A Tiger in Winter: A Struggling Writer in A Modern Society

Director and scriptwriter Lee Kwang-Kuk might not have intended to hit us writers hard in the bull’s eye. But when one of his dialogs in “A Tiger in Winter” (2017) which you can watch for free here shows you how laymen see writers, I was more offended than Kyung-yoo the protagonist himself.

The scene shows you know how badly writers are prejudiced in Korean society, which also holds true in mine (Indonesian). They are almost as lowly as unemployed people.

Kyung-yoo (Lee Jin-wook) is a homeless young man with a writing talent which unfortunately he tries to put behind his past. He wrote a novel but felt that the outcome was far than satisfactory to him.

Sadly, the society doesn’t seem to appreciate his talent. He sought a low-paid half-time job as a fast food chain waiter. He is older than most applicants and the manager of restaurant seems to be interested in hiring him but the young man was harassed for being unemployed for quite a long time. This employment gap was according to Kyun-yoo filled with a writing stint. He put much effort into his novel but somehow something held him back from publishing it.

He ran into his former girlfriend Yoo-jung (Ko Hyun-jung) while working as a driver for drunk car owners. And Yoo-jung was a little bit tipsy after perhaps some bottles of liquor that night.

Yoo-jung was a different type of writer. She was awarded a prestigious accolade for her published novel. Currently she was trying to start writing her second novel but could not find an inspiration.

The story gets more interesting as Kyung-yoo dealt with more and more uncivilized and rude behaviors from his clients. The conflict breaks when the male protagonist thought he discovered the ‘ill’ intent behind the rekindled past love.

To me, this movie perfectly captures how peoples in general view artists and writers, especially those writing fiction. It’s bitter but true.

Such an underestimating attitude is shown by the current Indonesian government. Renowned artist Butet Kertaradjasa felt troubled and hugely disappointed that one of the ministers defines artists as people whose faces can be seen on television only. Meanwhile, Butet’s definition of artists is everyone who has dedicated their lives to arts and make a living from it. These artists are those hardest hit by the pandemic. They cannot exhibit their artworks, their shows get cancelled until God knows when, and they have bills to pay (source: Merdeka.com).

As people are frantically supporting medical workers and appreciating doctors and nurses’ hard work amid the pandemic around the globe, we can still enjoy stories from various platforms and forms, be it books, podcasts, movies, short movies thanks to the hardwork of writers.

Stories keep us sane in our modern, clean, and comfortable confinements called houses, apartments, flats, or dorms.

But again, will people start appreciating writers’ hard work or keep ignoring their toil? (*/)

“Writing is an Art and You Don’t Rush Art” – Super Wealthy Authors

‎I hate disturbingly affluent authors. Not that I want to choke them to death or beat them with pebbles or decapitate them like that poor Japanese journalist. I’m not that mean, seriously.

It’s more because they have the luxury and privilege ,or whatever you call it, ‎ to write their best works without having to give a single ( sorry) damn to what the market or readers or buyers or publishers desire. Deadlines are given but still they make sense and there’s still much time to produce and rewrite and rewrite like a thousand times so the best stuff can be served to people awaiting to read.

Joanne Rowling aka J. K. Rowling once said she never bothered whether she had to publish “The Casual Vacancy” or not. She for a period of time enjoyed ‎the secrecy and privacy of writing for the sake of writing, something missing while she was writing Harry Potter series for 17 years. She clearly didn’t write solely for financial purposes after being filthy rich. After the wildly successful Harry Potter series, Rowling seems to be very very very few authors on the Earth who least need more sources of income to support her daily basic expenses and besides, her spouse is a doctor!

Just like Rowling, Elizabeth Gilbert shared quite similar a fortunate story‎. After becoming a rich and illustrious memoirist, Gilbert also found solace in the abundant wealth she got in exchange for her privacy. You know what I mean because she wrote a heartfelt memoir on her love and spiritual life. Such a larger-than-life topic to cover within a single literary work, in fact.

But with the loss of privacy, she obtained the freedom of writing. She can use the money she’s got from the previous memoir royalty to fund the publication of her next ambitious fiction project‎, The Signature of All Things.

I’m convinced that these authors are not just lucky. Even if it is luck, I can argue that luck must be built. They worked their way up there. They started early, they’ve known what‎ they wanted to do since childhood.

Writing is an art, and you can’t rush art but why do deadlines exist in the first place? Anyone knows?

Writers’ Moral Responsibility

‎”The first job of a writer is to be HONEST.”- Irvine Welsh

I typed the word “honest” in capital letters as I cannot tell you how much I find this quote inspiring to me. ‎This quote at its best teaches us writers in general (whether they be bloggers, published authors, print journalists, online journalists, novelists, short story writers, or even mere Facebook updates’ creators) that nothing can substitute integrity and honesty.

But for some reason I cannot fathom why some writers plunge themselves into this kind of abyss named politics a little bit too far.‎ Take Indonesian moslem writer Jonru Ginting as an example. The self-proclaimed writer, entrepreneur, and internet marketer (as he himself stated on jonru.net). He is allegedly to be the culprit behind the photo showing Jokowi as a priest at a church giving sermons according to islamtoleran.com (another site with unknown track records). The photo was found to be photoshopped and thus fake. Jonru (@jonru) himself denied the accusation via Twitter and Facebook. But long before that, when Egypt crisis broke last year, he was reportedly releasing a hoax to change the perception of those who did not believe in the sincerety of Ikhwanul Muslimin movement (source: badaruzz on http://www.kaskus.co.id, 14/07/2014). He was said to have used a photo of a smiling corpse, with the intention of convincing readers that Ikhwanul Muslimin casualties were died heroes. But the photo was found to be sourced from the web. The photo was allegedly taken from Malaysia, where the woman was only mimicking and acting as a corpse during a simulation of taking care of dead body before the burial based on Islamic regulations.

I am not going too comprehensive about who is wrong or right in this politically sensitive case but it may also be due to the implications of his involvement as a cadre of Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS) , who openly criticizes and frequently attacks Jokowi on his Twitter account and Facebook fanpage (https://www.facebook.com/jonru.page).

And that being said, I am not either about to judge him for being a politically biased writer ‎because that is his own preference entirely. Yet, what I want to highlight is how perilous it may get when you involved in affairs such as politics as you may lose your integrity and neutrality as a writer. Because as far as I can see, those two things are the most invaluable and intangible assets for writers of all kinds. You can tell lies in fictional works as much as you want but never ever spread lies in your reports, non-fictional works since it may put your credibility at stake.

Because I believe there is NO fine line between liers and truth tellers in writing. Either you tell a complete lie that still makes sense of course in some way (i.e. fictional authors) or tell the “truth” ‎as far as you possibly can do (i.e. reporters). Certainly, subjectivity may intrude in between but can subjectivity or bias leads a writer to lies or even worse libels, or defamation? Have your say.

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