Menulis Itu Mirip Masturbasi, Katanya

‎Seorang teman bertemu secara kebetulan dengan penulis Iwan Setyawan hari ini. Dan ia mengatakan bahwa Iwan berwejangan:”…[k]alo nulis itu yg penting kita ngerasa seneng, menikmati, dan bisa takjub pas bacanya. Bukan mikir bagaimana ceritanya biar pembaca seneng. #TipsMenulis”

Novelis Stephanie Meyer yang dikenal dengan Twilight series itu juga berpesan senada. Dalam sebuah wawancara dengan Time Magazine, ia pernah mengatakan tulisannya ia buat karena ia ingin membaca sebuah cerita romantis yang seperti itu. Dengan kata lain, Meyer hanya memfokuskan diri pada pemuasan diri, semacam “masturbasi sastrawi” dalam istilah vulgarnya.

‎Itu semua menerangkan mengapa saya merasa lelah sekali setelah menulis, padahal saya tidak ke mana-mana. Tubuh saya tidak berkeringat setetespun. Otot-otot tubuh bawah tak banyak bekerja. Hanya tubuh bagian atas yang terus tegak, menyangga kedua tangan yang terus bergerak di atas papan ketik dan kepala yang terpaku ke layar. Ternyata saya sudah bermasturbasi secara intelektual, verbal dan literal.

Oh lelahnya…

The Roadmap to Writing Like an Expert

Anyone can write. Your 4-year-old child can write simple sentences on the wall of his bedroom. Your nephew writes an essay on how more civilized and developed this country can be without Trans TV airing Raffi Ahmad’s live update of the wedding ceremony. Your teenage neighbor writes rants on Twitter every minute of his waking hours. And your 76-year-old grand father writes replies to your BBM messages on his smartphone.

Not everyone, however, writes and gets the acknowledgment as an expert and gets paid with a hefty sum of money.

Jason Calacanis – an Internet entrepreneur cum blogger – spills his tricks on how to approach writing and blogging so people will know you as an expert. Here’s the roadmap.

Pick a subject you’re most passionate about.

Spend one hour a day writing about it on a blog called “your first name + the topic” or “the topic + your first name”. For instance, “yoga akhlis” (or “yogakhlis”, like I’ve invented in my Instagram hashtag for my yoga photos). So I have to write about yoga every day for an hour (or more, if I want to speed up the process).

And then write about other people writing about it. This makes you more connected and relevant to the world, or at the very least to people around you.

Don’t forget to link to these people whose writing you praise, criticize or review. Let them know you have your own opinions on their thoughts. Of course, you may add or negate or improve what s/he wrote. Be yourself when you write.

After that, write comments around the web as the name of your blog (in my case, it is yogakhlis). And then after you have a year of your work, you may bring that to people who want to write about that certain topic (in my case, it’s yoga), and you’ll be likely to get more access. Because you have brain and have more knowledge on the subject like an expert (but by this point, definitely you’ve become one, if you really really write it on your own, not paraphrasing or quoting others’ thoughts only).

Now, you’re likely to get into writing and get a writing job because you manage to differentiate yourself from everybody else!

Calacanis added,”If you’re really good at what you do, they cannot stop you!” If you have performance with so refined skills after years of practicing and mean into it, you’re bound to be successful.

In journalism, said Calacanis, some people write so well and they practice it over and over again and they write some long-form pieces. You should keep on writing, regardless of anything. Only you can stop yourself, he firmly stated.

{source: A Fireside Chat by Sarah Lacy with Jason Calacanis /image credit: YouTube screenshot }

I Write Best when I’m Not Told to

‎Weirdly enough, I work best when I’m left alone. No pressure, no fear, only focus and much inspiration. I guess I suck more when people around me push me to excell. This explains a lot why I often fails to thrive inside and under a certain system of learning or working environment.

‎Freedom is so addictive I wish I could own it for good. And freedom in creation is so liberating to writers. It’s called literary freedom…

Menulis Itu Harus Egois

‎Menulis untuk orang lain itu susah, dan memang tidak seharusnya begitu. Apalagi kalau masih dalam tahap belajar. Makin terfokus pada pembaca, penulis biasanya makin stres. Dan meski stres itu bagus untuk memacu konsentrasi dan kinerja, jika berlebihan tentu dampaknya pada kreativitas berpikir seorang penulis juga kurang baik.

