Sun Hee and her daughter in Montreal last summer

Today is guest blog exchange day on the Blogathon, and I pleased to welcome Sun Hee Yoon, a fellow memoir writer. Not only does Sun Hee bravely soldier on in my memoir class at StoryStudio Chicago, she also works amazingly hard at writing in English, which is so very different from her native Korean. She and I share not having grown up in the U.S., and we often talk about the challenge of writing in one language when another one is in our heads. But we also chat about the rather universal challenge of pursing your creative writing, particuarly when, as a mother, your pursuit might seem frivolous compared to the needs of your child. I’m happy to share Sun Hee’s answers to my questions here, as this exchange is a great example of the kind of conversations we have.

Annette: What promoted you to pursue writing even though you are the mother of a young child?

Sun Hee: My daughter turning three was a turning point in my life as a mom. I grew up in South Korea, and I was taught English in the ESL
(English as a Second Language) program. My daughter, on the other hand, was born in Montreal, Canada, but technically grew up in Chicago. My husband and I speak English at home, and thus our daughter picked up English naturally early on. As she got older, her language exploded. When she asked questions, I often didn’t know how to explain things in English. I started to realize that our communication was limited due to my lack of vocabulary. That’s how I started to write – to calm my frustration and to learn English by writing, and ultimately to be able to communicate with my daughter, so that I could build a strong bond between us
and tell my stories in a way that she could understand.

How did you find time to write before your daughter was in pre-school?

During my daughter’s nap time, I chose to write even though I was exhausted. When we moved to Chicago in September 2007, my daughter was only two months old. Since we didn’t have any family members or friends, most of time I was home alone with her while my husband was at work. To soothe my loneliness and postpartum depression (I didn’t know about this at the
time, but now I think that is what I went through), I threw myself into writing in Korean. Later on, I could only write after she went to bed at night, as I couldn’t really focus on my writing when she was awake.

Do you actually use the time she’s in pre-school to write? Or do other chores get in the way?

I force myself to use the time when my daughter’s in pre-K to write. If I go home after drop her off, I head for the dishes or the laundry. I can’t help myself. But I realized that those chores could wait, so I resolved to go to the café near her school to write or read. Even if I don’t get much done, I always feel satisfied and happy because I did something for myself during the day.

Do you have a particular writing routine?

My writing is very much related to sparks of inspiration. I write whenever a tangled emotion needs to come out, so impromptu verse or quick idea sketches are handy. I do, however, have a writing routine when it comes to the process of a longer piece like the manuscript of my memoir. I always start by listening to selected music and writing a short paragraph to warm up, just like warming up before you play sports.

Do you have a particular place where you write?

I like to write in a place where I can be isolated, in the living room at night, in a café, or a Write-a-Thon at StoryStudio Chicago. When I decide to write, I don’t mind sitting for 6-7 hours straight. I just like sitting in one spot as long as I have something to munch and drink lots of water.