Creative Doing just launched, which means I’m knee deep in promoting it. I plan to write more about the process—how I’m thinking about it, campaigns and always on, and what the goal really is.
My fiancée made a great suggestion, which was to tell the story about why I wrote this new book about creativity.
I published it at Medium, and Amy Shearn picked it up for the Human Parts publication (thanks Amy!). I’ve admired Human Parts for several years,, so I’m really glad it took this piece in.
I remembered approaching an author a few years ago, and telling him that I was thinking of writing a memoir. He advised me against it, saying that memoirs wouldn’t sell unless the author was famous. (He hadn’t written his own memoir, in spite of his fame, so he followed his own advice.)
He wasn’t wrong from a marketing perspective—I don’t read many memoirs from people I don’t know either—but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth writing. It just means it might take a second for people to find it and dedicate the time it takes. But there is value in it, just like there’s value in an Audemars Piguet (despite more people preferring Rolexes!). Fame is just one of many reasons people might read a memoir.
My fiancée’s prompt made me think of one of Eddie Huang’s latest interviews, where he—as tends to happen—said something really insightful:
Brandon Yu: That questioning about identity comes up a lot in the film. The director Justin Chon recently took part in a round table I held and talked about seeing a lot of projects in development that overly emphasize the idea of being Asian. Do you worry your questioning in this film might read as exoticization in that way?
Eddie Huang: I know and understand Justin’s frustration. I hang with Justin, but I learned a few years ago, just do you. I love Justin because he’s genuinely curious, and we always have been when there wasn’t money in this.
I won’t name names, but there’s a person in your [round table], where the first time I met that guy was the year “Fresh Off the Boat” got picked up, and he said to me, “I had no idea you could make money telling Asian stories — that’s crazy, thanks man! I’m going to get into it, too.” It was just so flippant, and I was like, I don’t think he even realizes how insulting that is, not just to me, not to our culture, but to himself. That he never thought his stories were good enough.
It’s worth acknowledging that Eddie had a really difficult time selling Boogie:
First film I wrote. I gave it to my agent at the time, and he’s, like, “I love it, but I don’t know how we’re going to sell it.” I left that agency, I went to U.T.A. We started to work on it and we went out to sell it. It didn’t sell. I was, like, “Damn, maybe this won’t happen.” You’re basically writing a character where there’s not any bankable star in Hollywood to play him. But that’s what gave me hope. It was the same reason why [the editor and publisher] Chris Jackson bought “Fresh Off the Boat” when he was with [the publishing imprint] Spiegel & Grau. I remember him saying, “It’s not even about the numbers. You’re introducing an audience. You’re going to get people that don’t read books to read this book.” And that excites me, you know?
One of my agents was at a film festival and ran into the president of Focus Features, Robert Walak, who was, like, “Who are your interesting young writers? I just want to read weird stuff.” And my agent’s, like, “I got Eddie Huang. He’s got a crazy script nobody wants to buy.” He loved the script but didn’t want to buy it. I met Walak and I brought a deck. I was, like, “I know this is a general meeting, but humor me. I’d like the opportunity to present my film.” At the end of lunch, he goes, “I had no intention coming here to buy this script, but I’m going to buy this.” [Walak left Focus in August, 2020.] I hung out with him a month ago, and he told me, “The reason I bought it is because, when I looked at that deck, I knew you had a vision for how this movie was going to look, and how you were going to make it. Down to the wardrobe. I knew you had this movie in your head.” It was a miracle. Nobody was going to buy this film.
So I appreciate where both sides are coming from. This is not a complete post. Stay tuned for part 2.
P.S., Also check out Creative Doing at #the100dayproject and get yourself a coupon code. Or read the new excerpt at Fast Company.