Menyaksikan wawancara Stephenie Meyer dengan Times, saya menyimpulkan menulis yang paling mudah adalah untuk diri sendiri. Meski untuk diri sendiri, bukan artinya bisa asal-asalan! Kita bisa ambil contoh dari catatan diari yang kata Dewi Lestari mirip “diare” verbal. Encer, keluar terus sampai si pemilik lemas, tapi miskin ampas alias esensi atau intisari yang bisa dipelajari. Maaf kalau deskripsinya terlalu memualkan.

Begini jawab Stephenie Meyer kurang lebih saat ia ditanya untuk siapa ia menulis Twilight:”Saya menulisnya untuk diri saya sendiri.” Dia tidak menulis Twilight untuk menyenangkan orang lain atau untuk dinikmati untuk orang lain tetapi karena ia ingin menulis buku yang ia hendak baca dan nikmati sendiri. Atau dengan kata lain, ia ingin menulis buku yang sesempurna mungkin di dalam benaknya demi kepuasan diri pertama-tama. Orang lain nanti dulu.

Menurut saya, pendekatan semacam ini patut dicoba. Dan ini bukan soal salah atau benar, terbukti atau tidak, tetapi lebih pada cocok atau tidak cocok karena tiap penulis memiliki gaya dan motivasi menulis yang unik.

Saya juga pernah mendengar novelis Ann Patchett ‎tidak mau mengikat kontrak buku dengan penerbit sebelum ia memang memiliki idenya dulu. Jadi Patchett menulis karena ide dalam dirinya dulu, bukan karena dipaksa oleh kontrak. Ia lebih menghargai dorongan internal dalam dirinya selama proses kreatif menulis daripada kekuatan eksternal seperti ketakutan karena melanggar tenggat waktu dan semacamnya. Saya suka pemikiran itu karena Patchett memperlakukan menulis sebagai ritual sakral, yang meski hasil kerjanya bisa dikomersialisasikan kemudian untuk mencari penghidupan tidak membuatnya terlalu murahan. Murahan adalah saat penulis menulis demi bayaran, royalti dan imbalan semata tanpa memiliki ide otentik dan idealisme serta pesan positif yang unik di dalamnya. Jiwa menulisnya rela dibiarkan tercerabut dari akarnya demi uang atau motif lain yang lebih dangkal atau keuntungan jangka pendek.

‎Jadi kalau saya harus menulis untuk lomba pun rasanya akan berbeda dibandingkan jika kita menulis karena dorongan dan inspirasi dari dalam benak. Itulah mengapa rasanya saya lebih susah menulis jika dorongan eksternal terlalu banyak bermain. Rasanya aneh, apalagi jika Anda menulis karya fiksi.

Menurut Anda?

The Writing Muscles

“How can you make time for blogging?”
“How is it possible to write between your day job activities?”

I bumped into a friend on our way home a few days ago and he hurled the questions at me. I just grinned. He seemed to follow me on Path and sometimes clicks on my latest blog post links.

I blog quite often, it’s true. But I never consider it a daily chore. It is part of my process to activate and perpetually strengthen the so-called WRITING MUSCLES.

Although I know I am an amateurish writer but one thing I learn is that:

“A professional is an amateur who persists.”

So my daily posts could be the path leading me to leveraging my writing “talent” (?) at its best.

I really hope so 🙂

XOXO

This blog’s keeper

Jonathan Franzen on How to Write Bluntly without Being Killed or Hurt, Literally…

jon franzen
Franzen, known for his dislike towards social media and his novel “The Correction”, shares his tips and tricks on how to stay honest while writing without getting murdered or hurt afterwards.

A few days ago, I tried writing things I never imagined writing. What was in my mind was trying to help some people out there learn the information they may not know before. I quoted the sentences written in the book, and interpreted based on my logic and all the knowledge I have about Indonesia’s politics.

The reactions emerged like sudden flood at midnight. So unprecendented and unexpected. I would see thousands of visitors coming and reading my posts literally every second, which rarely happened during my 5-year period of blogging. I was a solo blogger, thus never thought my blog would be in the limelight. A meager amount of traffic already makes me happy. But the last weekend was tremendous. All is because the topic I chose, urged by the desire to inform. It was not because of deadlines or professional pressures. I wrote because I felt I had to

Not all people are pleased to learn what I posted. Some were less than happy to find my writing. And one was “worried and enraged” because I was writing a sensitive theme in my spare time, which instead I might have used for “another much better purpose”, like writing for business purposes (if you know what I mean). Another advised that I should be cautious because who knows what will happen to me during this politically unstable phase.

