Hi Yanyi - this is my favourite letter of all: https://yanyi.substack.com/p/how-can-i-work-write-and-be-part

It's rewired how I think about my own writing and my relationship to my family. I'm so grateful for how you use your experience to speak truth into the lives of others, and the vulnerability with which you do so. It's a powerful thing.

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Yanyi, this is a hard question. I remember this one blew my mind: https://yanyi.substack.com/p/do-i-have-to-be-out-as-a-writer. Then again, I'd just discovered your newsletter at the time, so it stopped me in my tracks, it was so different from whatever else I was reading. I was like, wow, *you can do that?* Love it when a piece of literature does that to me, and creates a sense of possibility.

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Dec 16, 2020Liked by Yanyi

Hi Yanyi! I've reread and referenced this letter multiple times since you wrote it: https://yanyi.substack.com/p/why-cant-i-do-my-edits You managed to articulate an inner/subconscious conflict that I'd been grappling with for years without realizing. The column has in general been a highlight/discovery of my year, thank you thank you!! <3

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"How Do I Feel Less Lonely?" convinced me to subscribe. I went and scrolled through the archive just now to find the part that stuck with me, because it got at a part of the writing life I had never seen described before:

"The loneliness of a writer is that of having chosen something completely for yourself. It is the loneliness of many mornings or nights writing words that you hate or fear. It is the loneliness of not yet being able to love them. It is the loneliness of setting your own pace of how you should write, when you should write, what you should write, and whether you should write. It is the loneliness of entering an empty room in the morning. It is the panic, the terror, of not yet having a start, a place, a role, a preset meaning for what you are doing. It is the loneliness of responsibility, of finally having the time you wanted, of finally being alone, but alone with the doubt, perhaps, that you are not who you wanted to be."

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Dec 18, 2020Liked by Yanyi

Hi Yanyi, I've enjoyed so many of your letters and found them all so thoughtful and inspiring, and love the new podcast format. The one which seems to have stuck with me the most is https://yanyi.substack.com/p/i-cant-build-a-daily-habit

When I read this during the summer I was taking my first creative writing classes (!) and working through The Artist's Way as part of a reading group, and sent the segment below to some friends and classmates at the time:

"Art is merely the fragments, the detritus, of us becoming who we are in the world. Instead of starting a routine, reframe your art as a practice of attention. Your art is your thoughts, your feelings, and your outlook in history. It is already unique. Your only task, then, is to begin noticing your own thoughts. Notice your mind drifting and start writing it down. Write until you get to the end of what you’re wondering. Write it in a place that’s convenient and that is always near you, like your phone, and write it in a place where you can see the text piling up. Your art is always happening—when you’re washing dishes, making dinner, or waiting for a train—it’s just a matter of noticing and honoring it when it is."

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The letter that resonated with me most—and that I still refer back to—is this one: https://yanyi.substack.com/p/how-do-i-write-about-my-identity

As a fellow Chinese American writer, I've wrestled with this question of identity and authenticity so much and your response was really helpful in making me examine underlying assumptions and power structures. This paragraph in particular is just phenomenal:

> For you and I who have been oppressed, you must let go of the myth that writing is what you know. We know to distrust ourselves and to defer to someone who will always “know” better. We know to dress up our stories for entertainment and decoration; to always be ready and waiting to appease the next task that will be thrown over to us. We cannot write what we know. We must write what we want.

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So many wonderful letters but this one found me at a particular time when I needed to hear it..


I was taking a long walk at my favorite place, listening to this letter and response, and it resonated in so many ways...

from the letter:

"Part of it is that I want to share something of myself with the world, to help and connect with others, and I think I’m meant to do that through writing but I’m not clear on what it can offer to the world or to myself—just that if I were to put some goodness into this wild universe, it would probably be through this odd and complex medium."

I thought this comment in your response was really important:

"It’s true: using your life as the source of your subject matter can be exhausting, a constant wait for inspiration to arrive and for the writing to finally commence. It’s also true that writing, in itself, is not therapy—working through the traumas of our pasts requires outside help with trained specialists and support groups—in fact, you might find yourself writing your way into an echo chamber, an intricate trap that you’ve set yourself rather than the gradual awareness to set you free. The problem isn’t expressing yourself correctly: it’s that the work you needed to do was never something you could do alone."

.. and finally as I listened to the end of the piece I found myself standing looking out at a green field, partly the synchronicity but mostly the wisdom brought me to tears.. Thank you!

"Most of the time, when we’re looking for structure, we’re looking for permission. A well-wrought path will get you to a destination, somewhere someone else has vetted for you. An untouched field will get you your own desire. It will make you move toward what you want. Life is asking what you want from it. If you don’t delay in answering, you will know what you want when you feel it’s fullness. It will have already arrived."

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