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

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 (, 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 and 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! (*/)





5 Most Valuable Life Lessons from Top CEOs

The experience of writing CEO profiles is a humbling one. (Photo credit: Mine)

EXHAUSTED but relieved and elated.  That’s what I really feel right now. It’s perhaps similar to what a mother or father feels after a newly born baby finally in their arms. A gruelling nine months have passed and now it’s time to unwind a bit and celebrate.

With hindsight, I can sense a great deal of passion spilled into the book. My passion, too.

The project was a blast and came to me without any warning. I was recruited as one of the writers because interviewing and writing [and rewriting, if needed] profiles of more than 30 CEOs in several months with tight deadlines was too overwhelming for one or two writers.

Anyway, here is five hugely valuable life lessons  learned from a number of CEOs I interviewed in person.

Courage to move and start anew

It’s a lesson I discovered when I interviewed Mindaugas Trumpaitis, CEO of PT HM Sampoerna Tbk. He admitted that his success is thanks to his family. His parents allowed him to leave their politically turbulent country, Lithuania, for working overseas. He had roamed Latvia, Switzerland, Finland, Mexico and Ecuador and Peru. Now he also explores Indonesia, making a history with the company he is leading.

Reinvention for improvement

Sometimes we have to let go our current career and be daring enough to take risks and ‘jump to another boat’. That’s what Trumpaitis taught me. He worked as a lecturer at Klapeida University for a decade before he made up his mind to enrich his knowledge and insights and reinvent himself as a businessman. Imagine that, from an academician to a business executive. Quite a move, isn’t it?

Making the most of what you have

Another example of this lesson is Rino Donoseputro’s career journey. The leader of Standard Chartered Bank Indonesia said bluntly he never wanted or dreamed of – even the slightest – that he would someday take the helm as a business leader at a bank. What he wished for was a career as a diplomat, traveling from a country to another. A career of banker, therefore, never crossed his mind. But then destiny led him to another path somehow.  He even described himself as a reluctant to passionate banker.

So if you think your dream is unreachable, think again. What you have now is probably what will eventually make you successful. You just have to find a way to be passionate about it. Don’t do the job just because you need the money [though it really matters in fact] or because you want the pride and prestige of being a part of a cool company or workplace.

In Rino’s case, he managed to show his best and impress his then global CEO Mervin Davis in a taxi trip to the international airport one day in 2002. That’s when he knew his life would never be the same again. He was offered by the CEO to move to London, where the bank’s headquarters was located and worked there as a staffer directly working for the global CEO. So never compromise your quality performance even if you think your job is not the best in the world. Strive for the excellence no matter what. Because that’s how you’ll get noticed by the universe.


Paulus Sutisna of DBS Bank Indonesia learned a lot about this when the crisis hit his former workplace, Citibank, in 1997-1998. As a banker, he knew and experienced firsthand the bitterness of Asian financial crisis. That was the right time to learn people’s real characters. Some are deceitful, he discovered. They showed no intention to cooperate with his bank and then got away with the loans. “Some looked very rich but after the crisis, they refused to pay and even avoided us,” he recalled the darkest days in his career. However,  very few still had their last shred of dignity, trying to negotiate their loans with him and his bank, and maintaining good relationships even they could escape and disappear if they wanted to. Then he learned his clients’ characters and that proves to be useful later on.

I see this as a good point. Regardless of the industry we work in, integrity is so important and should never be compromised. It’s the last quality that has the greatest significance other than competence and many others. If one has integrity, anything else in him would be appreciated. But once integrity is fading away, any other factors would fail to be taken into account.


Get involved in an organization so that you can learn a lot about leadership and humans and how to manage them. All these skills are always useful even if you’re living as a hermit in the middle of a jungle.

Iqbal Latanro of Taspen taught me this. He has always wanted to be actively involved in any organizations since his days at elementary school because he knew that way his leadership and communication skills would grow rapidly.

You may find the more complete narrative of these CEOs’ thoughts inside “Indonesia Most Admirable CEOs 2017”. It is now sold at Periplus, Gramedia and Book and Beyond outlets in Indonesia. (*/)

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, Brian Clark (with his, Deborah Ng (with her, 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 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, 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 and Whereas, 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).


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 or Or if you want more exposure and recognition, go to or 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 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! (*)

Berlatih Menulis Gaya Lama

Ada pernyataan bahwa novelis/ penulis fiksi perempuan memiliki ketrampilan menulis novel laris yang lebih baik. Saya pikir ada benarnya juga. Perempuan memiliki kepiawaian alami untuk berbagi cerita. Dan cerita-cerita mereka terasa lebih emosional dan dalam serta blak-blakan daripada cerita-cerita yang dipertukarkan di antara kaum Adam. Mungkin karena dengan bercerita secara panjang lebar juga memerlukan keberanian untuk membuka diri, yang artinya juga bisa memberikan celah bagi pembaca untuk mengetahui kelemahan diri si penutur/ penulis yang bersangkutan.  Membuka diri dan memajang kelemahan sangat bertentangan dengan konsep maskulinitas mapan yang masih bertahan sampai sekarang. Pria secara umum ingin dianggap lebih kuat, berkuasa dan memiliki otoritas. Membuka kelemahan dalam bentuk apapun akan bisa merongrong semua itu. Sebuah overgeneralisasi tetapi setidaknya itu yang saya rasakan. Dalam banyak jurusan sastra, misalnya, jauh lebih banyak jumlah mahasiswa perempuan daripada laki-laki. Itulah yang saya alami.

Salah satu contoh penulis perempuan yang sukses dengan novelnya ialah Gillian Flynn, yang dikenal luas sebagai penulis novel thrillerGone Girl“. Dalam sebuah wawancara, penulis yang pernah dipecat dari sebuah majalah setelah bekerja selama sepuluh tahun di dalamnya itu mengatakan bahwa dalam proses penulis Gone Girl, ia memakai metode latihan menulis gaya lama (old school).

Seperti apa latihan menulis fiksi gaya lama yang ia lakukan?

Eksperimen Sudut Pandang

Ia menulis adegan-adegan dari sudut pandang karakter lainnya. Tetapi bagian-bagian ini ia katakan tidak dimuat dalam buku. Meski tidak dimasukkan dalam novelnya, toh Flynn tetap mengerjakannya demi memperkuat penokohan, deskripsi dan segala elemen dalam ceritanya agar lebih meyakinkan, seolah memang rangkaian fakta yang tidak terbantahkan.

Misalnya, untuk memperkuat penokohan karakter utama Amy Eliott, Flynn sengaja menulis dari sudut pandang teman SMA Amy. Untuk tokoh Nick Dunn, Flynn membuat penjelasan tersendiri soal penuturan dari sudut pandang guru TK Nick dalam sebuah perkumpulan orang tua murid.

Flynn menegaskan bahwa dirinya “suka mengamati seseorang dari berbagai sudut pandang (angle)”.

Detail Pribadi

Flynn kemudian mengatakan bahwa dirinya juga menulis soal hal-hal kecil dan remeh-temeh soal karakter-karakter utamanya. Sesepele apa yang ia tulis? Ia membayangkan menelusuri daftar putar (playlist) iPod karakternya untuk mengetahui lagu-lagu kesukaaan mereka dan daftar tunggu Netflix untuk membayangkan jenis tontonan yang mereka gemari.

Flynn tidak ragu untuk menghabiskan banyak energi dalam menulis bagian-bagian ini karena ia meyakini ada gunanya.


Siapa Bilang Minat Baca dan Tulis Kita Rendah?

