After 9 Years of Blogging Tirelessly…

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Why do you keep blogging if you don’t make money of it at all? (Photo by Pexels.com)

I am still going strong!

The 27th of October has been always a special day on my calendar since forever. Besides the fact that it’s my birthday (cough!), it’s also National Blogger Day in Indonesia. Today also marked my ninth year of blogging. I’ve never thought I would’ve gone this far. Especially these days, when social media enjoyment has taken over the joy of hitting ‘publish’ button on your blog dashboard and get some likes and comments from readers of your blog(s). But this is definitely not the end of my blogging pursuit.

It’s true that I’d never planned to develop this blog to be a really professionally-managed one so that I can make some money of it. As you can see, this blog has some spots of Google Ads but to be brutally honest, it doesn’t generate even a single cent of income for the blogkeeper. That said, I get into thinking that I must soon take down all these useless ads and quit being the disgruntled ad publisher. It doesn’t add value for my readership anyway.

So why do I keep blogging if I don’t make money AT ALL? You may ask.

In my first amateurish blog (akhlispurnomo.blogspot.com), in the most confident and shameless way I picked a tagline, “Blogging, My Second Religion”. You can laugh at it now, but that’s somehow still the perfect description of my reason of writing this blog (and some others).

Very few of these write-ups on my blogs generated enough money to feed me, at the very least. Yet, I always long for the satisfaction that I can only feel when there are some readers who leave comments or silent readers who never leave comments but someday I ran into and told me they liked some of my articles a lot. Probably this is very self-centered. It’s a way to satiate my hungry ego, but once again why should I stop blogging when I can entertain and inform people around me or around the world with some bits of my thought and opinions?

I’ve got to admit that I almost completely abandoned this blog’s domain, which is like a hard-earned domain. I once had a domain of my full name but along the way I failed to renew it (blame it on the M@#$%^& credit card!) and it got bought by some opportunistic domain buyer who may have thought I would beg him or her to give me the domain at a much higher cost.

Just a month ago, before my domain expired, I came to a decision that I might just let this go. “It’s a hobby so why bother spending money for it?” I thought. I considered relying only on the free blog hosting service like WordPress.com and Blogger.com but then I reweighed it after a course of content marketing that I took. It said owning a domain that bears our name is a must if we aim to be a competent, competitive digital player. Well, I made up my mind and renewed it.

Each word in this blog (and some others) shows you my ups and downs; progress and regress; happiness and sorrow. It’s a long winding road of my life journey and self-development. I get almost completely intellectually naked in my blog write-ups, which I further think is quite scary and risky in the future. That’s why every time I write, I keep reminding myself of the risk of posting stuff on the web. No blogging allowed when I get angry and emotional!  Or else I’ll regret it. And even if I intended my write-ups to be less offensive and more helpful for some, I still find some others getting upset by what I write on this very blog.

Lesson to learn? We can never satisfy everyone.

Though I humbly admit that my blog is not an extremely popular one, I take pride of it. In this social media age, when Instagram caption or Facebook status or tweets is what you call ‘write-ups’, I can still find time and collect my intellectual energy for this seemingly pointless undertaking.

I guess this clearly defines what passion is really. Passion is something we still do even if we no longer (or never) can make money of it, or something we keep doing even if we have to make money from other jobs but we still stick to this one ‘useless’ thing.

So I can say after 9 years of tirelessly blogging, I hardly made money from this blog but the blog has made it POSSIBLE for me to land many jobs, ranging from a journalist, a copywriter, a translator, an editor, a book writer, a magazine writer and even a guest lecture, which never snapped on my mind. All these jobs are paying ones (forget about the image of a lonely, tortured, poverty-stricken writer). This would be different if I had spent my time for writing Facebook updates, producing tweets like crazy, or selecting the right diction for a caption on Instagram to impress followers.

Anyway, happy National Bloggers Day! Keep blogging no matter what! (*/)

 

 

 

 

Monetizing Your English Writing Skills

(Foto: Setyo Jojo)

A writer is a reader, listener and thinker who writes.” – Akhlis Purnomo

There’s nothing better than sharing your experience with all the people around you. When it comes to experience, even sharing what seems so trivial, no-brainer, basic and little to us may mean a lot and proves insightful and inspiring to others.  So I decided to also share this with you all on my blog.

The title of the piece itself was derived from a presentation title I served in the middle of November 2017 at the English Department, Universitas Jenderal Soedirman (Unsoed). The presentation brought some nostalgic ambiance, I have to admit, as it’s been a while since the last time I taught a bunch of young folks in a classroom and it gave me quite a shiver. My teaching days were over but the urge to share can’t fade that easily. It’s embedded permanently in my DNA. Which explains why no matter how hard I try to dissuade this urge, I fail again and again miserably.

The bedroom writer

Teaching was a career path I decided to abandon after I resolved writing is the best career for the future Akhlis. This started quietly in my bedroom in 2009. One night I started blogging (armed with a brand new laptop and a CDMA phone as the modem, which worked painfully slow).

At the time, blogging was a relatively new thing. And the more I wrote for my own blog, I found it more interesting day by day. It was because of the internet marketing opportunities which were and still are limitless. It was tempting for an introverted for me to be able to make money without even seeing too many people out there. Even networking is doable via social media and email.

The idea of becoming a professional blogger sparked on my mind and I thus began blogging soon after that. I browsed the entire web days and nights to learn how to make money from my blog. By then, all I knew was Darren Rowse (with his problogger.net), Brian Clark (with his copyblogger.com), Deborah Ng (with her freelancewritinggigs.com), and some other professional bloggers from Anglosaxon countries (Australia, the States, or the UK). I bought their ebooks and got hooked by the offers of the ease of making money with websites and content, which I can produce on daily basis because I can write in English.

