The thing that always happens to writers

When I don’t write for long stretches of time, it’s not because I have nothing to say, but because I find that I don’t have the words to fully express what it is that I have to say. I’ve started and stopped entries a lot the past few weeks. I wrote about Max visiting Shanghai, about finding authentic street food, about the stomach bug that I’ve had for weeks, wiping out my ability to eat street food (or maybe caused by eating too much street food), about reading Molly Wizenberg’s memoir only to conclude that she has a grating personality, which still did not stop her from publishing an amazing red cabbage slaw recipe, about the traffic crackdown in Shanghai and getting stopped by a policeman, only to be issued a measly 20RMB ticket.
But I start these paragraphs, and I can never finish them. It’s this thing that always happens to writers: I undersleep, underread, overcaffeinate, overthink, and by the end of the night find myself without words to put on the page. Or I write something, or pages of something, and then just think that the whole thing is nonsense and scrap it. It all ends up with me being frustrated with myself. And I want to write about it, but then I wonder, is this the self that I am meant to be displaying online for the world to see?
It’s been difficult to be an expat for the past few months. On July 4th 2016, it will have been two years since I’ve lived in China. Two years is a lot in both dog and human years. Two years is the amount of time I’ve lived in the Elmhurst. And maybe it’s useless, or silly, or unnecessary, but I’m still scrambling and grasping to find meaning in coming to China. It makes me restless to come to terms with the fact that after two years, I still haven’t really found a good reason for coming here in the first place. It’s times like this that I become worried about wasting my ‘best years’ abroad, even though deep down I know that that’s nonsense. And then I write about it, even though it’s not the kind of thing that people like reading about and not the kind of things that I find expats in their blogs like sharing.
China is dazzling, but it’s also stiflingly overwhelming. Living abroad is chaotic and I oscillate between embracing comforting things like ordering waffle fries to be delivered on a Monday night and diving into China –  its squat toilets, its unidentified (‘definitely not rat’) street meats, and its people until it becomes unbearable, I retreat into my apartment, and order more waffle fries. I can’t quite grasp a balance, but maybe that’s what makes being here worth it.

9 thoughts on “The thing that always happens to writers”

    • It’s really hard to let go and realize that you’re still looking, isn’t it? I’m terrified about that uncertainty, but on some level, I don’t think I should be.

      • I understand you feeling lost because they life change you’ve done is beyond many. I’ve told you before that you’re a do-er and a citizen of the world and so I’m sure that anything you set your mind to you will be fine. Today I returned to my former home for the first time in ten years. Mentally I never left, which is part of my problem always looking back, but it’s not the same place, so have I wasted ten years pining? Don’t know. Life, eh?

        • I have that feeling about Russia all of the time. I am no longer connected to the country, but every time I go back, I return to the Russia of the 90s and not the Russia of now, so the country I want to exist is also just in my head

  • Don’t worry about not being to write or putting your thoughts on paper. It happens to me all the time, especially because being a semi-popular book blogger on tumblr, I have to keep posting things because if I don’t people stop checking and caring, and then no one cares anymore. But at the same time, I find that if I try to force myself to try and write things, I make things even worse, so for awhile I focus on something else.

    Also, I don’t think you’re wasting your life abroad, I don’t even think you need a reason to be there. They’re always telling us that these are the best years to explore and find yourself… and to make mistakes. At least you can say that you’ve been there, done that, and now you know you can more one. Plus, plenty of people say they haven’t figured things out until their 30s or even 40s… not that I’d wish that on you… but if it happens. Well, at least you can get to experiment while you’re young.

    • Oh no!! Your comment went into my spam queue for some reason! :O Sorry for just getting to it now!

      Thank you for the supportive words! Yeah, it’s hard to keep trying to find meaning in things and just accept that it could be okay if things have no meaning. I think inherently that’s one of the things that freaks me out the most..

  • Next time when you think that the whole thing you wrote is nonsense, feel free to share this with us on your blog! I really like the way you write no matter what or how you write 🙂

    • Thank you so much! 🙂 I had planned to reply to this comment so much earlier, but that night, I tripped a circuit breaker and spent almost 20 hours without electricity in my apartment. What a life in China…

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