“Sorry,” I said,”It was my absolute right to write things I deem important to convey to my readers. You have no rights whatsoever to tell me what to or not to write….” I hope she somehow reads it and fires me NOW. Because I know she wouldn’t dare. And even if she dares, I would be happy to accept the decision to simplify my life.

Feeling frustrated and unsupported, I turn to the American literary figure Jonathan Franzen for advice. He acknowledges:

“A piece of writing is not interesting or worth doing if there’s not some personal risks, if it’s not dangerous in some fashion. Whether you’re exposing some parts of yourself you’d rather not talk about or whether you’re trying to be sincere about something that would be much more comfortable to be ironic about or vice versa, if you’re being sarcastic or ironic about something that people take seriously.”

Franzen points out also that journalists may face the same dangers and risks by being honest in their news reports. He mentions there’s some element of psychological risk as well.”There’s a discomfort,”he puts it.

So how to tell the stories in an honest manner without being killed or get hurt by people who may feel offended by the content of our writing? Thank God, Franzen provides us some guideline.

“The first thing you have to know is: Can I find a way to write about this uncomfortable thing that will not make people uncomfortable when they read it and that distance is always navigated by way of the piece’s tone. Do you like how you sound as you write about it? Or do you sound like a pompous asshole? And you can’t immediately know that! But as soon as you start hearing… Oh this I could read aloud and it would not kill me. And yet people might simultaneously enjoy it but also be slightly uncomfortable about it. Well, that’s where I want to be. And when you start hearing that, you have some paragraphs, that you can see,’OK, I can write the whole thing in that voice and it’ll be OK. At which point it’s safe to create an outline and go on.”

As a journalist by day, I was “lucky” I write about relatively unsensitive issues and topics. However, that will be a flat life to live, won’t it?

 

(Reference: “How Jonathan Franzen Writes – Big Think Interview” )

 

 

 

 

 

Overprotective Writers as Bad as Overprotective Parents

I don’t know how it feels to be a parent with children. Yet, I know exactly how it feels to be a parent of my writing. All articles, all anecdotes, all dialogs, all social media updates, all notes I jot down on any surface, whether it be a sheet of paper, or a word processor application are my brainchild. They are undoubtedly my children even though some of them are my foster, god or step children. Regardless of the varied statuses and origins, I feel like having to nurture them all, without exception.

Thus, when I find someone or some critics or reviewers or anyone throwing some harsh comments, all of sudden I get rather emotional and defensive. When I see myself later on, I could observe how anxious I turned as to how to secure all of my writing from the attacks directed towards them.

Then I remember what J. K. Rowling stated once in her book interview with American author Ann Patchett. Rowling’s husband Neil called her “ruthless”. For The Casual Vacancy, she exhaustively wrote all the details of autopsy (or post mortem, as she put it first because she is Scottish) for days and then decided that the chunk of narration was irrelevant and deleted it. Just like that. No remorse. It felt too graphic and should not belong there, she reasoned.

As authors, Rowling went on, we need to know when to be ruthless. That said, I came to realization that if I want to be a better writer, I have to get rid of being too overprotective towards my writing. Like Rowling, I must have the heart to chop unnecessary fluffy stuff down and focus on what matters.

So I turned to Facebook and wrote:”I don’t know if this is normal. But I write and hardly ever edit anything. Because I’m nervous, what if the second time I read it, it looks horrible.”

A friend commented that even my first draft managed to wow him. I confessed to him,”I suck at editing actually, chopping down the hard-earned sentences. It’s like amputating your own baby, because every composition coming out of this head is sort of my child. Bad or good, it is part of me. But I know editing is a must to achieve or at the very least to get closer to perfection.”

What do you think? Is it ok to be a little bit overprotective or is it better to be ruthless? Have your say.

What a Talented Writer Does

Earlier today, I wrote and published stuff with a topic I never gave a thought‎ before: politics. Once I finished writing it all, I felt like feeling dead tired. And several thousands people liked the articles. Simply unbelievable. I am therefore feeling happy and tired intellectually.