But my main problem was the connection speed. My hometown was not a place where the internet providers operated the best. Their quality of service sucked a lot. They existed but gave me more frustration more than convenience. Of course, I still could exchange emails (with lots of trial because the connection might be cut off in the process) but viewing images and videos was an ordeal still at the time.

And then I stumbled upon a great blog called thoushallblog.com. It was clean, simple and interesting, with high quality content that I liked a lot (I recently visited the blog but sadly it wasn’t live any longer). I somehow managed to contact its owner. He was a Malaysian internet marketer named Yan Susanto, if I’m not mistaken. He confessed to have grown up in Tasikmalaya, some town in Western Java province but then his family made a move to Malaysia and since then never came back.

That year (2009), I learned a lot about internet marketing from Yan. We chatted a lot via email and I actively asked him about the nuts and bolts of it. I suddenly found myself glued to my laptop days and nights. I wanted to buy a domain for my first personal blog (hosted by blogger.com), a PayPal account, and a software. All was because I wanted to be like Yan. A financially-independent internet marketer.

In the course of that, one thing I realized was that I lacked technical skills. While it seemed that Yan was more skillful at it. His mastery of web development and SEO (search engine optimization) was impressive and I saw myself as ‘a little kid in the neighborhood’. I knew almost nothing. But Yan was willing to help me through this learning phase by giving me some guidance on how to make great quality content. He taught me on link building techniques, how to rewrite a piece of content so it looked fresh and new and unique, how to write a product review in English. He paid me as a contributor and helper of his SEO campaigns.

Things changed. From 2010 on, I launched my writing career by moving to Jakarta as an Indonesian-English translator and web content writer for an illustrious property company’s  web portal in the heart of Jakarta’s business district.  In the course of my writing career, I was given another new responsibility which was beyond my imagination. I had to see and talk to people. Real people this time. It was no people on screen just like what I did with Yan. Awesome. And from there I was officially appointed online reporter/ journalist in the company.

Along with that, I also began to learn more about social media. After I made content, the time had come for me to know how to market it on the web. So I  set up a convincing social media presence on Twitter and Facebook and Koprol (an Indonesian social media site which was then acquired by Yahoo). From time to time, I studied and practiced social media management and boy had it taught me a lot of things!

Another phase of my writing career was about to occur when in 2015 I ran into a friend working in the publishing industry. She wanted me to work with her on an English book writing project. We were working in tandem and tackling whatever issues together. I learned much from this writing gig. It was about the workflow, the researching, writing and editing process, all of which were quite different from the ones I’ve been familiar with in the web publishing industry. That was my first time to immerse myself in the book writing process.

Happening simultaneously was also the publishing of some of my pieces (columns and opinions) in the country’s big news portals (more on this, kindly go to my ‘portfolio’ article on this very blog) like detik.com and kompas.com. Whereas, Indonesiana.com also picked some of my pieces to be published on Koran Tempo (both are affiliated media under the same holding company).

Later on, I also managed to get published as a solo writer of my own content by working as a magazine writer. This was quite challenging because I had to be responsible for all the content of a certain edition. The content ranged from translation of English articles (as the magazine was part of global franchise network) and some authentic content I had to acquire (6 articles altogether). All these were my entire workloads to finish within only a couple of weeks (yes, two weeks only!). It was so tight a deadline.

Almost at the same time, I was also preparing another project on a different theme. This one was primarily concerned about social media.  It was rather tough as well as I had to be preparing three different sets of materials for three different government clients. In this project, I was the social media expert invited to share my 5-year experience in my previous company.

What a journey…

To the English Department students of Unsoed, I hurled a rethorical question of this.

What it takes to be a successful writer?

Here were my answers for them:

  • Passion: Passion is NOT overrated, as far as I’m concerned. It’s the fuel of your long long career journey. It’s the thing that enables you to stay on track when others start to give up, succumb and switch paths. It’s one thing in your very essence that enables you to be stubborn as you’re spearing ahead, laser-focusing your efforts towards one single career objective.
  • Discipline: This is one of the essential skills to have and nurture in a writer’s soul. Yes, writers are artists working with words but that doesn’t mean you can get lazy with your work. Set up your own schedule if you have no employer (act as your own employer!) and stick to it. And discipline makes you a better writer working in a team. Or else, you can be much hated because of your insanely awful attitude, believing you can only work when inspiration comes along. No, a professional writer doesn’t wait for inspiration. S/he builds one, instead.
  • Focus: You may be working at a cafe or office or your own bedroom. Space is no big deal as long as you can focus on your work and get it all done on time. There’s no use to splurge on an expensive beverage but you miss your deadline and enrage your editor after that.
  • Tenacity: Writers at times must be tenacious. Surely it feels like you’re banging your head onto the solid brick wall until you bleed and unconscious. But one really has to be that strong-willed to be a writer.
  • Carefulness: Select your words, punctuations, characters carefully as these may determine your success and failure.
  • Attention to details: Again, small things matter. Remember, small successes accumulate and build up your bigger successes. At least, that’s what I believe and really happened to me (though luck and serendipity also did contribute – in an unreliable amount though). Of course, some people argue that a few writers don’t pay attention to details that much and yet they achieve magnificent attainment but believe me, they must have something else to compensate for that ‘flaw’.

The perks of a writer

Speaking of perks of working as a writer, there’re myriad. And these are some of the best that I think you ought to consider.

Ultra flexibility

The best perk as a writer is the flexibility. For a free soul going after inspirations, there’s nothing better than being able to move around  or stay at a certain spot as you like (as long as you can immediately meet those deadlines). Most of the time, I don’t work at a given worksplace like any other employees or corporate workers. I can always choose to work anywhere I wish. But of course, there’re times when I need to go to a certain place to take part in a meeting with clients or teams I’m working with. Yet, these meetings can in fact happen anywhere. And as long as things are resolvable via email or online networking, we can set aside the idea of going out every single day. On a typical day of work, I can just wake up and work on my draft in my own bedroom if a day’s weather doesn’t seem so agreeable. As for me, I work at my own pace mostly and this makes me really happy. As long as deadlines are met perfectly and punctually and no client complains too much, I’m safe and sound working at a place of my choice. Being an office rat is something you no more have to endure during your productive years. You can still make money and go on with your journey.