Kami sedang duduk mendengarkan wejangan seorang pria yang konon menjadi legenda hidup sastra nusantara. Kiprahnya memang tidak bisa dianggap remeh selama ini. Beliau dikenal sebagai pengajar, setidaknya begitu mulanya bagi saya. Tetapi kemudian saya sadar ia lebih dari sekadar seorang dosen luar biasa. Ia juga penyair kampiun. Sajak-sajaknya sudah melanglang buana ke mata jutaan pembca dan penikmat susastra nusantara kontemporer. Saya harus akui pengetahuan saya tentang kiprahnya sama sekali nihil.

Di depan, ia menggumamkan sesuatu. Apa yang ia ucapkan masih bermakna dan bisa diikuti dengan logika bahasa. Tetapi perkara artikulasi, saya mengamati adanya kemunduran di otot-otot lidah dan mulutnya. Proses menua yang alamiah. Dan saya sedang ia juga habis pulih dari sakit yang cukup serius. Jadi, kehadirannya di sini sudah bisa dikatakan suatu keajaiban. Tak heran seorang teman mengatakan ia tidak ingin mengecap usia panjang karena di dalam usia panjang, mesti ada ketahanan menjalankan roda kehidupan dengan sisa-sisa tenaga penghabisan di usia yang sudah petang, hampir malam, meredup, hingga akhirnya malam.

Meskipun secara fisik Sapardi sudah begitu turun dibandingkan sedekade lalu saat saya masih menjadi salah satu mahasiswanya di Universitas Diponegoro, saya masih menemukan bara dalam tatapan matanya. Jiwanya selalu belia, saya percaya.

Kemudaan yang tak kasat mata tersebut ia ungkapkan dalam pendapat dan sikapnya terhadap perkembangan dunia sastra saat ini. Pikirannya selalu progresif, tidak malu untuk menuruti perkembangan zaman tetapi seraya mencengkeram jatidirinya juga.

Menurut Sapardi, pemikiran kolot bahwa asal kualitas isi sebuah karya sastra itu tinggi, mau diberi sampul, judul, ilustrasi atau tidak dipromosikan sekalipun, pasti akhirnya akan laris juga. Hanya saja kenyataannya lain sekarang. Justru mereka yang yakin karya mereka bagus harus mengimbanginya dengan upaya pengemasan dan pemasaran yang tidak kalah garang dan sistematis. Karena mau tidak mau diakui, unsur-unsur nonsastrawi yang sering dipinggirkan oleh kalangan sastrawan jenis puritan zaman pra-digital.

Untuk menggambarkan sikapnya itu, ia mengatakan bahwa sekarang penerbit dan sastrawan perlu sekali membuka cara pandangnya agar tidak tergerus oleh arus zaman. Unsur kebaruan, inovasi dan kreativitas dalam mengemas isi karya sastra amat dibutuhkan agar lebih banyak pembaca potensial tertarik dengan karya yang ditawarkan. Karena jika sudah gagal menarik perhatian dari kulitnya, mana mungkin isi juga akan dikulik? “Ganti judul, ganti sampul itu penting juga,” tegasnya. Buku-buku lama yang sudah tak laku kini perlu dicetak ulang dengan pengemasan dan cara pemasaran yang lebih modern. Tidak cuma menunggu pembaca yang bisa menjangkau toko buku tetapi juga siapa saja di mana saja asal tersambung dengan internet.

Sebagai contoh nyata, pria yang tidak bisa menanggalkan topi pet dari kepalanya itu menceritakan peran elemen-elemen nonsastrawi itu pada keberhasilan penjualan buku-buku puisinya. Seperti sudah kita ketahui, genre puisi di pasar tidaklah begitu menguntungkan. Penggemar puisi cuma orang-orang tertentu. Namun, itu dulu. Sekarang dengan bantuan pemasaran digital di media sosial dan bahkan film, kita saksikan melejitnya puisi karya penyair muda Aan Mansyur. Puisi terangkat. Dan itu karena ia tidak berjuang sendiri tetapi terintegrasi dengan hal-hal lain di luar dunia puisi itu sendiri.

Dalam kasus Sapardi, ia mengakui bahwa buku puisinya yang semula susah laku di toko-toko buku, bisa lebih laris manis bahkan ditampilkan di rak best seller (yang membuatnya terkejut juga) karena dilibatkannya orang-orang yang terampil dalam mengemas konten agar lebih seksi dan menarik bagi para pembaca masa kini.

Sang sastrawan veteran ini juga menyerukan pada kalangan pegiat sastra dan perbukuan dalam negeri mengenai kemandirian dalam berkarya. Tiap kali Sapardi mendengar ada keluhan bahwa pemerintah tidak mempedulikan atau tidak membantu upaya-upaya menggiatkan industri perbukuan dan aktivitas literasi domestik, beliau mengaku kurang sependapat. Hendaknya kita semua jangan terlalu mengandalkan pemerintah. Secara spesifik beliau berpesan pada kalangan penerbitan agar tidak menggantungkan semua solusi pada pemerintah. Ada masalah apapun, ditujukan ke pemerintah, seakan pemerintah dewa yang bisa memecahkan semua masalah. Padahal jika kita cermati, pemerintah juga sebetulnya tidak akan berdaya tanpa dukungan semua elemen dari rakyat Indonesia. Pemerintah memang penting, tetapi peran rakyat juga sama krusialnya. Rakyat dalam hal ini mereka yang berkepentingan dalam dunia literasi dan susastra juga hendaknya turut aktif mencari solusi demi solusi dari masalah yang dihadapi bersama-sama. Tidak hanya berpangku tangan dan menunggu bantuan pemerintah. Lalu jika tidak ada solusi dari pemerintah, akan cepat menyalahkan pihak eksternal.

Sapardi mencontohkan bahwa di AS misalnya, dunia perbukuan bisa lebih bergairah dan berkembang pesat karena baik pemerintah dan kalangan pegiat perbukuan dari masyarakat umum sama-sama bekerja di jalurnya masing-masing dan saling bersinergi. Misalnya penerbit Penguin yang berhasil sukses dan menjadi sebesar sekarang itu juga bukan perusahaan penerbitan yang ongkang-ongkang menunggu bantuan pemerintah. Mereka bekerja keras sendiri juga di bidang-bidang yang mereka bisa, tanpa dibantu atau didorong pemerintah. Justru dengan independensi tersebut, nantinya penerbit akan lebih bebas dalam menentukan kebijakan dan arah langkahnya ke depan. Dengan menjadikan pemerintah sebagai induk semang, penerbitan berisiko hanya menjadi corong gagasan dan propaganda birokrat. Padahal hal itu amat riskan bagi perkembangan demokrasi dan daya pikir kritis bangsa. Karena di tangan status quo, sastra hanya akan menjadi komoditas legalisasi gagasan mereka.

Kembali ke Sapardi, ia menguak masalah besar dunia penerbitan tanah air, yakni strategi dalam menghadapi kebangkitan dunia digital. Untuk menghadapinya, alih-alih dipandang sebagai musuh, dunia digital (yang mencakup – tetapi tidak terbata dalam – internet, ponsel cerdas, tren e-book, media sosial) idealnya dianggap sebagai kawan. Demikian pesan sang sastrawan.

Jika di zaman sekarang, seorang pengarang karyanya gagal terjual laris padahal karyanya berkualitas, bisa dipastikan pengarang itu kurang cerdik. Dengan begitu banyaknya kanal media sosial yang tersedia secara cuma-cuma, memang konyol rasanya jika pengarang malah bersikukuh menghindarinya atau mengabaikannya. Dengan munculnya media sosial, pengaran dan penerbit justru harus melihatnya sebagai alat baru yang berpotensi mendongkrak produktivitas berkarya (baca: angka penjualan).

