Dari “The Treacherous Writer” ( #UWRF14): Memahami adalah Memaafkan

uwrf 2014

David Lesser, Hannie Rayson, dan Liam Pieper memiliki latar belakang kehidupan yang berbeda-beda. Lesser seorang jurnalis pemenang penghargaan yang sudah menelurkan 6 karya buku yang di antaranya adalah sebuah memoar bertajuk “To Begin To Know: Walking in the Shadows of My Father”. Rayson menulis 14 drama dan memiliki reputasi dalam penulisan drama yang kompleks dan karya terbarunya adalah sebuah memoar yang akan diterbitkan tahun 2015. Pieper memiliki darah penulis dari sang nenek dan pernah menerima penghargaan Literary Residency tahun 2014 oleh Australia Council for the Arts.

Namun, pagi tadi ketiganya disatukan oleh satu benang merah yang sama:memoar. Ketiganya menulis memoar dan memaparkan pada audiens berbagai pengalaman dan seluk beluk menulis memoar yang ternyata tidak semudah menuliskan kegiatan sehari-hari sebagaimana para penulis diari/ catatan harian amatir.

Memoar memang salah satu jenis karya yang digemari, apalagi jika si penulis memiliki kehidupan yang menarik (atau kehidupan yang biasa saja tetapi berhasil dibuat menarik dengan penggunaan bahasa yang efektif). Lihat saja bagaimana larisnya memoar Elizabeth Gilbert “Eat Pray Love” yang juga ditulis dengan menggunakan Bali sebagai latar tempatnya. Ada juga memoar-memoar dengan nuansa komedi karya David Sedaris yang saya juga gemari. Kalimat-kalimatnya segar, dan menggelitik. Tidak sespiritual Gilbert, tetapi Sedaris juga memiliki kedalamannya sendiri, dengan mengkritisi asumsi dan keyakinan yang sudah diterima masyarakat.

Lesser melontarkan sebuah kalimat yang menarik tentang penulisan memoar, bahwa dengan menulis memoar, kadang kita mengerti bahwa hampir setiap orang melakukan kesalahan atau perbuatan yang menurut orang lain mengerikan  atau tidak termaafkan semata-mata karena mereka berpikir bahwa hal itu adalah sesuatu yang baik. Ia seolah mengatakan bahwa menulis memoar memberikan kita ruang untuk lebih banyak memahami pemikiran orang lain atau pemikiran diri sendiri yang mungkin kita anggap salah tetapi juga memiliki alasan dan justifikasinya. Semua itu ada alasannya dan memoar membuka celah untuk pemahaman yang lebih baik tentang diri kita, orang lain dan dunia.

Menimpali pernyataan Lesser, Pieper juga mengamini dengan mengatakan, “To understand is to forgive” (memahami adalah memaafkan). Salah satu cara untuk memahami sebuah kesalahan dan mengapa kesalahan itu bisa terjadi adalah dengan menelusurinya kembali, merenunginya, mengupasnya, dan mendapatkan pemahaman lebih mendalam mengenai bagaimana hal itu bisa sampai terjadi. Besar kemungkinan seorang manusia tidak melakukannya karena niat yang buruk, tetapi karena ingin mencapai hasil yang baik. Hanya saja caranya mungkin kurang tepat.

Tadi pagi di Left Blank Ubud, paparan dan tanya jawab ketiga penulis Australia ini memberikan kita gambaran singkat mengenai pengalaman mereka dalam menulis riwayat keluarga yang sangat kompleks. Ternyata tidak semudah yang kita pikirkan karena memilih detil yang perlu dikemukakan dan detil yang harus disingkirkan bukanlah perkara gampang.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity: “Don’t Be Daunted. Just Do Your Job”


If you really want to be a writer then just do it. Just write. Don’t complain you’re running out of ideas. Don’t moan you’re always disturbed by noise around you. Don’t find any other excuse to validate your being slack in reinforcing self-discipline. Don’t ever feel intimidated by a fear phantom whispering that you’ll lose in the middle of the journey or neglected by the rest of the world after all the toil. Keep on moving forward.

That is the core message I was trying to extract from Elizabeth Gilbert’s speech at TED in February 2009. She is the heroine I look up to in becoming a writer.

 I love books. I’ve longed for becoming a writer yet up to this very second feel like I’m a failure. Yes, I’ve been cognizant of languages for years academically but still I am not a published writer (with the self-publish online platform and a site I write at as exceptions). Not yet, on paper, on print.

So what’s my problem? Does it have to do with my introverted personality? Perhaps. But then I read, a number of published, widely acknowledged authors too are introverted. Nothing is wrong with being an introvert but what is wrong is when it holds me back with my, I hope, lifetime pursuit: writing.