Less social fuss

Not all writers are introverted. But most of them, I‘m sure, are. This is the first and foremost reason why I left my teaching job and resorted to writing in the first place. I can conveniently turn down any invitation to unnecessary in-person meetings and only meet people whom I feel important in project finalization.

While we have learned the brightest side of the profession, I also feel the necessity to inform you this.

The downsides of working as a writer

The price you have to pay for all the conveniences is quite high though.

Possibly long working hours

Writing – to most people out there – is likened  to typing. If you have fingers, eyes, paper, ink or something to type on and with, then chances are you can make money by writing. This is not quite right. There’re soft skills one has to acquire and master to really succeed at this realm of writing. Writing (read: the typing work) is actually easy and effortless, intellectually speaking. But what takes most time is the research (because you have to learn many topics and hence understand what you write and form your own proposition on all these subject matters). Rewriting one needs to do after writing because rewriting the first draft – which is usually awful, highly disorganized and thus hardly understandable to readers other than the writer herself – is inevitable unless a writer has hired and teamed up with a very very competent (and patient and kind-hearted and soft-mouthed) editor with much free time to lend a hand to perfect the draft.

The emotional turbulence

Emotion is also a noteworthy point. I mean the movement of your writing spirit may fluctuate from time to time. There’re ups and downs along the way. One day it can really overwhelm you until you can’t stop jotting down all the ideas on your mind. But there’re also days when ideas don’t flow as easily as usually. You drag yourself while writing, as if you were crossing through a desert as vast as Gobi and Sahara Desert combined.

Sedentary lifestyle

Another major issue I have to deal with as a writer is the sedentary lifestyle, which is destructive in the long run towards your wellbeing in general. Some writers find themselves gain weight more easily and as the writing career progressing, the worse their obesity issue is getting. I’m not going to preach about the peril of adopting the lifestyle of George R. R. Martin who needs to pay more attention to his ideal weight for the sake of his health or Lee Child who smokes and works till late at night and never feels remorse for that. In this aspect, I prefer adopting Haruki Murakami’s approach to the unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle of writers by breaking the vicious circle of disapproving habits such as smoking and eating junk foods on daily basis and setting up a daily discipline of resting and working which is in accordance with the circadian rhythm of our body (the natural rhythm of how our body works and takes rest). After a few years in his twenties running a night club, he realized it was impossible for him to keep up with the demand of writing if his lifestyle remained similar. He sold the club and quit waking up so late before noon and started to wake up and go to bed earlier than he used to. And guess what? He began regaining his health and productivity. And at the very same time, he shed all those extra fats by taking up running as his main workout regime. He succeeded after all. Thank God, yoga came along and since the very first time I gave yoga a try, I slowly but certainly reclaimed my long-lost physical health (and mostly strength and later, flexibility) and then my peace of mind (which is really essential because writing is an intellectual and cerebral toil). Meditation, which is one part of the yoga practice, proves to be quite useful to counterbalance the bad effects of perpetual mental work which I do during the writing process.

Let’s say you’re interested in this kind of career. You may ask:

What writing skills that are in high demand currently?”

Many. But in essence, there’re three of them:

1. Web content

2. Business writing

3. Creative writing

For all the hopefuls out there, learning how to write well may lead you to many career paths. It’s not confined to writing books or articles in magazines. Modern professions for writers among other things are:

Content writers (websites)

This is the entry-level job mostly opened for fresh graduates. But even if you’re still students, employers don’t mind your lack of work experience or academic credentials. A few of them are even opening jobs like this for high school or vocational school graduates. They just need – as it may seem – the ability of typing and arranging words in your mother tongue (obviously this is a simple and much less intellectually demanding job) and publish it every day. Grammar and punctuation and flow of ideas might not be a big deal here. The focus is getting messages across to audience. These are like sweat shop workers in the modern era. The difference is that they don’t produce cheap goods sold with super pricey price tags. Rather, they generate an enormous amount of content at a speed of light because readers must be attracted and then spoonfed with novel, fresh, easily digested, interesting and visually pleasant content that cater their reading taste (or what content publishers guess is their reading taste) as often as possible. This is because pageviews is the ultimate goal for most online media business owners. More pageviews, more visitors, more advertisers and hence more income. It’s all about bottomline. Profits and money.

Copywriters (media/ agencies)

Being more lucrative than the content writing industry, copywriting is quite challenging even for middle-level writers and veterans. This is because generating copies for companies need a long learning curve. The stamina and concentration must be maintained along the process because it’s very formal by nature (therefore there’s no excuse for fatal typos) and contains sensitive data and information to convey to their valued shareholders and stakeholders. What you need to bear in mind is how to bring positivity and good images to readers even when the real situation is far from positive. I’m not saying you act as a spin doctor here but you have to know how to convey facts without evoking undesired reactions from the market and public. When a company books an outstandingly high profit, you have to find words to convey the message humbly so your wordings don’t attract too much attention from ‘nosy’ bureaucracy. But on another occasion, when you see a company generating a very miserable sum of profit (and even in more pathetic cases, suffered from huge financial losses owing to massive frauds or scandals), you as a copywriter must figure out a way to pick words that won’t kill that company’s image once and for all but at the same time, you can’t lie and have to tell the truth to audience. That said, it takes so many skills for someone to master to become a fully-fledged, seasoned copywriter. Not to mention a particular style one has to adopt in the writing process, and the workflows which may vary from one business to another, and workloads which get stuffed mostly in the first semester of each year (January-May is the busiest period because most business entities are to issue their annual reports by the end of May or June). Copywriters though must also be able to work in team and present their ideas well in front of potential clients (so if you’re an abnormally shy and solitary type of person, this is a job offer to refuse to accept or else you can get some heart attack in public). Once clients say yes, copywriters can move on with elaboration of the proposal. It’s highly complicated and stressful but rewarding as well.

