Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mamamia!

Lucy from Mamamia emailed me last week asking permission to publish a piece I had written in Catherine Deveny’s Masterclass earlier this month. Of course I jumped at the offer and said yes. I’ve only been reading Mamamia for the last four years, since its days as a one woman operation. What a privilege, I gushed. Great, said Lucy, I’ll let you know when it goes up. Exciting!

And then the nerves hit, pretty much instantly. Shit, Mamamia has lots of readers. And commenters. Honest commenters. Double shit.

Writing a piece on being Chinese, or rather being Chinese enough, was mostly a fun process. Some parts were difficult to put into words. Truth be told, I had delved into topics that I just wouldn’t normally talk about. It’s always much easier to brush them aside and move onto something else. Look, cake! I am the first to put up my hand and acknowledge that my post was to take the piss out of some of the unfortunate souls who have wandered into my path and the tone was moderately sarcastic. All weekend, I wondered if that tone was right for the content which, at the end of the day, is an important issue.

So, fast forward to Tuesday and I emerge from a morning of meetings, reach for the mobile to find David Harris and 6 others are following me. Hey, isn’t David Harris from Wicked and Legally Blonde? Cool! Hang on. Wait. Oh.

Mamamia.com.au is conveniently bookmarked on my computer so with just a click, I was staring at my giant face smiling cheerily back at me. Thanks for the heads up, Lucy.

The post has been live for three hours and the conversation has well and truly started, with or without me. And, it became very apparent that the topic resonated with a number of readers. Ok, so at least I know the topic is relevant.

When I read the comments from Mamamia readers, I was actually shaking with nerves. While I would never be so naive as to expect everyone to agree with my perspective, I still would have felt I’d failed if the majority didn’t get where I was coming from or connect with it. Most importantly, I worried that I might have offended readers if they saw my words as an attack on good intentions.

Instead, what I read blew me away. As a writer, I have never felt so connected to fellow humans than I did in the moments after my post was published. I hope that other readers felt a similar connection.  I wrote a piece that I wish I got to read when I was sixteen and finding my own identity. I had no idea that so many people shared these feelings, questions and frustrations. Not all commenters agreed with everything I said, and some opened up my mind to other perspectives and experiences that I had not considered before. I truly enjoyed the dialogue and this post has opened my eyes as much as it has for anyone else.

In a recent interview with Jennifer Byrne, JK Rowling said that she continues to write and to publish post-Harry Potter, despite never needing to publish another work again, in order to continue having conversations with readers. I used to believe that it was enough to write for myself, to write primarily to express my thoughts and inner dialogues and make sense of them. I still do. But I discovered something quite lovely this week. Having an audience to keep you in check creates a whole other, albeit daunting, experience. Being allowed access to readers and their honesty is such a reward and I feel humbled to have been given that opportunity.

So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who read my post and who took part in the conversation. I have learnt so much and very much enjoyed the ride. You are all awesome. x

If you have no idea what this blog post is about, you may want to read my post on Mamamia.com.au. I probably should have put this at the top.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Bi Heng,

    This is Alice, I met you and your friend Jenny when you came to introduce yourself to my dad and I last night. It was wonderful to meet someone with such obvious love and passion for writing, so I had to jump on your blog and tell you how much I enjoyed reading your entries - your insightful reflections, your sharp sense of humour, and your honest and generous reactions to your piece being on Mamamia (CONGRATULATIONS, by the way!)

    Best wishes and keep writing, and keep being the warm, generous person you are!

    Much respect,

    Alice Pung

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    Replies
    1. It was such a joy meeting you and your dad last night, Alice. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement - I'm so touched that you've taken the time to visit this blog. x

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