The stories I haven’t told
Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Manila – Every time I declutter, I stumble onto old stuff that I thought I had thrown away. The most recent is a stack of reporter’s notepads; some still half-filled, some overflowing with notes, doodles and scrawls occupying every inch and corner of the pages.
As I leafed through them, I could figure out from my typically undecipherable handwriting hundreds of words I jotted down from interviews and press conferences. They included my own thoughts, some limericks and poetry.
I had many of these steno notebooks when I was a news reporter out in the field on daily coverage. I discarded many of them through the years, but only after I kept them as if they were the first things I would save in case of fire.
They always came in handy with a recorder. Today, despite such new options as my cellphone to record and take photos of an event, or typing notes directly on my laptop, I still go by a journalist's work weapons – the pen, the notepad and the recorder.
Even for a few years when I was not active in journalism as I shifted briefly to different jobs, I still carried a notepad. I feel there is always something to write down. Even today, I’m still a pen-and-paper person.
I don’t have a count of how many stories I have told and retold beyond what was happening 24/7 in the news. But I remember the stories of people that remained in my memory because they were so difficult and dark they reappeared in my nightmares. There were also inspired accounts of people who were able to leave their darkness behind, and of people who lived their best dreams.
Writing and storytelling are not easy. People see writers as strange because they inscribe their own understanding of the human experience from the things they observe and notice. They also see in every journalist the rush to hurry up the first rough draft of history because it is their duty to do so.
As much as I have felt and fulfilled many times my duty to write the stories that needed to be written, there are many stories that I haven’t gotten around to writing. There are reasons that set me back, such as fear that my words might hurt or affect people. I ask myself the question that if I write them down, who should I tell the stories to?
A lot of distractions also get in the way, such as other commitments and work simultaneously occurring with my writing. I’m thinking of my training in beating deadlines as one reason, too. I can’t write without a deadline. And simply, there’s also that habit of just letting the ideas float in my head and not writing them down.
I wonder how many writers have died not writing the stories they wanted to write. Or how many continue to soldier on and one day realize that there’s a story already out there that they would always regret not writing.
When I read through the notepads again, I saw some stories jumping out from my self-styled stenography. So I harbor my hopes on one day being able to write that one powerful story before I die.
Diana G. Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to email@example.com