Journalists (press companies)

Working as a journalist is another alternative to capitalize on your English writing skills. In the epoch of hoax like (cough) these days, there’s no profession as much required as a professional journalist with moral and proper journalism ethics and good work ethos. Such a species is rare and hard to find. Public wants it so much (though they also still want to read hoax – in their subconscious mind). People need truth to be told as it really is. Hoax is not tolerable at any rate whenever we are dealt with a crucial public event that not only affects our private life but also a nation and the entire human race’s future, such as a presidential election (I don’t have to elaborate on this). And however hard we educate people on the significance of identifying a hoax-spreading media outlet, it’s fruitless without looking for and recruiting the right people. And great writers are also good journalists for their readers as well. Take a look at Ernest Hemingway who worked as a war journalist during the World War I before plunging himself into the literary world or Gillian Flynn who worked for a magazine as a reporter and writer prior to being sacked and launching her own fiction writing career.

PR officers (corporations/ brands)

It may sound odd at first for a writer to work as a PR officer. But companies – small and big – need people who are competent enough to play with words, to polish their images before the public. This sort of job requires you to be skillful at writing press releases, corporate newsletters, business correspondence, dealing with media workers (journalists).

Bloggers/ social media officers

As more and more people blog these days (but fail to be fully committed to regularly keeping their blogs as well), companies also need content to attract visitors to their websites. Blogs cheer up ‘dry’ and boring corporate websites with fresh and engaging content. Social media presence is also getting more priority recently. All of this requires a separate team or at least a couple of people to handle (depending on how seriously a company takes their image).

Ghostwriters

If you happen to know a lot of important and influential people with abundant ideas and great track records around you and they don’t have any books (print or electronic) to sell their ideas yet, you can help them do so by working as their ghostwriter. Let them know you can write and show them your portfolio (samples of your writing, which can be in the electronic or physical/ printed form). Once again, you may find your clients by chance as you tell people you’re a writer and simultaneously broaden your network. I canNOT stress more on the importance of having a wide network. It’s as important as your fingers to scribble and type.

Travel writers

Leisure economy is in the rise. Everyone is following the trend. Tourism growth is soaring. The majority of tourists is of course travelers who just take photos to publish on their Instagram feeds as they sightsee tourist attractions around the globe. But there’re also very few of them with some writing and photography  (and maybe videography) talent and seem very keen to capitalize on their traveling lifestyle. They succeed as influencers in this newly-invented domain. And you can also be one of them. The qualities of great travelwriters, as far as I know, are many but the most fundamental ones are details (meaning you need to take notes on almost every detail of a trip you take), consistency (you can’t succeed if you just post once and wish you’ll be famous overnight), and financial stability (most of tools to make a high quality travel writing piece are NOT cheap at all).

Fiction writers (novelists)

Fiction writing is of course lucrative – if you’re J. K. Rowling. I’m sorry to wake you up from this dream, but it doesn’t work that way AT FIRST. As a beginner in the fiction writing industry, you might have to expose yourselves to a lot of people out there and make as many works as you can to be known. And if you’re talented and lucky enough, someone will help you get a book deal which leads you to a publication. But it’s a long long process to undergo from anonimity to fame. No one knows the recipe or formula to be a successful novelist. What you can discover is only assumptions, clever guess or data-driven speculation (like this blogpost I wrote).

Practice 1 (15 minutes)

Find a news item, or pick an event that interests you. Using the ‘who, what, when, where, why’ of the item – and your imagination – rewrite it as a detailed, interesting narrative story consisting of around 300-400 words. Post it on your Facebook wall afterwards. See how people react to it. More reactions (likes and comments) may mean your writing is more successful to attract readers.

How to monetize your English writing skills

Finally, we arrive to this section! You’ve gone a long way. And I admit I’ve never written a blogpost this lengthy. Here’s the formula that I’ve extracted from my 8-year experience as a writer.

  1. Publish a blog and update regularly: This is even more important for novices. Because setting up a blog is relatively easy and cheap these days. If you have no money to spend on renting a domain and to host your own blog, why not setting up one on some popular free blogging platforms like blogger.com or wordpress.com? Or if you want more exposure and recognition, go to kompasiana.com or indonesiana.com. Both are citizen journalism sites where you can upload your writing for free.
  2. Build a strong personal brand as a professional writer: Being a writer means you’re more careful with words and always attentive to your language. On social media, try to present yourselves as a thought leader or social media darling. I’m not saying you must be fake but instead of exposing your personal sides that don’t support your writing pursuit, try to reveal the writer side of yours to the world. After all, this is the best way to convince people that you’re seriously into writing.
  3. Write where the money is: At first, as a novice you can write for free but as you go along on your career path, writing for free should no longer be an option (unless you’re willing to). Give yourselves sometimes to get exposed and then be professional about your craft. Charging a certain amount of money for your hard work is not cruel because everybody DOES!
  4. Build networks with publishers, fellow writers, editors around the world: Facebook and Twitter can be a good start. But for more serious gigs and job offers, I recommend that you go to LinkedIn.com. It’s more professional and you’re less likely to find any distractions like what you find in other social media.
  5. Find opportunities on the web: There’re a zillion of opportunities in the web if you’re willing to surf and believe me, you’ll never run out of writing gigs or job offers.

Practice 2 (15 minutes)

Write a 400-word blog post (the theme is up to you) on your own blog and promote it on your social media accounts. See how your friends or followers react to it.