It doesn’t stop there though. A friend praised me, calling me “a talented writer”. I hopped with joy and pride but well, what’s next? ‎I feel the urge of creating something but I need to ask myself what I must create. All I can do is write, but what to write? A novel, a short story, a poem? In what language?

“A talented writer like you should write more articles like that. To give a real and useful contribution to the society. To give a deep comprehension to the public about what is going on,”he wrote. I did NOT write back. I did not thank him for saying so in fear of him regretting his own statement. Maybe he was drunk-commenting, but I don’t think he was. He is quite health-conscious so there is very remote chance to see him drunk. There is some part of me that begs him to blurt more praise but then I am disgusted by myself, my own greed of compliment. Yet, I know he told the truth because he doesn’t provide compliment so easily. He is erudite enough to judge my writing and I am glad to have him as one of my readers.

But I need to do more…

Yes, I do need to do more than come to the office at 8.30 every single workday in my lifetime, sit for like 8 hours straight in an overly air-conditioned news room, find news pieces from various sources only to paraphrase it, work with loud coworkers who don’t seem to understand my ultimate demand of ‎ silent working atmosphere to stay focused, avoid being a mediocre journalist who merely copies and pastes news from other more popular sites, get sleepy at work, get scolded when articles’ hits are lower than expectation or target, work like a slave for some people instead of myself and go home with dizzy sensation in my head.

I need a career revamp, but I don’t need bosses in any possible way. I need partners, but never employers. Still I have to figure out how I can survive without the benefits. How must I start? When? Where?

Perhaps I have got to keep waiting for some miracles to occur. In the meantime, I must write more and more and more, in a better fashion, in a more creative manner‎. Day and night I would be hammering the best literary works I can produce with one thing in my mind: that every letter written drags me closer to being a successful, financially stable and liberated writer.

Amen to that!

Write and Read, Read and Write

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

I read it somewhere. As inspiring as it seems, I decided to blog about it.

To Write More and Better, Get Disconnected. Totally.

Cerebral…

I once said to my friend that being a writer means one should get cerebral. That entails the endurance of sitting all day long (or standing if you have that standing desk), working alone, without being and feeling lonely because one is much too busy, engrossed with and accompanied by all the intellectual work.

When I write, everything else comes second. That brings the consequence that I ought to entirely disconnect myself from the outer world. It keeps the mind laser-focused. Think only one thing on your mind and do write about it without hesitation, without fear or anxiety that you have neglected other things and people around you. Don’t bother thinking about the chats you can’t reply right away, the texts your parents sent, the phone calls your employer or client did to reach you. All these things can wait. Once again, they can wait. If you say they must wait, they’ll wait. It’s just a mind game. Be the master instead of the slave.

That said, I always try to write offline. Like now, I am typing on my BlackBerry without the mobile network turned on. Or if I find a desk, I’ll sit and work on my laptop without getting connected to the wifi or internet connection so I won’t be disturbed anyhow.

Secret of Good Writing

“The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.”

– Richard Harding Davis

How Does It Feel to Write a Story without any Climaxes and Conflicts?

I remember when my writer pal Titik Kartitiani joked,”I imagine someone wrote a story as flat and boring as daily routines. We don’t have to think of anything that excites readers, just provide lengthy recounts of happenings, events. Will such a story invite readers or make them frown with dislike?”

That kind of story, however, may exist and people simply pick it and add it to their reading list or read it on and on just because they like the flow of the story, or the punch lines or the most glorious or most pathetic part of the plot.

Again, David Sedaris shows us that without conflicts at an epic scale or problems that leads to life or death, we authors or storytellers can still enchant readers, viewers or listeners. He uses daily experiences as the raw materials, and they’re absolutely not anything that will make us drop our dear jaws. It’ s more about how he tells the stories rather than the colossal conflicts or plot or complications or resolutions that are more intriguing but can hardly be encountered in everyday lives, which ultimately makes them more difficult to relate to?

I can conclude Sedaris writes ordinary stuff that almost everyone can relate to. His childhood or past might not be as adventurous as Laura Ingals, or as scary as Anne Frank, or as magical as
Harry Potter stories but still he ‘wins’ by being himself. He writes as himself and no one therefore can beat him for being the best David Sedaris.

So don’t worry if we think we just finish a terribly boring story. With a little twist here and finetuning there, it’s going to be much better, more amusing a story for anyone to read.

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