Sering kita baca dan dengar argumen dan klaim bahwa bangsa Indonesia memiliki minat baca yang memprihatinkan, rendah, kurang memuaskan, dan sebagainya. Karena daya baca rendah, kemampuan menulis pun menjadi pincang. Intinya, minat baca dan tulis bangsa kita perlu dipacu lagi.

Terkait ini, Sapardi menampiknya tegas. “Generasi sekarang itu malah lebih banyak membaca dan menulis dari generasi sebelumnya!” Sang begawan sastra ini menggarisbawahi, di balik klaim tersebut, ada pemikiran kolot bahwa jika tidak membaca tulisan yang tercetak di kertas, tidak bisa dianggap benar-benar membaca. Ini menurut Sapardi perlu diluruskan. Mereka sudah banyak membaca juga, tetapi mereka lebih banyak membaca di gawai daripada membaca buku fisik, sehingga generasi senior masih mencibir. “(Padahal) membaca di gawai sama membacanya juga,” tandas beliau.

Unsur selain konten yang juga berperan dalam keberhasilan sebuah karya sastra ialah pemilihan nama yang dipakai pengarang untuk ditampilkan di sampul bukunya. Pengarang tidak diwajibkan penerbit, publik pembaca atau pemerintah untuk menggunakan nama asli mereka sehingga terdapat ruang bereksperimen di sini. Salah satu contoh kasus yang membuktikan bahwa nama yang berbeda dapat memberikan efek yang berbeda terhadap persepsi dan respon publik mengenai sebuah karya sastra ialah saat J. K. Rowling menggunakan nama pena (pseudonim) Robert Galbraith dalam genre novel detektf (whodunnit). Saat menggunakan nama pena yang tidak dikenal, publik tidak merespon karya tersebut secara menggembirakan layaknya serial Harry Potter. Namun, begitu penerbit memberikan keterangan bahwa Galbraith ialah nama pena J. K. Rowling, angka penjualan novel kriminal tersebut melejit.
Kemunculan internet dan media sosial juga hendaknya tidak menjadi kambing hitam bagi menyurutnya pencapaian industri perbukuan dan dunia sastra. Sapardi justru menjungkirbalikkan pemikiran tersebut dengan menyatakan bahwa saat ini penerbit justru memburu para sastrawan, pencipta konten. Dengan adanya ruang berkreasi yang tanpa batas melalui kehadiran dunia maya dan media sosial, kreativitas sastrawan makin bisa dicurahkan, tanpa batasan-batasan yang seketat di masa penerbitan konvensional. Kalangan penerbit juga sebaiknya keluar dari zona nyaman dan terus mengeksplorasi berbagai peluang dan potensi penerbitan di ruang digital. (*)

Formula Novel Best Seller

Novelis perempuan dengan gaya menulis feminin memiliki peluang sukses lebih tinggi daripada pria. Bagaimana bisa? (Sumber: Wikipedia)

“There’s an app for everything.” Begitu pepatah zaman digital sekarang. Setiap masalah bisa dipecahkan dengan membuat sebuah aplikasi digital di ponsel dan sabak elektronik yang setiap hari kita genggam dan kontennya kita konsumsi secara rakus dan tak kenal waktu.

Di balik aplikasi, banyak komponen yang terlibat. Salah satunya yang tidak kalah penting ialah algoritme, yang secara sederhana bisa dikatakan sebagai sebuah proses atau serangkaian aturan yang harus diikuti dalam penghitungan atau operasi pemecahan masalah, terutama oleh komputer.

Baru-baru ini dibuat sebuah algoritme berhasil dibuat sedemikian rupa untuk mencari resep jitu memproduksi novel best seller. Dan hasil pengamatan berdasarkan penggunaan algoritme pada teks-teks novel yang selama ini menjadi best seller menghasilkan simpulan-simpulan sebagai berikut, yang bisa jadi patut kita pertimbangkan jika ingin menjadi novelis yang berhasil dalam aspek penjualan (bukan dalam aspek idealisme dan sebagainya).


Kriminal dan cinta ialah dua tema yang dikatakan amat menjual dalam dunia perbukuan. Dan apapun genre yang Anda garap sekarang, jika Anda ingin novel yang Anda tulis masuk ke daftar best seller, tidak ada salahnya menambahkan dua bumbu tadi ke plot yang Anda terapkan dalam novel sehingga calon pembaca lebih tertarik memboyong pulang.

Alur Emosional

Lain dari karakteristik pembaca nonfiksi, para pembaca karya fiksi terutama novel ialah mereka yang sangat mendambakan pengalaman emosional yang kental. Dengan mengetahui hal ini, Anda bisa memberikan sentuhan emosional yang kuat pada setiap elemen novel Anda, terutama alurnya. Plot yang menghanyutkan emosi pembaca itulah yang membuat pembaca kecanduan dan tidak bisa menutup buku sebelum sampai ke lembar terakhir.

Contoh novel yang sukses berkat penggunaan plot yang emosional ialah “Fifty Shades of Grey” yang ditulis E. L. James. Novel ini menurut sebagian pihak memang memiliki prosa yang kurang estetis dan literer dan cenderung menjual fantasi seks sadomasokis. Namun, harus diakui James berhasil membuat emosi pembaca naik turun sedemikian rupa sehingga sangat mengasyikkan dan adiktif. James menunjukkan bahwa tema seks – yang meskipun menurut algoritme tidak begitu menjual sebagai tema buku best seller – ternyata mampu mengedepankan elemen emosi ini dan mendongkrak penjualannya hingga ke angka yang begitu fantastis walaupun dikritik banyak kalangan elit sastra yang merasa novel itu lebih mirip sebuah karya pornografi.


Simplicity is the best policy”. Kesederhanaan adalah senjata utama bagi para novelis agar karya mereka bisa mendobrak jajaran bergengsi di jaringan toko buku besar dan bahkan pasar buku global. Para novelis terkemuka bisa saja menggunakan kalimat-kalimat panjang dengan diksi dan jargon yang rumit tetapi karena mereka ingin menjangkau pembaca seluas mungkin, mereka lebih memilih kata-kata yang mudah dicerna dan kalimat-kalimat yang pendek dan ringkas sehingga tidak membingungkan. Ini berlawanan dengan asumsi yang ada dalam benak novelis pemula yang mengunggulkan penggunaan kata-kata rumit dan mengawang-awang dan kalimat-kalimat panjang yang membuat pembaca terengah-engah. Justru yang sulit ialah bagaimana novelis menyuguhkan ide-ide rumitnya dalam kata dan kalimat yang mudah dipahami siapa saja.

Algoritme menjelaskan bahwa novel-novel best seller lazimnya menggunakan kata-kata aktif (do) dan menggunakan kata “sangat” (very) lebih jarang daripada novel yang lebih jarang digemari.


Anda novelis pria? Perlu Anda ketahui bahwa novelis perempuan memiliki peluang sukses lebih tinggi daripada mereka yang pria. Begitu tingginya peluang itu sampai bisa dikatakan peluang sukses novelis perempuan bisa menjangkau hingga 90%. Setidaknya demikian menurut hasil penelitian berdasarkan algoritma.

Namun demikian, para novelis pria tidak perlu patah arang karena sebetulnya asal mereka bisa menyesuaikan gaya bercerita mereka sehingga karya mereka memiliki elemen femininitas yang lebih kental. Algoritma membuktikan bahwa novel-novel hasil tulisan penulis pria yang terbukti sukses bisa menjadi best seller karena gaya menulis mereka mirip perempuan menurut algoritma.