To conclude the post, I’ll describe my typical daily writing process as follows:

  • Writing freely in a personal journal: A warmup ritual for me in the morning or at anytime I want to. Writing skills are like muscles. Use or lose them!
  • Reading/ observing anything, anyone I like (and don’t): Open your eyes, hear things, feel more, think more and take notes more.
  • Writing as a professional: This time of the day I work on my project.
  • Getting my behind off the chair: Work out even if you think you don’t have to. Writers must live long enough to write.
  • Hydrating: Drink more water or juice. No soda or softdrink, please.
  • Nourishing: Stuff yourselves with healthy foods and drinks. Snacks are okay but limited and occasional.
  • Taking a rest: Close your eyes and go to bed. Stop seeing computer screens if your eyes get uncomfortably dry.

Last but not least…

  • Fake it till you make it: Don’t lie but give impression that you’re serious and professional. And walk the talk.
  • You’re what you do: You’re called a writer because you write every single day in your life. Do it now!
  • Mind the deadlines: Never miss a deadline. But if you do have to, make sure you have a very very strong reason (such as maintaining the quality of result).
  • Reread and rewrite: Polish your works until they gleam with perfection.
  • Educate yourself: Read and read and read. Feed your thought with great quality stuff. Don’t read hoax! (*)

5 Essential Elements of Storytelling Travel Writers Should Never Miss

(Credit: Cecep)

TRAVELING is the best time for shopping! I mean, shopping of experiences, instead of goods. I am not an anti-materialism advocate in this case but I am hooked by the idea a thought leader said that “if you have money, buy experience. Don’t buy things.”

I guess that’s one of the root causes of why leisure economy is skyrocketting these days. It explains why suddenly working hard is no longer as cool as it used to be. Working smart (less sweat, more results) and going on vacation a lot is. This is understandable as more younger generations can see how flawed and unbalanced the lifestyle of their parents (babyboomers) who sacrifice their wellbeing in exchange of their financial stability.

So if you’re fond of traveling and really think that writing is also your best knack to earn a living (or simply another extra income), you may find the following points I elaborate here useful.

Here are some essential elements for you travel writers to bear in mind. Read on.

SETTING

As a travel writer or blogger, your main task is bring your audience from their mundane whereabouts (homes, offices, nursery homes, buses, commuter lines, etc) to a place you think they need to see, visit and enjoy fully.

Detailed, interesting and well-arranged description on places such as tourist attractions you just visited is one and the foremost element in travel writing that helps you attract readers. Details like these help form images in your readers’ brain. This vicarious thrill drags them to your world of experience without them being there as well.

Adjectives you may use have to vary. Cliches such as “beautiful”, “awesome”, and “gorgeous” can be avoided to keep boredom at bay. Instead of directly providing the entire verdict of your observation, let readers decide themselves by serving them details tourists usually miss on tours. Pay more attention to small things such as how fresh the air is, the condition, width and length of roads to get to the destination, etc.
But to add description only to your travel exposition is not enough.

INTERACTIONS

After a setting description that captures readers’ attention, you also ought to tell them what you do along the trip with people you run into and you travel with. Of course, you can set the line of privacy. Share only activities you feel comfortable enough to share without compromising your privacy. There are interactions that bring inspiration or positivity in the mind of readers. These are ones you need to add to your writing.

Describe interactions that occur naturally on your trip. As you observe, find out what is unique or inspiring or eye-opening or insightful from this. As a traveler, you’re also an anthropologist actually. You not only see and adore landscapes before you but also humans and interactions around you. This element – if carefully picked – can allow you to be an authentic storyteller.

No pretense. Just essence.

And interactions can comprise larger than ones with other humans. It can mean interactions with mother nature and – if you’re in the meditative, soul-searching mode – your own self or psyche. Along the trip, you make conversations with yourself. And because this is so cerebral and private, you need to divulge this in the form of writing.

NEW THINGS

Touristy places are nice but they won’t always give you new stuff to discover. If you can make a choice yourself, go to a place where very few tourists are willing to visit. Definitely, this may mean you have to sacrifice some degree of convenience. For example, when offered two options of route when hiking a hill, I could pick the shorter route with more even roads and treks. But I am also told that on a longer route, I could enjoy a better view, see more trees, and breathe in more fresh air. With my body ready to enjoy this trip to its fullest, I pick the longer route.

Also, add more history so readers know contexts of whatever place you visit. When was it built? Why was it founded? Who built it? Was there any background event or incident to accompany the description? It all enriches the travel writing you’re composing.

CONFLICTS

Like any other work of storytelling such as short stories, novellas and novels, your travel writing also needs to have its own central conflict. Don’t present too many. Concentrate on one single conflict so your writing is sharp and focused.

In additoon, choose a conflict that make people stick to your writing until its last paragraph.

CONTEMPLATION

This may be your self reflections. Add some certain things that might remind you of given pivotal moments in life. What comes from your journey can also evoke the similar emotion from readers as well. (*)

Sertifikasi Wartawan, Perlukah?

