We had the good fortune of connecting with Y.N. Bushehri and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Y.N., do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
Before we’re anything else, we’re human. It’s sobering to remember that we’ve all got a finite amount of time on this earth as well as finite energy. We’re not limitless. I’d actually say that it’s these very limitations that make endeavors such as creativity and art so beautiful in the first place. So because I am always mindful of the truth of my own humanity, I tend to lead with these values when it comes to any challenge.
I usually ask the question, “Why am I doing this?” or “Why is this important to me?” If I can’t find an answer to either of those things, I usually drop a project. The “why” is always more important, I think, than the actual finished project.
There are days, of course, when the “why” gets to be dimmer and less obvious than others. In those instances, I do a lot of soul-searching and journaling — is this still what I want? Does this project allow me the chance to grow as a person? This last question is especially important since the “why” can also change over time as we grow as people.
The last thing I have to say about this is that there is no shame in giving up. Sometimes it’s the best choice anyone can make, especially when it comes to taking risks. In the creative line of work, there’s a lot of dead-ends and “well, that definitely didn’t work” moments. It’s good to recognize them early, to know the difference between them versus the feeling of being unmotivated.
At the end of the day, creating and taking risks is a balancing act between knowing when it’s the right time to give up and when it’s the right time to push through.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
There’s a unique perspective that comes from my many different identities. A lot of my writing is informed first and foremost by my culture — of being born Iranian and growing up in Tehran through the majority of my childhood — but also by spending all of my teenage years in California. Being queer and an immigrant certainly defined a lot of my experiences in my late teens and early twenties.
I’ve spent a lot of years attempting to translate all of these identities to the outside world, and I think this is where Soultouch has come from — the place in my mind where I exist both as an intersection of my different selves: my spiritual self, my Iranian self, my American self, my queer self, and most recently, even my neurodivergent self. It is a space I’ve created for myself to be entirely whole without having to sacrifice any of the pieces for another.
After a few years, though, this story wanted to be told to others. It wasn’t just enough for me to know it. After all, when we discover ourselves, it is only in interfacing with the world and having others know and understand us that we can find happiness. It isn’t so much about validation but about being known, and I wanted very much to be known and understood, especially since now I have the language and the narrative to share.
I think that’s where my success has come from. I don’t have a large readership or a lot of followers on social media or any of the usual metrics used commonly for being successful, but I have had friends and family who are invested in my story, both figuratively and literally. I’ve deepened my connection with every single person who has given me feedback and has reached out to me in one form or another. This, I’ve learned, is why I write — to share my experiences through my art, to exist holistically in all my identities, and to deepen my understanding of others.
If I were to impart the most important lesson from this process to other young artists, I would say that knowing one’s values is the key to an artist’s success. Values define our expectations of what success is in the first place — and I’ve found that “success” is subjective and personal to every artist. It’s very easy to get swept up in the tide of society’s definitions of success and what it means to be a writer in general, but at the end of the day, I’m the only narrator of my own story.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve lived in San Diego most of my life, and I fall in love with it more and more every day.
One of my favorite places to show people is Seaport Village near Downtown San Diego. It’s a good introduction to the city, its culture, and its weather. There’s nothing quite like catching up with someone you haven’t seen for a long time while strolling by the bay. Perhaps afterward, we’d get food at Civico 1845, my favorite Italian place in Little Italy which has a dedicated vegetarian menu and some of the best wine I’ve had.
Another favorite place to take visitors to is San Diego’s indie bookstores, but especially Mysterious Galaxy. It’s home to all speculative stories with a lovely staff who always have the most superb recommendations for my next read.
For years, Hillcrest has been home for me. I generally love being in the neighborhood to get coffee or to write, especially at Cafe Bassam which has hosted me and my busy brain many evenings after work and on weekends. Hillcrest is also home to my favorite vegan fast food joint called Evolution. It’s my go-to restaurant on date nights before watching a play or going to a concert.
Balboa Park is another signature spot in San Diego that I usually take visitors to. There are a few different museums in the park worth visiting, but my favorite is the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA). I’m also fond of taking photos at the lily, next to the iconic botanical building. During the summer season, I also enjoy attending the Shakespeare Festival at Old Globe’s outdoor theater.
For Iranian food, there are a few different places I recommend to others. There’s the Grill House Cafe in Carmel Mountain, Soltan Banu in North Park, and Sufi Mediterranean Cuisine on Balboa Avenue. I also highly recommend Balboa International Market for buying traditional Persian breakfast bread.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
None of us get to our successes just by ourselves. I owe most of mine to my spouse who devours more books in a year than most people do in a lifetime (365 in 2020!), for knowing the publishing market well enough to guide me, and for having a killer instinct for storytelling and character development. She’s been my sounding board as I grapple to write my way through this novel — something I’ve never been trained formally to do. Also, it really helps that she occassionally reminds me to eat!
The organization that has changed my life and how I view creative writing is NaNoWriMo, particularly the San Diego chapter which is run by two of the most amazing human beings I’ve met. Through them, I’ve found not only a community of writers but a group of close friends with whom I feel most at ease and most myself. Without them, writing would be a much, much lonelier undertaking.
Last but definitely not least, I’d like to give a shout out to all my readers — every single person who painstakingly read through my chapters week after week, who has given me feedback, showered me with encouragement, and most of all, given my story space to not only exist but also thrive.
Other: Wattpad: http://my.w.tt/bloybsCsk3 Newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/a3c7468c6fcf/subscribe-soultouch-chapter-updates
Y.N. Bushehri (photos, manuscript) Jessica Kellicut (character art, book design)