I came across two astonishing quotes today.
The first one was said by Jennifer Clement in a special event organised by PEN Melbourne:
Mercy is not a two-way street.
The second one was said by Mitchell Garabadian in the movie Spotlight:
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.
I began my day by writing. Well, at least, I tried to. Have you ever experienced coming across difficulties to fall asleep because you have too many thoughts that need digestion? I get them every night. These thoughts and ideas on what and how I should write keep coming to the surface of my mind every time I am about to sleep. I will then try my best to doze off and wake up enthusiastically, just to get my chance to write after I finish every morning’s errands.
It seemed ideal. It sounded perfect. Didn’t it?
But my story has always been the same: I open my laptop in the morning, stare to my half-baked (or more accurately, perhaps, just one-fifth-baked) manuscripts, not knowing how to proceed.
I browsed through the Writing Projects folder in my laptop this morning just to realise one thing. Back in 2008, I had more than a couple of finished, unpolished (I guess it would be fairer to say “awfully written”) manuscripts. Most of them were romantic flicks, but I even had a science fiction work. These days, I might have better written manuscripts, thanks to everything I had learned from new writers friends I made or resources that are available both online and offline for writers. Yet, all of these manuscripts are sadly unfinished. What is even worse: I am having second, third, fourth thoughts of putting them out.
I am afraid that they are too cheesy, that they would not be significant pieces of work.
Hence, I left a little bit later in the afternoon to The Wheeler Centre and attend a special conversation with Jennifer Clement. She currently heads PEN International, a worldwide association of writers that “fights for freedom of expression”. The organisation found its name abbreviating Poets, Essayists, Novelists, but now it has expanded its reach to also Playwrights and Editors. Clement is the first woman who ever heads this organisation.
She is an American-Mexican author. In the session, she talked about her 10-years-long research about the women and girls affected by the drug cartel crisis in Mexico, as well as the journalistic pieces she had published about them. Furthermore, she talked about and read excerpts from one of her most successful novels, Prayers for the Stolen, which tells the (inspired by true) story of Mexican girls who got kidnapped (or “stolen”) by the country’s notorious drug cartels. The quote I posted above was from that novel.
She also said this, profoundly, about writing novels: “Nobody would remember which journalistic pieces changed the status quo about child labour, for example. But everyone would remember Oliver Twist from the era. Les Miserables changed what people thought of poor people, like what Jane Austen did to social class, status, and hierarchy. That is the power of a novel. It can change the world.”
Today’s game of ‘writing school’ (and slap on the face) was continued by a trip down to the cinema a few blocks from our apartment. We finally watched Spotlight in the cinema, and realised again how much a story can change the world.
Yet, here I am, in front of my laptop — still pondering over a story of who’s cheating who, pasting a fragment of song lyrics here and there complimented by heaps of references to popular culture.
Plenty of questions popped into my head.
Can my writings make an impact? Like what Clement is doing with her journalism and fiction pieces, as well as her work with PEN? Or, like what the Spotlight team is doing by investigative journalism?
I’m not sure. Probably not. The only thing that I am sure is how I possibly will lose some hours of sleep again tonight.
I realised that a book can reach out and embrace you like an arm and make you walk away from everything you thought you understood. – Jennifer Clement