wp-1451576891709.pngSiang itu sebuah ruangan di Perpusatakaan Pemerintah DKI, Kuningan, tengah dipadati mereka yang berminat dengan tema UU ITE (Undang Undang Informasi Transaksi Elektronik) yang beberapa tahun terakhir membuat kehebohan tersendiri. Dari kasus Prita Mulyasari versus sebuah rumah sakit internasional yang kemudian bergulir menjadi sebuah gerakan solidaritas yang masif di jejaring sosial dan memicu perdebatan hangat di sana-sini selama beberapa lama.
Salah satu pembicara ialah Kamsul Hasan, yang menjabat sebagai ketua kompetensi PWI Pusat, Ketua Dewan Kehormatan PWI Jaya. Salah satu isu yang ia bahas adalah sertifikasi wartawan di tanah air. Akhir-akhir ini sertifikasi memang ada di berbagai bidang. Dari pendidikan (guru) sampai ketenagakerjaan (tenaga kerja spesialis), program sertifikasi rasanya sudah ada. Dan dunia jurnalistik tampaknya tidak terkecuali.
Kepada beliau saya bertanya terkait dengan sertifikasi wartawan. “Apakah ada bedanya jika seorang wartawan memiliki sertifikat atau tidak? Karena toh menurut pengalaman saya selama ini sebagai wartawan daring (online), tidak ada yang berbeda drastis perlakuan terhadap mereka yang bersertifikat dan tidak,” tutur saya dengan nada skeptis.
Saya tidak mengada-ada. Sepanjang yang saya tahu, di lapangan perbedaan perlakuan itu tidak kentara. Dan mungkin memang dianggap tidak perlu. Saya tidak bisa menjawab persis. Para pemberi kerja juga tidak terlalu memusingkan apakah calon jurnalis yang mereka akan rekrut memiliki sertifikat itu atau tidak. Lihat saja iklan-iklan lowongan kerja untuk para jurnalis. Tidak sedikitpun yang menyinggung sertifikat semacam itu. Rata-rata pemberi kerja hanya mensyaratkan calon wartawan untuk memiliki kemampuan menulis yang hebat, meriset dengan teliti dan akurat, mewawancarai dengan lancar, bersedia bekerja dengan waktu yang fleksibel di akhir pekan dan hari libur, memiliki kendaraan sendiri sehingga mobilitas lebih mudah, memiliki kompetensi dalam bidang teknologi informasi sehingga mereka bisa menyampaikan konten secara lebih cepat, bisa bekerja dengan tenggat waktu yang ketat, atau bisa bekerjasama dengan baik dalam sebuah tim editorial yang diisi dengan berbagai macam orang. Namun, herannya aspek sertifikat tidak dimasukkan ke dalam daftar persyaratan.
Kamsul sepakat dengan pernyataan saya. Memang saat ini belum ada perbedaannya, ia berargumen. Namun, begitu nanti para pemberi kerja itu tahu pentingnya standarisasi kompetensi jurnalistik seorang wartawan, sertifikasi akan menjadi sebuah daya saing, kelebihan yang bisa membuat pemiliknya menonjol dibandingkan mereka yang tidak memilikinya.
Dalam benak, saya ingin bertanya lagi, “Lalu kira-kira kapan para pemilik modal itu tahu bahwa sertifikasi wartawan itu penting bagi dunia jurnalisme Indonesia yang sudah demikian porak poranda ini?” Saya tahan pertanyaan itu dalam hati karena saya sadar jawabannya sangat bergantung pada banyak faktor di luar kendali banyak orang, bahkan organisasi sebesar PWI sekalipun. Ini semua memerlukan upaya sinergis, tidak bisa setengah hati, atau cuma menonjolkan sebagian aspek.
Untuk menolak lupa, mari kita ingat betapa semrawutnya media di Indonesia selama ajang Pemilihan Presiden yang lalu. Saat itu banyak wartawan yang melacurkan diri demi pageviews, traffic atau kunjungan ke situs berita mereka. Demi kepentingan pemilik modal, mereka juga rela menmanipulasi fakta dan data. Suatu catatan yang memilukan dalam sejarah jurnalisme Indonesia jika suatu saat nanti para mahasiswa jurusan jurnalisme menengok ke belakang. Boleh saya katakan masa itu adalah sebuah ujian bagi para jurnalis di negeri ini, dan sebagian besar dari mereka GAGAL melewatinya dengan baik. Status sebagai salah satu pilar penting dalam demokrasi tidak bisa lagi disandang dengan kepala tegak. Ada isu-isu yang bisa membungkam para jurnalis karena isu-isu itu ternyata berkaitan dengan para petinggi perusahaan tempat mereka mengabdikan hampir seluruh jiwa dan raga mereka.

Blogging with Meaning (My Reflection of a 6-Year Period of Blogging)

Six years of blogging and here I am.
Six years of blogging and here I am.

In Indonesia, today is National Blogging Day. I had no idea why it should be October 27th but years ago the Indonesia Minister of Communications and Informatics Muhammad Nuh initiated the celebration on the day. On that specified date, a bunch of bloggers would get together and do whatever they wanted to do, such as discussing the advancement of the Internet, the web freedom, the still-pricey-yet-slow Internet connection of the country. And what made me remember most is that the bloggers day is also a special day to me, personally speaking. More on that later.

Till this very day, I have so many reasons why I did, do and will always love blogging no matter what. It — the sharing spirit — runs through my veins. There is some tingling sensation when you’ve been idle on the blogosphere for a while and you feel so hollow inside because to be useful, you have to share whay you’ve got.
Having retreated from the corporate world for almost a month, I now come back to where I started: blogging. Years ago, months before I landed my corporate job, I was blogging like I had nothing else to do in my life. Every day I sat and type, and read other people’s blogs, learning a lot from them and at the same time, trying to adopt what is applicable to my amateurish blog and what seemed impossible so I could save the strategies and apply them later on when things were more ready.
And here I am now; I have my own self-hosted WordPress blog, something I’d always longed for. I feel professional and free (as I have more freedom to or not to set up an ad space here).
Unlike blogging for a company, now I’m blogging without any constraint of themes. I can roam, explore, and experiment with whatever themes I wish. Yet, mostly I’m atrracted to writing and yoga, two of my main interests currently.
Blogging is fascinating. It’s indeed part of my personal branding campaign but that doesn’t necessarily mean I do it for money or personal benefits. Not always. It’s not my one and only main motive of blogging after all.
It is true that blogging helps me get some clients. I had an offer of yoga private classes after someone visited my blog and sent me an email saying he needed me to teach him yoga on weekly basis. I had no idea before that blogging can enable me and other people to ease our problem of getting clients and getting services needed.
That’s not all. I have a yoga student who also found me offline and then stumbled upon me on the web. I have a fanpage for my blog and this person happened to like my posts. Hence, from that moment on, she has been stalking me, my thoughts, my yoga practice (I uploaded my asana photos a little bit too frequently back then, but now I give more thought before publishing anything on my wall or timeline). It sounds like a trade-off for the privacy but if you manage to set up boundaries on what to post or to refrain yourself from posting, you’ll know the online world is not that unsafe.
I don’t say blogging is all about sweet memories and great, inspiring experiences that makes you elated day by day. I’m no lover of sugarcoating truths. Some days were so lame and mundane and soul-crushing. And of course, I hate being an ordinary blogger, who copies and pastes online stuff and enjoys some extra money for himself, or paraphrases others’ thoughts and gets away just like that without thinking too much about responsibilities for spreading unique and honest yet ethical information.
I too did make some mistakes on the journey of blogging. Once I published too private information which some others deemed too risky to share on the web. And things went awry when my stuff got republished without my permission and knowledge. So some people hunted me, criticizing I must have taken down the very information off my blog and even deleted it. But little did they know, I almost immediately (several hours after having hit the publish button) deleted the information on my blog after giving a little further thought. What I aimed at was how I could be of help to this certain person who I guessed needed assistance. It was too late for me to realize that people may have different interpretation of your supposedly good deeds. There’s likelihood that they construe your deed in a very different way, using different perspectives that never entered your mind before you hit that publish button.

