latest episode. It took more time than I am willing to allot to edit each episode. It would mean that I would have to postpone yet another catchup meeting with my old Shanghai friends. It would mean that I need to budget my time and use it with caution. Or it could mean that I need to find an assistant with I have some extra bucks.

Through a podcast friend’s referral, I applied for this Google Podcasts creator program a few weeks ago. Apart from the friends I made through Seth Godin’s podcast summer fellowship, I think this program that markets itself with the keywords like diversity and minority (I am both a woman and Asian – the rare occasion I hit the jackpot) may help my show to get to the next level. 

When I was fretting about the possible disasters of my projects for the last couple of days, my friend pointed out, “Dread or not, you have no control over what others think about your work. But what you can do is a) work as hard as you can; b) get enough work so you won’t cuss about the lost opportunities, the water under bridge.”

Whoever we think we are, whatever we think we can or cannot do, we are reinforcing that notion about ourselves. Just think about it, it goes both ways; it can be either empowering or utterly demoralizing.  And the choice is all ours.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. My own case in point would be: read (almost) any of my blog posts in the summer and you will get an utterly different vibe. It was my reality then. It was my rock bottom.

 

Babies for sale

One item after another.  I detached myself from them. I have to stop loving them before I say goodbye. They are out in the world on display. Because I can’t protect them any longer.

Craigslist is a classified advertisements website with sections devoted to jobs, housing, for sale… Today, I finally posted some for sale on Craigslist.

My Oxford-green bike…
My plywood coffee table…
My sturdy drying rack…

Over the course of three years, I bought them all fresh out of the beige boxes.

A single child at heart, I was never a fan of hand-me-downs.

Friend helped me buy everything on Wayfair and the rest from IKEA. We even bought canvas paintings to give the apartment a little more flavor…

IMG_1785

I asked her if it was worth it.
Friend brushed my doubt aside, “You would stay in this apartment for three years at least.”

I believed her. I wanted to. And I chose to.

Truth is, I didn’t want to doubt my future in America. And I didn’t want to be the one to doubt. Secretly, I thought I could blame my friend for wasting my money later if things went south.

Now is later. A full year later. 

When I got up this morning, I made a decision.

One post after another, I listed my babies on Craigslist.

One item after another.  I detached myself from them. I have to stop loving them before I say goodbye. They are out in the world on display. Because I can’t protect them any longer.

I don’t have to rely on the fishy landlord to give me a decent price for my babies.

At least now I may have some leverage, some control in this life that is pulling me in all directions.

I still need to take photos to make the ads more believable…

But now, I just want to take a moment and hold my aching heart.

I vow that I won’t be this ‘lavish’ again until I have $1m in my bank account.

Let’s see how long that might take.

 

Yours truly,
YZ