People I meet · Writing

The ? mark

I can help you. I want to go“, I insisted.

I told Cal when he told us his plan to go back to Mekong Delta for an interview. Having been to Mekong many times, I still volunteer to go back. To feel the vibe, explore his style of story forming and satisfy my curiosity of brain picking.

Different from me, Cal has written professionally for 10 years and he treats stories as, of course, real stuff. Sometimes, to get the raw material, this person is willing to ride a bike in dusty Saigon for 120km back and forth to talk with a farmer for 2 hours about all the same questions he had asked 2 months ago. Sometimes, due to be being a perfectionist, he spends all day long crafting stories and then halfway, he thinks “Damn maybe no one will buy this”, then he stops there, torn between what he wants to do and what is supposed to do.

Why ?

How many?

Ask him again what he thinks about…

What happened when?

When?

Where?

I was like “Come on man, why do you want to know so much?”. Sometimes I think if our famer was not very patient he would have been mad.

But now looking back, I think he is like a gold digger, in which stories are a mine. Some details need to be cut, some will be developed and turn into a twist, but to develop that, all have to be gathered.

Take it all, then cut it ruthlessly.

I think somehow it is the trait of all professionals. Selection. Distillation. Focus. Trade-off. Frustration. All in one bag. It is a frustrating and not always rewarding process, yet that is the path they choose.

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