Behind the writing process of That Shiny Resume
When Sharon kindly offered me a space on her blog to share about my recently published book, Behind That Shiny Resume, I realized that I didn’t really know what I wanted to write about. I hate doing the “I was a top student” background introduction, I feel uncomfortable “promoting” myself as someone who has survived cyclothymic depression, and yet I wanted to let you know that this book was written from my heart, to comfort and encourage students with similar struggles in school.
From the Facebook notes and interviews that I’ve written and done, I gathered that what people would appreciate most would be a 20 year old’s thoughts on how she pieced together a book on a deeply personal and painful experience during two difficult years of her life.
There were many things I considered while writing the book, an effort I undertook in secret for a long time before I dared to tell anyone:
Firstly, my parents (whom I used to blame for causing me so much stress). Now I really, really believe in honouring them—but I also believe in being real! So I constantly had to ask myself: do the readers need to know this? If not, it's out. I had my aunt and both my parents read it to ensure I painted a fair picture of things...although there were suggestions I didn't heed. Haha.
Secondly, my, erm, condition. Bipolar. I just wanted to write enough for people to get a glimpse. I didn't want it to be in the spotlight, and I didn’t understand it all that well either. My observation is that parents in their sometimes overbearing love, panic and conclude that there's something wrong with their child so easily. I did not want my book to contribute to that! But many people also needed to know that it's OK to have depression or mental illness, and it's perfectly OK to seek professional help. If your child is like that, the worst thing you could ever do is to be ashamed.
Thirdly, trying to fit everything into a book my publisher said "can be read in one sitting". How do you choose from all your memories that seem equally important? In the end, I realized it's an art that needs so much thought, time and practice to develop.
Fourthly, my life! I can imagine how utterly foolish I would look if one day in the near future, I collapse into burnout again: if I lose control, lose heart, lose purpose. What would my readers say! At that moment (which I am determined not to see), it would take me double, triple the courage to stand up again. But writing the book at this stage sends an important message--I don't know if people get it: it means that it's perfectly OK not to know everything, it's OK to be uncertain and a little lost because we're all on our journeys of discovery. I don't have to "make it" or have a success story before I can be secure: I can find that in God’s love. : )
Lastly, I had to consider how many real names I wanted to expose. What a headache! Which alma mater should I include? Which school, which individuals would not want me to print their names? One of my roommates gladly said yes, another preferred a pseudonym. I changed every single name to a fake, and then reverted a few to their real ones. The process went on till I decided every real name I put down was justifiable.
The book has now gone into its third printing and is available in major bookstores in Malaysia and Singapore. I have learnt so much from the publishing process, and every time a reader writes back to thank me for writing the book, I tell myself that yes, I made a good decision venturing out into the unknown world of publishing. Yes, it was worth the effort. I hope you will smile, cry, gain insight, encourage yourself, and be blessed because of my story.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
A young lady called Jasmine Yow wrote to me the other day to tell me about her new book Behind That Shiny Resume, which tells of her struggle with depressive illness, and I invited her to write a post for this blog. I know that you are all going to want to wish her well when you read this :