Lalu kita perlu bertanya, seperti apa gaya menulis yang feminin dan maskulin? Gaya menulis feminin menonjolkan aspek ‘style’ dan kesederhanaan dan pendekatan blak-blakan yang mengena bak gaya menulis seorang jurnalis. Novelis dengan latar belakang jurnalisme dalam tingkatan tertentu terbantu untuk bisa menelurkan karya yang digemari daripada yang tidak pernah menjadi pewarta.

Sementara itu, gaya menulis maskulin mengedepankan gaya literer yang tinggi. Dengan kata lain, menulis dengan gaya berbunga-bunga yang khas pujangga justru membuat peluang sebuah novel menjadi best seller lebih rendah. Dan uniknya, gender novelis belum tentu sesuai dengan jenis gaya menulisnya. Artinya, seorang novelis pria bisa saja memiliki gaya menulis feminin dan begitu juga sebaliknya.

Kekuatan Tokoh Utama

Menggunakan judul yang mengacu langsung pada karakter utama adalah elemen lain yang mempertinggi peluang sukses suatu novel. Namun demikian, menggunakan nama karakter tersebut sudah dianggap usang (katakanlah “Anna Karenina” milik Leo Tolstoy). Novel-novel best seller masa kini tetap mengacu ke tokoh utama di dalam judulnya tetapi tanpa menguak nama si tokoh. Frase yang menarik untuk menggambarkan tokoh utama bisa memicu keingintahuan calon pembaca.

Tokoh utama yang berkarakter kuat dan terdefinisi secara jelas memberikan peluang sukses bagi sebuah novel untuk melejit. Hal ini bisa dicapai melalui penggunaan kata-kata kerja yang tegas dan mendorong terjadi serangkaian perbuatan dan aksi.

Lalu apakah yang kita mesti lakukan setelah mengetahui semua elemen sebuah novel best seller ini? Kita bisa mengamati buku-buku yang laris ini dan meniru resep sukses mereka. Dengan membaca banyak novel best seller, dengan sendirinya kita akan makin akrab dengan pola-polanya.

Namun, jangan sampai membuat kita terlalu terobsesi untuk melihat keluar, mengejar status best seller sampai lupa dengan ide-ide orisinal kita sendiri dan menggadaikan idealisme yang semula kita punya demi selera pasar.

(Disarikan dari “The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel” oleh Jodie Archer dan Matthew L. Jockers)

Cara Mengajarkan Menulis dalam Bahasa Asing

Menulis itu suatu seni, dan mengajarkan seni diperlukan seni tersendiri juga. (Foto: Wikimedia)

Anda mungkin bisa menulis dengan baik tanpa harus menjadi penulis buku. Karena ada begitu banyak hal yang perlu kita komunikasikan dalam kehidupan ini, tanpa harus melalui medium buku dan sejenisnya.

Pertama-tama, apakah itu menulis? Pada dasarnyam menulis ialah sebuah kegiatan literasi yang berkaitan dengan pikiran. Ia mencakup proses belajar, dengan tujuan menyempurnakan pemikiran seseorang, dan untuk mempengaruhi pemikiran orang lain. Menulis ialah kunci dalam komunikasi terutama di era melek huruf dan digital seperti sekarang. Manusia abad ke-21 adalah makhluk yang lebih banyak berkomunikasi lewat teks daripada para pendahulu mereka. Kita menggunakan media digital untuk menyampaikan apa saja dan semua itu lebih banyak dalam bentuk tulisan.

Menulis, meski bukan satu-satunya aspek dalam pendidikan, dapat dikatakan sebagai salah satu fondasi terpenting dalam pendidikan dasar hingga menengah dan tinggi. Bahkan setelah seseorang sudah meninggalkan bangku kuliah, ia akan terus memerlukan keterampilan menulis tersebut di berbagai kesempatan. Buktinya orang dewasa yang sudah melampaui usia sekolah masih saja terus belajar bahasa dengan beragam tujuan tetapi intinya ialah agar mereka dapat meraih kesempatan yang lebih luas dalam era persaingan tenaga kerja di era globalisasi yang makin sengit persaingannya ini.

Keterampilan menulis makin dibutuhkan saat ini. Kita makin banyak disuguhi informasi dengan begitu banyaknya informasi yang mengalir di Internet dan media konvensional. Dan setelah menyerap semua itu, kita diharapkan juga dapat memberikan respon atau tanggapan. Semua orang bisa memberikan tanggapan secara lisan tanpa harus banyak berpikir. Tetapi untuk menulis sebuah tanggapan yang runtut, sistematis dan dapat dipertanggungjawabkan (karena makin banyak orang menulis dan tidak sadar mereka harus bertanggung jawab untuk itu, sebut saja penulis berita bohong alias hoax), tidak semua orang bisa melakukannya. Diperlukan kerja keras intelektual yang lebih besar dan waktu yang lebih panjang untuk menyiapkannya, menyuntingnya hingga sampai ke penayangannya ke publik luas. Tidak semua orang sesabar dan segigih itu.

Untuk mengukur baik buruknya keterampilan menulis sebetulnya mudah, yakni bagaimana kita bisa mengetahui mudah tidaknya sebuah gagasan dalam tulisan ditransfer dari benak penulis untuk kemudian dipahami oleh orang lain. Tulisan tersebut juga harusnya disusun secara teratur, terorganisir dan sistematis sehingga dapat dimengerti siapa saja yang membacanya. Hal ini selaras dengan pendapat Orson Wales yang berkata:”Jika seseorang tidak bisa menulis dengan baik, mereka juga kurang bisa berpikir dengan baik juga.” Dan parahnya jika kita sendiri tidak bisa berpikir untuk diri kita, orang lain yang akan berpikir untuk kita. Dengan kata lain, orang lainlah yang akan menjadi pemikir bagi kita dan dengan demikian kita hanya akan menjadi pengikut, ibarat seekor domba yang mau saja digiring oleh pemiliknya ke mana saja, bahkan ke jurang atau rumah jagal sekalipun. Karena itulah, menulis sangat penting.

Menulis juga bisa menjadi suatu tolok ukur untuk menguji seberapa dalam pemahaman seseorang tentang sebuah topik atau permasalahan. Jika seseorang bisa dengan lancar dan sistematis menuangkan informasi atau pengalaman atau apapun yang ia ingin sampaikan dalam bentuk tulisan yang runtut dan sistematis, biasanya dapat dipastikan pemahamannya soal isu atau masalah yang ia tulis itu juga lebih baik daripada mereka yang hanya bisa berkomentar singkat atau menulis status yang cuma 100-200 kata panjangnya.