Aplikasi Slack Mudahkan Live Blogging bagi Blogger dan Jurnalis

‎Kalangan awam lebih suka memakai aplikasi chat seperti WhatsApp, BBM, Kakao Talk, atau Line karena mudah digunakan dan dipakai banyak orang. Sementara jurnalis cenderung memakai Twitter untuk menggali sumber informasi terkini. Facebook juga bagus tetapi entah kenapa menurut entrepreneur media Jason Calacanis, karakternya kurang sesuai untuk menyebarkan berita. Kurang viral. Di Twitter, viralitas jauh lebih tinggi dan cepat daripada Facebook. Ada benarnya juga. Tetapi meski begitu, bukan berarti Facebook tak berguna sama sekali.

Di antara semua itu, aplikasi Slack mungkin belum semasyhur WhatsApp atau BlackBerry Messenger di sini sebagai aplikasi percakapan sosial. ‎Buktinya, saya tanyakan ke rekan-rekan saya di tempat kerja, dan tak ada yang menjawab tahu apalagi pernah memakainya secara aktif.

Saya juga belum pernah, meski jujur pernah mendengar aplikasi yang konon demikian populer di negeri asalnya Amerika Serikat itu. Suatu kebalikan dibandingkan Path yang terabaikan di negeri Paman Sam tetapi terpakai secara luas di sini.

Dilansir dari Nieman Lab, aplikasi Slack dipakai oleh reporter dan editor The New York Times sebagai alat ‎untuk memudahkan live blogging. Saya membaca bagaimana Slack yang berupa aplikasi mobile dan desktop ini bisa memudahkan koordinasi tim redaksi dalam sebuah lembaga pers untuk menayangkan perkembangan sebuah peristiwa detik itu juga. Sang reporter mempublikasikan di kanal tertutup organisasinya, lalu editor menyalin rekat dan menyunting kalimat si reporter untuk diterbitkan dalam kolom live blogging. Ini menjadi cara alternatif bagi jurnalis dan editor untuk mentransfer informasi secara real time. Selama ini Google Chat atau Yahoo Messenger juga bisa dipakai sebagai alat live blogging tetapi mengirimkan konten multimedia atau dokumen tampaknya belum terakomodasi dengan baik di sana. Beda dengan Slack yang mampu melakukan semua itu dalam satu platform.

Itu untuk‎ jurnalis media besar. Bagi blogger yang biasa bekerja sendiri tanpa editor atau jurnalis di media kecil yang bahkan editornya tak sempat menyunting, live blogging bisa dilakukan dengan menginstal langsung aplikasi platform blogging ke smartphone. Yang paling lazim tentunya WordPress.

‎(foto: itunes)

2014, The Most Unbelievably Stunning Year… Bloggingwise

lee kyWordPress recently sent me a blogging performance summary in 2014. It reads:

“To kick off the new year, we’d like to share with you data on your blog’s activity in 2014. Start scrolling!

Crunchy numbers

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 430,000times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 18 days for that many people to see it.

There were 419 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 163 MB. That’s about a picture per day.

The busiest day of the year was July 13th with 183,181 views. The most popular post that day was Prabowo Subianto di Mata Lee Kuan Yew (1).

Posting Patterns

In 2014, there were 429 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1,304 posts.

010203040506070809101112

LONGEST STREAK

11 July – 25 July

BEST DAY

with 103 posts total

Attractions in 2014

These are the posts that got the most views in 2014. You can see all of the year’s most-viewed posts in your Site Stats.

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2014. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.

How did they find you?

The top referring sites in 2014 were:

  1. facebook.com
  2. twitter.com
  3. kompasiana.com
  4. politik.kompasiana.com
  5. indonesiasatu.kompas.com

Where did they come from?

That’s 141 countries in all!
Most visitors came from Indonesia. Singapore & The United States were not far behind.

Who were they?

Your most commented on post in 2014 was Prabowo Subianto di Mata Lee Kuan Yew (3-Habis)

These were your 5 most active commenters:

Perhaps you could follow their blog or send them a thank you note?

See you in 2015

If you like what you saw in this summary and want to know more about how your blog is doing, you can always visit your Site Stats, where our helper-monkeys are working day and night to provide you with pages and pages of detail on how your blog is doing.

Thanks for flying with WordPress.com in 2014. We look forward to serving you again in 2015! Happy New Year!”

Building a Blog as a Business

‎If you were not like most blog readers, you’d find comments below a post a lot more engaging than content of it. It’s not because content in discussion is boring or a cliche, but more because it manages to spark a (luke)warm exchange of ideas amongst readers who decide to leave comments.