As I look back and find where I am at the moment, I come to realize I actually am on the right track. I am not there just yet but only to see I’m now heading to the right direction is too good to be true. I am now in fact making a living with my linguistic skills. I write. I translate. And as a professional, I get paid for what I do. I definitely wish to earn more and more but that’s just another story of greed and ambition. I want that of course. A great deal of wealth. But I want myself to deserve the perks. I ought to earn it. Because that’s the essence of being a human. Strive, fall, or succeed, and learn from whatever lessons this life has to offer.

Back to Gilbert inspirational speech at TED, I suppose the author made 2 critical, worth noting points anyone can learn writing wise. First, one should never be afraid to start because of failure risks. And second, one must never be intimidated by success. That is all. That’s what any human has to deal with every single day, isn’t that? If you’re nothing, you want to be someone. And after reaching the peak, you’ll wonder, “What’s next? Am I going to fall down right after this, soon or later?” The fear of being in the extreme state of adversity is overwhelming. Being in nadir is too terrifying an idea. The lowest point of anything which may trap you for good, sucking you deeper for sure just like quicksand.

[…] I happen to remember that over 20 years ago, when I first started telling people – when I was a teenager – that I wanted to be a writer, I was met with this kind of, sort of fear-based reaction. And people would say,”Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success? Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing’s ever going to come of it and you’re going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure? […]

Gilbert intelligently answered all the questions directed towards her and said with that wise tone of an aspiring philosopher, “Yes, I’m afraid of all those things. And I have always been. And I’m afraid of many, many more things besides that people can’t even guess at.”

She then shifted to the discussion of the evolution of human thoughts on creativity. The blonde 40-year-old lady quickly summarized the change of perspectives in seeing creativity from ancient Greece and ancient Rome, who thought creative works are the works of daemons helping artists work, to Renaissance school of thought stating human beings as the axis of the universe.

And she sided Renaissance, I guess at this point. As a writer, Gilbert admitted having routines. She had to “get up at the same time every day and sweat and labor and barrel through it really awkwardly”, as she put it.

Afterwards she talked about how musician Tom Waits could maintain the creative process and the quality of his works without being dictated by the so-called inspiration sent by heaven to mortals, including artists. I love how Waits handled the musical ‘revelation’ he without warning received as driving down the street. “Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise, go bother somebody else today,” Gilbert was retelling what she heard during the interview with the musician.

As approaching the end of the speech, Gilbert threw another analogy. This time was a story of an indistinct North African dancer centuries ago. He would actually become transcendent very rarely while dancing and one night he danced like he had been lit with divinity from all possible directions by the Almighty. And she elaborated:

And when this happened, back then, people knew it for what it was, you know, they called it by its name. they would put their hands together and they would start to chant,”Allah, Allah, Allah, God, God, God.”

As a moslem by upbringing, I’m of course stunned upon reading her words. Allah? Did I read it right? And yes, I did. It was later explained that piece of historical notes stated “when the Moors invaded southern Spain, they took this custom with them and the pronunciation changed over the centuries from “Allah, Allah, Allah,” to “Ole, Ole, Ole” which you still hear in bullfights and in flamenco dances.”

In Spain, she added, when a performer has done something impossible and magic,Allah, ole, ole, Allah, magnificent, bravo,” incomprehensible, there it is  — a glimpse of God. “Which is great, because we need that,” Gilbert argued. At this point she turned spiritual.

Lastly, the African dancer story ended with him becoming a mortal again, not a glimpse of God, by the next morning. This time no transcendent aura whatsoever found in his soul. The magic turned out to be a loan from the Unknown source. And this magic is to pass on to someone else when the dancer’s time was over.


“”Ole!” to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up”- Elizabeth Gilbert





What to Do when Negativity Reigns?


On choice and sacrifice

Before going to bed, these paragraphs of Elizabeth Gilbert caught my attention and made me think a lot.

Then my mother shocked me. She said,” All those things that you want from your relationship, Liz? I have always wanted those things, too.”
“You have to understand how little I was raised to expect that I deserved in life, honey. Remember – I come from a different time and place than you do.”
My mother has made choices in her life, as we all must, and she is at peace with them. I can see her peace. She did not cop out on herself. (…) Maybe some things were sacrificed , and my dad made his, too – but who amongst us lives without sacrifice?
And the question now for me is, What are my choices to be? What do I believe that I deserve in this life? Where can I accept sacrifice , and where can I not? 

Seriously, neither choice nor sacrifice is the right topic to read about before going to bed. This leads to way longer contemplation so I must stop now. Yoga class is awaiting in fewer than 8 hours from now.

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