Orang cerdas tanpa kemampuan menulis yang memadai juga akan sulit menyampaikan pengetahuan dan pendapatnya yang berharga itu ke khalayak yang lebih luas lagi. Hal ini dibuktikan dalam sebuah survei yang menyatakan bahwa lebih dari 50% mahasiswa Korsel yang sukses masuk dan menjalani perkuliahan di kampus-kampus bergengsi yang terkenal dengan sebutan “Ivy League” harus menelan pil pahit. Di tengah jalan mereka terpaksa keluar atau berhenti sebelum bisa lulus. Padahal kalau kita cermati, di jajaran negara-negara maju (OECD) , Korsel adalah salah satu negara dengan pencapaian mutu SDM yang paling mengagumkan. Prestasi akademik anak-anak sekolah Korsel melesat melampaui AS dan Inggris yang dianggap kiblatnya pendidikan global. Skor-skor anak-anak Korsel di atas rata-rata dan bahkan mereka sanggup mengerjakan soal yang jauh lebih sulit daripada soal yang biasa dikerjakan anak-anak seusianya di negara-negara maju lainnya. Lalu apa sebabnya anak-anak Korsel yang ‘cerdas’ itu gagal di pendidikan tinggi mereka? Ternyata pendidikan yang terlalu mengejar skor seperti di Korsel itu kurang mendukung bagi pengembangan keterampilan berpikir kritis yang vital dalam proses menulis. Mereka hanya diajarkan untuk menyerap dan menyerap tanpa diberi kesempatan menanggapi, entah itu menolak atau menerima atau menerima dengan syarat/ alasan tertentu. Mereka kehilangan kesempatan untuk menyuarakan pikiran dan pendapat mereka karena sudah dibentuk menjadi ‘robot penghapal’. Dan sejujurnya Korsel bukan satu-satunya negara dengan pendidikan pengejar skor. Banyak pendidikan di negara-negara Asia masih berhaluan sama, termasuk juga Indonesia. Anak-anak sekolah hasil didikan sistem pendidikan Asia lazimnya kesulitan beradaptasi dengan sistem pendidikan Barat terutama AS karena di sekolah-sekolah Amerika itu keterampilan menulis dibutuhkan di beragam mata kuliah, bahkan bagi mereka yang tampaknya jauh dari bidang bahasa dan sastra sekalipun masih ada tuntutan untuk bisa menulis makalah atau tesis dengan sistematis. Akibat ketidakmampuan menulis sangatlah kompleks, misalnya ketidakpercayaan diri di kelas, terlambat mengumpulkan tugas, komunikasi yang buruk dengan dosen, dan yang terparah, jika amat terdesak, anak didik yang sudah putus asa bisa melakukan pelanggaran akademis serius seperti mencontek dan meniru tulisan orang lain alias plagiarisme. Jadi, sekali lagi, para pelaku plagiarisme kadang bukan anak-anak yang pandir. Mereka terkadang memiliki intelejensia yang tinggi tetapi sayangnya masih memiliki keterampilan menulis yang kurang.

Tantangan dalam Mengajar Menulis

Begitu banyak tantangan yang kita jumpai dalam menulis. Di antaranya yang paling banyak dijumpai ialah kurangnya waktu yang disediakan, kurikulum pengajaran yang terlampau rumit, dan ketiadaan struktur yang jelas dan mudah dipahami.

Tantangan akan makin besar jika kita membicarakan soal pengajaran keterampilan menulis dalam bahasa asing. Misalnya bahasa Inggris. Hal ini karena kebanyakan anak didik dibesarkan dalam suatu lingkungan yang secara alami kurang mendukung. Keluarga dan teman-teman mereka mayoritas bukan penutur asli (native speaker) dari bahasa yang mereka pakai untuk menulis. Jadi, dengan kata lain, tantangannya lebih berlapis-lapis dari mereka yang belajar menulis dalam bahasa ibu (first language). Akhirnya, beban itu harus disangga oleh guru-guru bahasa sendirian. Dan ini konyol karena tentu tidak bisa memasrahkan perkembangan penguasaan berbahasa asing pada satu pihak saja. Diperlukan sinergi yang solid untuk bisa memaksimalkan proses belajar anak, yang justru lebih banyak di luar ruangan kelas.

Santai Itu Penting

Saat mengajarkan menulis, ada baiknya pengajar atau guru menghindari melabelinya sebagai sebuah kelas atau kursus atau kuliah. Mengapa? Karena menulis pada hakikatnya sudah terintegrasi dalam berbagai bidang atau disiplin ilmu lainnya.

Pentingnya Instruksi Menulis yang Baik

Instruksi menulis yang baik terdiri dari bahasa yang universal dan konsisten. Dengan kata lain, bahasa yang digunakan dalam pengajaran menulis idealnya memakai istilah-istilah yang disepakati bersama dan seragam sehingga siapa saja yang mengajarkan dan belajar akan bisa berkomunikasi dengan efisien. Dengan memakai bahasa yan sama dalam mengajarkan menulis, diharapkan juga pesan yang tersampaikan ke anak didik menjadi lebih konsisten.

Elemen-elemen Instruksi Menulis yang Baik

Terdapat lima elemen penting dalam menyusun instruksi menulis yang baik. Elemen-elemen tersebut ialah:

  1. Ide
  2. Pengaturan/ organisasi
  3. Suara
  4. Pilihan kata/ diksi
  5. Kelancaran kalimat
  6. Konvensi

Elemen pertama, ide, berkaitan dengan topik dan pemahaman mendetail soal aksi, pikiran, dan perasaan. Secara keeluruhan, ide ialah pesan yang kita hendak sampaikan melalui tulisan kita pada orang lain. Singkatnya, ide ialah gagasan menarik yang bisa disuguhkan ke audiens.

Elemen kedua yakni organisasi atau pengaturan. Untuk itu perlu dipakai kata-kata yang menunjukkan urutan, sehingga jelas mana yang awal dan akhir. Pemakaian elemen kedua akan menunjukkan progresi yang jelas dalam menyusun ide tulisan. Tanpa progresi, tulisan akan terkesan berputar-putar tidak tentu arah. Karenanya, model penulisan tiga babak yang mencakup pembuka, isi dan penutup ialah model yang universal dan wajib diingat dan diamalkan dalam menulis.

Suara (voice) ialah mengenai cara untuk menggunakan tujuan. Di sinilah terletak sikap, opini, energi dan kepribadian penulis yang menjadi inti yang bisa menarik pembaca. Suara inilah yang unik dan bisa membuat ide yang terkesan biasa dan membosankan terkesan lebih menarik, hangat, menggairahkan, bahkan seru untuk diikuti.

Diksi atau pilihan kata ialah bagaimana memilih kata-kata dengan jeli dan tepat untuk menyampaikan kisah yang ingin Anda sampaikan. Diksi biasanya menggunakan kata-kata yang deskriptif sehingga pembaca seolah bisa menyaksikan sesuatu yang digambarkan penulis dalam kata-katanya. Diksi yang sesuai akan mengemas ide sedemikian rupa sehingga lebih mengena ke hati pembaca.

Kelancaran kalimat ialah bagaimana seorang penulis menggunakan kalimat dalam panjang, urutan dan struktur yang bervariasi tetapi tetap menunjukkan kemulusan dalam narasinya. Di dalamnya juga tercakup naik turunnya nada ujaran. Karenanya, penulis yang baik mesti bisa merangkai kalimat dalam berbagai jenis sesuai kebutuhan dengan tujuan akhir untuk menarik minat pembaca meneruskan sampai akhir tulisan.

Konvensi meliputi aturan-aturan yang menentukan apakah sebuah tulisan bisa dikatakan baik atau tidak. Aturan-aturan ini adalah kesepakatan bersama yang dihasilkan oleh para petinggi, akademisi, atau kalangan tertentu yang dianggap sebagai otoritas, panutan, pengalaman atau kekuasaan yang lebih. Dan karena ini bersifat subjektif dan bervariasi, perbincangan dan perdebatan soal konvensi seakan tiada habisnya dari waktu ke waktu. Maka jangan terlalu menghabiskan energi di aspek ini saja dalam mengajarkan menulis. Sejumlah konvensi yang kita pakai dalam proses menulis misalnya kapitalisasi, ejaan, pemakaian tanda baca, tata bahasa, dan sebagainya.