I saw a male commenter trying to make sense‎ the whole thing, as to why a blog needs investors. He argues,”It’s just a blogging software, pay for some hosting and call it a day, right?” He doesn’t seem to take staff’s salaries and other aspects into account, which he should have.

But he got it all wrong. Blogs can be an entity of serious business if founders or bloggers wish to operate it like a REAL business instead of a small home-based business. It’s obviously not one of those diary blogs where you can read daily rants of a blogger who may be using the f word at his or her disposal.

Setting up a blog is ‎one thing and maintaining it is another. Even if your blog has reached millions of visitors, things are not that easy for most bloggers who expect to earn a living by making profits of his blogs.

‎But a blog alone won’t make bloggers or writers go too far these days. You cannot just sit and post writeups on a daily basis and hope business is going better on is own. You need to figure out the best ways to build products around the blogs. Something you can sell, a business model that makes money and solve problems at the same time.

That explains why ‎writers and bloggers publish ebooks, produce paid webinars, podcasts, and provide consulting service as well.

And that’s what separates blogs as a medium of rants and a serious business entity. Pretty much…

Not Everyone Must Be a Blogger

matt mNot everyone should be a blogger, says WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. Simply because not everyone has the passion to share things online. “Not everyone’s a creator,”claims he.

But maybe everyone’s a creator, Matt. But not everyone has the passion of sharing.

That reminds me of a friend who happens to like sharing long long updates on Path. She rants a lot once in a while on stuff she cares so much about like parenting but she tends to refuse the idea of blogging because she assumes it’s not what she really is. In many ways, the blogging thing is something  she thinks way too time and intellectual labor intensive. Yet, she can afford the hassle of writing such long updates on Path, which makes me confused. It turns out she doesn’t think sharing ideas to the rest of the world without limit is her thing. That’s something I could never understand. Why writing for only yourself or a limited number of people when you know what you share is useful to not only your inner circle but also everyone who shares the same shoes with you?

Blogging should be done with passion as it’d be tiresome for many without passion to write up like every single day. And this is not everyone can and wants to do. Writing every day is a grind and writing every day to get significant audience is another challenge to conquer.

There’re bloggers who shift path to microblogging like Twitter simply because it’s more succinct and instant a a tool of interaction. The Great Robert Scobble would be one of the examples. In Indonesia, we’ve got Nukman Luthfie, who happened to be an early adopter of blogging and online journalism in the country but as Twitter emerged as a new channel of communication, Nukman spends more time to tweet than blog. It’s all about passion once again. And not all bloggers are all that consistent when it comes to writing consistently. Of course they still write but not in the long form as often as they did before. Instant gratification? I bet.

Blogging may be adopted and then abandoned or vice versa but no one can ddeny that blogging is constant in the way that it serves as our digital home. You can have as many social media accounts as you want but all those lead you to one single place: your site or blog.

Live Blogging for Dummies

Live blogging could be distraction to some. Take Steve Jobs as an example. He once made all of the journalists in the room covering the launch of the product ‎put their laptops down, and even better, switch them off. Poor Jobs. He annoyed the journos without remorse. You cannot blame people for doing their job, Jobs!

So apparently live blogging is pretty much a hit maker especially when a hugely impactful event is in progress. Like the last live blog I was writing on that news site I work for. I was on fire writing about the verdict of Prabowo Subianto law suit. As we all know, he sued his opponents, accusing Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla of being tricky and slimy to win over him and Hatta Rajasa. He seemed to do it only to prove he is a loser once again. Another shame he brought for himself. The staunch supporters of Prabowo-Hatta rallied outside the Constitution Court and caused some physical clashes but luckily no one got killed in the process. The army on duty had been instructed to be less agressive (because perhaps Prabowo used to be part of them‎ and is still so no, though informally).

I was NOT there, to be blunt. I was only sitting at my desk, listening to some live streams broadcast on the web. Everyone was curious on what was going on and what was about to happen after the rally. I also summarized longer pieces of news spread on Twitter timeline of some news sites.

Basically this is what I do when I have to live blog indoor. I prepare a web page where I could write a line or two at first, and then as the time goes by, I will add more details chronologically. Mention hours and minutes to give impression you’re continously updating. So when they refresh your page, they can find something new to read, whether it be texts or photos or videos.

Here are some of my insights on live blogging based on my experience.

Focus, focus, focus!
You undoubtedly need to enhance you focus. It’s like listening exams, you listen to sources and process, summarize and publish the information and thoughts almost instantly. Without too long delay, or your readers will be disappointed. It’s very easy when you are in the middle of the quiet room. But when you have to cover outdoor events and liveblog about it, there’s extra mental work to do for you. Never forget to ask a friend or two to be with you to watch your belongings in case you need to use the bathroom for a minute or so. You cannot leave your laptop just like that in an open space where strangers‎ are anywhere to see. That holds true when you already get the right strategic spot to comfortably see and observe a live event and never want to relinquish it to other journos.

Make sure you’re near ‎unused power outlets

‎I cannot stress more on the importance of securing a spot near power outlets.

Make sure the connection works smoothly
After electricity supply is solved, you need to ensure your connection works at the desired speed. Never rely on one modem or one cellular operator. At least, provide two. Otherwise, you’ll cry a river when your favorite operator’s‎ service turn out to suck a lot there.

Get ready with your smartphone
Live blogging could be similar to live tweeting but of course you have to write longer, because you simply CAN. ‎Be more accurate as a reporter than a Twitter user.

And if you are an avid user of WordPress mobile application, you may use the app to live blog. Just add more details on one single blog post with time stamps for each update, with the latest right up there near the title. The app would be such a great tool when you cannot sit there to type on your laptop.

I haven’t given an outdoor live blogging a try. But my hunch is it is going to be a lot more challenging as you will have to deal with more distraction than live blogging indoor.

That said, happy live blogging!