Jenis Teks

Jenis teks dalam menulis mencakup Naratif, Informatif/ Penjelasan, dan Opini atau Argumentasi. Naratif ialah suatu kisah yang ditulis dengan berdasarkan perspektif atau sudut pandang tertentu. Seringkali isinya ialah pengalaman pribadi.

Sementara itu, Informatif/ Penjelasan memiliki banyak bentuk. Jenis ini menggunakan serangkaian fakta yang dipakai untuk menerangkan dan menyampaikan sebuah pesan yang lebih besar. Jenis teks semacam ini bisa dijumpai dalam makalah akademik, paper penelitian, buku manual.

Jenis Opini atau Argumentasi menunjukkan perasaan atau pemikiran penulis mengenai suatu isu atau tema. Dalam penulis opini, seorang penulis mesti bersikap jelas dan tegas soal pendirian dan sikapnya terhadap isu yang ia pilih. Tulisan semacam ini bisa membujuk lebih banyak orang untuk mengadopsi cara berpikir, pendapat atau sikap penulis secara lebih luas.

Proses Menulis

Dalam proses menulis, kita perlu mengingat dan menerapkan keenam elemen menulis yang vital tersebut. Adapun proses menulis mencakup lima fase utama:

  1. Pramenulis
  2. Menyusun draft
  3. Revisi
  4. Penyuntingan
  5. Penerbitan

Menulis bukanlah proses instan. Diperlukan proses yang panjangnya bervariasi tergantung kerumitan, jenis topik yang dibahas, tujuan penulisan dan banyak hal lainnya.

Model Workshop

Model workshop ini dimaksudkan untuk mendukung proses menulis. Model workshop yang dimaksud di sini mencakup:

  1. Pelajaran singkat harian
  2. Modeling/ meniru
  3. Pilihan
  4. Menulis mandiri
  5. Berbagi/ konferensi

Dalam pembelajaran menulis dengan menggunakan bahasa asing, murid akan didorong untuk menggunakan bahasa asing sebanyak mungkin dengan temannya selama menulis. Misalnya, sebelum menulis atau selama proses menulis sebuah tulisan berbahasa Inggris, siswa didorong untuk juga berdiskusi secara lisan dalam bahasa tersebut. Dengan demikian, mereka akan lebih siap menulis daripada jika diskusi dilakukan dalam bahasa ibu. Penitng juga bagi murid untuk diberikan waktu bekerja sendiri dan bekerja bersama murid lain. Dalam grup kecil, mereka bisa bekerja sama untuk mengetahui kekuatan dan kelemahan masing-masing.


Perlu dipahami bahwa instruksi menulis yang baik haruslah bersifat komprehensif. Untuk bisa komprehensif, perlu ditekankan jenis teks yang penting dalam meraih keberhasilan akademik di bangku kuliah dan karier.

Mengajarkan menulis dan membaca secara terpisah juga membuat kemampuan menulis sulit berkembang. Keduanya mesti disatukan secara beriringan dalam proses pembelajaran menulis. Cara untuk mengajarkan kemampuan membaca dan menulis sekaligus dalam satu kegiatan misalnya dengan menyuruh murid untuk membaca beragam teks kemudian menganalisis secara cermat dan kemudian menyusun tanggapan dalam tulisan. (bersambung)

Disarikan dari paparan Andy Shafran (Vice President ) dalam “How to Teach Writing to Young EFL Students from Beginners to Advanced Levels” dari International Businesses of Highlights of Zaner Bloser (Educational Publisher)

Penulis Kelas Bulu

“Tidak bisa tidak. Kamu harus belajar tampil lebih tua,” tegas orang yang bernama Raksasa itu pada saya karena dalam pengamatannya rupa ini tertinggal cukup jauh dari usia kalender saya. Ia kerap menggunakan nama itu untuk membuka percakapan. “Tahukah Anda berat saya dulu 110 kilogram?” begitu kalimat andalannya melenturkan lidah di pertemuan-pertemuan dengan budak-budak korporat yang bermasalah dengan bobot tubuh. Ia berani jamin langsung detik itu pembicaraan mengalir secara alami karena meski namanya begitu, perawakannya sekarang jauh dari gemuk. Tiada bekas-bekas lemak tampak di badannya yang sekarang saya taksir cuma 60-70 kilogram itu. Saya akui ia memang pesilat lidah ulung yang mampu mengemas topik sesepele apapun menjadi menarik.

Kembali pada sarannya tadi yang begitu blak-blakan, saya bereaksi datar saja. Mungkin alis saya sedikit naik karena dahi mengernyit. Bukannya saya tidak tahu. Saya juga diam-diam berpikir sama. Banyak orang lain juga, saya sangat yakin. Tetapi baru orang ini yang berkata terang-terangan.

Lalu ia menceritakan si Marto yang sama-sama sekecil saya. Ia menyarankan Marto yang dulu masih kurus itu untuk memakai jas berlapis busa di kedua bahu, kemeja lengan panjang, dan kaos dalam dalam waktu yang sama. Cara berpakaian yang hangat dan nyaman di gedung berpendingin udara terpusat yang suhunya mirip kutub tetapi neraka buat yang mesti kerja di ruangan bertemperatur semi tropis yang mesin AC-nya kadang bocor dan dikendalikan manual dengan remote control. Pokoknya ia haruskan Marto terkesan mengembang, lebih besar dari sebetulnya. Kalau Marto adonan kue, pria itu juga mungkin akan menggelonggong mulut Marto dengan berliter-liter baking soda. Padahal tempo hari bertemu Marto, saya pikir anak itu lumayan berisi. Jadi apa rahasianya jadi begitu? Saya jadi iri. Atau apakah ia juga diberinya resep menaikkan bobot secepat-cepatnya? Saya makin liar berspekulasi.

Penampilan penting, sangat penting, tandas Raksasa lagi di depan saya. “Nanti apa kata orang kalau saya bilang kamu yang akan nulis? ‘Apa pak? Anak sekecil ini yang nanti nulis? Bisa? Yakin?!!”

Bibir saya bergetar. Kebingungan mau tersenyum kecut atau tertawa. Saya tidak percaya penulis juga mesti memoles citra fisiknya seperti ini. Saya bertanya dalam hati,”Apakah saya keliru masuk ke ruangan ini? Mungkin ini ruang untuk menyaring para model catwalk, bukan penulis.” Tetapi lain daripada dia yang memuntahkan kalimat demi kalimat dengan royalnya, saya telan mentah-mentah gumaman tadi seiring dengan ludah. Saya goyang-goyangkan sepatu, mencoba melepaskan kebingungan tanpa terlihat hendak gila. Padahal sebenarnya saya hendak berkata,”Semau Anda sajalah…”

“Baiklah, Akhlis,” hibur saya pada anak kecil bernama ego yang sedang terisak-isak di suatu sudut di dalam batok kepala,”Anggap saja ini audisi akting dalam sebuah produksi film. Kau harus memerankan penulis yang tinggi besar. Itu lho seperti Ewan McGregor di film ‘Ghost Writer’.”

Internet, Penulis dan Jurnalis

Empat pembicara Eko Endarmoko, Arif Zulkifli, Mardiyah Chamim dan Leila S. Chudori (dari kiri ke kanan) tampil di panggung Festival Menulis Sabtu (22/10/2016) di Gedung Tempo, Palmerah Barat, Jakarta. (foto: dok pribadi)

Bagaimana revolusi internet membantu para penulis dan jurnalis?

Internet kerap dituding menjadi biang keladi kemunduran dunia kepenulisan. Saya paham alasan di balik caci maki itu karena pengarang sekelas J. K. Rowling saja harus rela karyanya diunduh gratis di forum-forum dunia maya beberapa saat setelah peluncuran bukunya. Dan untuk memahami kemunduran dunia kepenulisan global, kita baru-baru ini dihentak dengan kabar bahwa seorang penyanyi dan penulis lagu gaek saja bisa diangkat menjadi penerima nobel sastra tahun ini. Sungguh menohok!

Kenapa ini bisa terjadi? Karena regenerasi yang lambat mungkin. Itu teori saya. Dan internet memang ada andil di sini. Pasalnya, internet membuai muda-mudi untuk ‘bermasturbasi’ secara intelektual dengan gaya penyampaian pikiran dan emosi yang cekak dan lebih cepat direspon. Kenapa harus pusing membuat novel ratusan halaman dan belum tentu juga disukai orang dan menghasilkan uang kalau menulis status atau cuitan atau cuap-cuap di video saja sudah bisa memuaskan hasrat berbagi dan menghasilkan ketenaran dan penghasilan?

Tapi jurnalis sekaligus novelis Leila S. Chudori menampik tuduhan bahwa internet momok bagi penulis. Justru jika kita mencermati, internet membantu penulis dalam banyak hal. Salah satunya dalam hal memasarkan buku kepada peminatnya. “Dunia digital sangat membantu dalam sisi marketing,” tandas novelis cum jurnalis tersebut.

Sebelum era internet, setelah peluncuran buku, ya sudah, tidak ada respon atau perbincangan lagi dari masyarakat pembaca. “Belum ada masukan langsung dari pembaca,” kenang Leila soal sensasi meluncurkan buku di zaman mudanya. Buku-buku Leila yang diterbitkan di era prainternet biasanya lama mendapatkan masukan dan tanggapan.

Ia mengakui pers juga turut menyebarkan kabar peluncuran bukunya. Tapi Leila menggarisbawahi bahwa dirinya sebagai pengarang tidak bisa memastikan bahwa karyanya diterima baik di masyarakat pembaca atau tidak.

Di zaman digital ini, perbincangan tentang buku bahkan sudah mulai sebelum buku yang dimaksud dijual secara bebas. “Keterlibatan pembaca mulai ada di sini, bahkan hingga urusan memilih sampul (cover) untuk buku yang akan diterbitkan,” tuturnya tadi siang (22/10) di ajang “Festival Menulis” yang digelar oleh Tempo Institute, Jakarta.

Leila menyoroti fenomena menjamurnya klub buku di dunia maya seperti “Dulu klub pecinta buku itu eksklusif, seperti pertemuan arisan. Tapi sekarang klub buku bermunculan di internet, dan semua orang kalau mau bisa masuk dan ikut membahas buku,” terang perempuan yang menjadi salah satu nara sumber di festival tersebut, selain pimpinan redaksi Tempo Arif Zulkifli, direktur Tempo Institute Mardiyah Chamim, dan penulis thesaurus bahasa Indonesia Eko Endarmoko.

Saya sepakat saat Leila mengatakan pangsa pasar buku fisik di tanah air belum sepenuhnya terlibas oleh produk e-book atau buku elektronik. Kenapa? Karena pembaca Indonesia umumnya masih menyukai buku yang bentuknya bisa dipegang. Kalau menurut saya, buku fisik lebih sesuai untuk Indonesia karena di negeri yang masih rendah minat bacanya itu, buku fisik memudahkan kita untuk menyebarkannya ke mana saja di seluruh pelosok negeri ini tak peduli ada sambungan internet atau tidak, ada toko gawai atau tidak di sana. Tapi e-book? Lain sama sekali. Konsumsi e-book tergantung pasokan listrik, kestabilan koneksi internet, ketersediaan gawai yang sesuai dan banyak faktor lain.

Sementara itu, pengaruh revolusi internet pada dunia pers cetak menurut Arif Zulkifli sudah sangat terasa. Buktinya Tempo sudah menempuh strategi khusus dalam memasarkan produk digital mereka. Ia menjelaskan bahwa saat majalah Tempo versi cetak dijual mulai hari Senin, majalah yang sama dalam versi digital sudah bisa didapatkan hari Sabtu pekan sebelumnya. “Saya sering menggoda pembaca di Twitter pada hari Sabtu, karena hanya mereka yang membaca versi digital yang bisa ikut berdiskusi,” ujar Arif menyingkap taktiknya agar pembaca Tempo mau bermigrasi ke layanan berlangganan digital.

Arif yakin bahwa pertumbuhan pelanggan cetak akan melandai dan pertumbuhan pelanggan digital akan mendaki terus hingga keduanya akan bertemu di satu titik. “Di titik itu, saya kira kita bisa menjual versi cetak Tempo 500 ribu per eksemplar. Kenapa? Karena kita bisa buat eksklusif sehingga hanya orang kaya yang hanya bisa membeli majalah Tempo cetak,” terang Arif. Sementara itu, para pembaca proletar seperti saya dan Anda akan didesak untuk mengunduh saja versi digitalnya karena harganya jauh lebih murah. Arif mengatakan diskonnya bisa sampai 50 persen bahkan. Penjelasannya memang masuk akal karena memproduksi majalah cetak sangat boros biaya. Ia menjelaskan kewajiban membayar agen, biaya pembelian kertas, tinta dan sebagainya. “Digital menolong kita dalam banyak hal,” kata Arif.

Arif juga yakin bahwa Tempo bisa bertahan di era transisi cetak menuju digital karena memiliki keunggulan konten yang khas: long form. Produk jurnalistik long form yang makin langka itu bisa disajikan dalam bentuk digital juga, tegas pria yang tidak setuju jika dikatakan konten media digital itu dangkal. Dalam hal ini saya sepakat karena masalah cetak atau digital cuma perkara medium atau alat saja. Tidak usah terlalu dipusingkan perbedaannya sebab konten apapun jika memang menarik akan selalu didatangi pembaca. “Orang sudah mulai kembali ke long form,” Arif berujar. Cukup masuk akal karena siapa yang tidak muak dengan berita-berita penuh tipu daya di dunia maya dari berbagai situs berita ‘abu-abu’ yang menjadi corong kepentingan segerombol cecunguk yang haus kekuasaan dan kekayaan.

Keunggulan itulah yang tecermin dalam semboyan Tempo: “Story behind news” (cerita di balik berita). Itu karena (majalah) Tempo sadar mereka tidak bisa terbit saban hari atau memutakhirkan perkembangan sebuah kasus segesit media daring dan televisi. “Kami sadar kami akan kalah dalam hal kecepatan jadi kami fokus ke cerita-cerita di balik berita-berita yang Anda semua konsumsi di dot com dan televisi.”

Perihal revolusi internet, Mardiyah menambahkan bahwa dari sudut edukasi kepenulisan, tersedianya ruang berkreasi yang tanpa batas di internet menjadi sebuah peluang besar yang tidak bisa dilewatkan. Ia menyinggung soal maraknya kabar bohong (hoax) di dunia maya. Di sinilah masyarakat makin membutuhkan orang-orang yang memiliki keterampilan menulis yang memadai untuk mengemas gagasan dan pemikiran secara runtut dan logis serta kritis — tidak sembrono apalagi menyajikan kebohongan atau menyembunyikan fakta yang dirasa tidak menguntungkan — agar bisa dinikmati khalayak yang lebih luas.

Aan Mansyur Wants to Go to New York

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-11-46-31An emerging young Indonesian poet writes poems about New York – without even visiting the city. And now he reaps success out of it.

Aan Mansyur never thought of being so famous like nowadays. His poems collection book “Tidak Ada New York Hari Ini” (There Is No New York Today) is now sold out and sought after almost anywhere. A friend of mine had to contact me only to ask me to get her some for herself and another friend. “Because I couldn’t find the book at any bookstores nearby. Sold out, they said,” she explained.

Still working as a librarian at Katakerja Creative Room, Makassar, Mansyur seems to be one of the most productive and promising young poets in the archipelago. Prior to “Tidak Ada New York Hari Ini”, he already published “Aku Hendak Pindah Rumah” (I Want to Move) (2008), “Tokoh-tokoh yang Melawan Kita dalam Satu Cerita” (The Figures who Resist Us in a Story) (2012), “Sudahkah Kau Memeluk Dirimu Hari Ini?” (Have You Given Yourself a Hug Today?) (2012), “Kukila” (2012), “Kepalaku: Kantor Paling Sibuk di Dunia” (My Head: The Busiest Office on Earth) (2014), “Melihat Api Bekerja” (Witnessing Flame Working) (2015), “Lelaki Terakhir yang Menangis di Bumi “(The Last Crying Man on Earth) (2015).

Mansyur just recently rose to stardom when one of his poems was recited by Rangga, a dashing male protagonist of “Ada Apa dengan Cinta 2” (AADC 2)  embodied by Nicholas Saputra, one of Indonesian heart-throbs. In an instant, his poems are in demand like they had never been before. Moviegoers now know him as a fledgling and talented poet behind beautiful poems in AADC 2.

The young Indonesian poet had worked so hard to be at the point he is now at. Leaving an Islamic boarding school (pondok pesantren) at such a young age, Mansyur realized he has often been rescued by poetry in the middle of life crises. With poetry, he has managed to save himself because he felt like he had to communicate and convey something.

Mansyur fell in love for the first time with poems during his high school days. He left the boarding school and moved to another school with no one to befriend. He sought refuge to a library where he discovered “Simponi Dua”, a poetry book by Subagyo Sastrowardoyo.

As a sickly and thin young boy back then, Mansyur felt forlorn and had no friends. The lad was so pessimistic and lonely he got to the point where he felt lucky to live by and survive another day. He thought he would just die soon of sickness.

Upon reading Subagyo’s poems, he was awestruck. He suddenly realized he had so much to talk about this life. And poetry was just the right medium as he was not a talkative person in the first place. “It was so cool to see people can write short like this but it can contain many things to imagine.” Mansyur also find some literary books belonging to his grand father but there were not many poetry books in the collection.

But do not be fooled! Mansyur confessed he is no avid reader of books. As he put it, he became a librarian and poet because he was driven by his overflowing curiosity of life. He chose the job as a librarian to compel him to read. And after reading he would know more and thus he can later answer all the questions in hid own head.

From his acquaintanceship with Subagyo Sastrowardoyo’s literary works, Mansyur worked very hard during his teenage years to emulate the idol. “I failed because it turned out he was more a philosopher than a poet. He wrote about philosophy in his poems and I was clueless about philosophy at the time,” he argued. And after he worked on his poems with such energy to imitate Subagyo, a friend commented Mansyur’s poems read like ones of Sapardi Dojoko Damono, another renowned Indonesian poet. At this point, it had dawned on him that he could not be another Subagyo or another senior poet. What he could do was read their poems and identify which parts of them that he identified as piece of himself and leave other parts that simply do not fit him as a person and poet.

Raised as an orphan, Mansyur took a great deal of inspiration from his mother and grand mother. That explained why he admitted he learned a lot from female poets.

Three of his poetry books are now published in Malaysia and sell like peanuts, he claimed. This makes Mansyur believe he can go international and his works can be enjoyed by greater audience outside his home country without his works being translated into English.

At his book launch, Mansyur who was born in Bone, South Sulawesi got an offer from Lesmana in April 2015. And Mansyur was more than happy to lend a hand. He agreed on contributing his poems to the movie. He even acknowledged the movie has  contributed a lot in shaping the contemporary Indonesia’s poetry landscape. AADC was such a hit in the early 2000s not only in Indonesia but also in the neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Brunei. This years Lesmana launched the sequel and it received positive reviews and intense and widely shared enthusaism among the moviegoers.

The movie has once again brought poems into the mainstream trends. Mansyur observed it helped encourage more young readers in indonesia to read more Indonesia poetry. Suddenly everyone reads poems, and these people are not those old generation in their 60s or 70s who were born in the brighter age of Indonesian poetry.  Young readers are now thriving once again thanks to Rangga, who was depicted as a nerdy, yet tall and handsome bookworm lurking at a school library. Now reading poems seems to be a normal and cool pastime for students of all ages.

But how did the young poet get all the inspiration? How was his creative process actually taking place? First thing first, Mansyur refused to write poems only to be read by other poets. Mansyur denied he writes poems for all his female fans warmly interacting with him via his Twitter account, @hurufkecil. He admitted that the one and only person he wants to read all his poems before anyone else does is his mother, who lives far away from where he lives now. He only meets his mother once in 4-5 years. And this is why he treats all his poetry readers just like his mother. A nearness between two hearts, rather than two physical beings.

It was weird to see a poet with the most earnest and serious, long face like Mansyur’s talking out loud at a stage at Asean Literary Festival 2016 where anyone can see him exposing himself and his private details. But Mansyur admitted he is not a verbal person to his mother. “She lives in Balikpapan, while I’m in Makassar. If you find my language in my poems easy to digest, that is because my mother. She is just a graduate of junior high school,” Mansyur elaborated. His mother is not a type of demanding parent who keeps calling to check up on his son. His mother misses him, for example, when he does not write her any poem after two weeks. “I either send my poems to her or I  recite my latest poems to her on the phone for quite a long time,” he added.

To produce an ample amount of poems for AADC 2, Mansyur worked with a photographer whom he confessed he “never had met even once before”. After writing poems, the poet was to send them to the photographer who lives in New York. The Big Apple was chosen as the background because AADC 2 tells Rangga has moved to the city after 14 years of leaving Indonesia, a country where his high school crush Cinta (Dian Sastro) resides with all her friends. Though he has never visited New York so far, Mansyur was asked by the photographer,”How long have you been in New York?” That indicated the depth of his understanding of the city after doing profound research alone. From the research, he found out what poetry book titles one can normally find at book shelves at a typical bookstore in New York. One of the books inspired him to visit bookstores in New York and get him the book he mentioned but has not read just yet. He likes this poem most although it is not recited by Rangga in the movie.

In AADC 2, Rangga is portrayed as a restless yet established young man in his mature age. He tries to console himself by visiting a small bookstore in the neighborhood and get himself a poetry book to read to kill the time and  the soul-crushing loneliness he has endured.

As a young poet, Mansyur defines himself as someone who is not others. “I have to know other poets’ originality before getting to know mine. I identify myself by getting to know poets other than myself and reading and modifying their poetry until I arrived to a conclusion that every poet has her own strategy, views on languages, and ways of thinking. I realize we sometimes do have similarities but in some points we have to part ways somehow,” Mansyur remarked.

He has seen the rising significance of research as a poet these days. Armed with great details from deep research, he is convinced any poet can generate masterpieces. He strongly believes in the definition of writing poems as an intellectual undertaking. And he does research as he is fueled by unwavering curiosity because to him, writing poetry is a not a means of telling readers what he already knows. Rather, it is a means of telling them what he knows nothing about. Mansyur turns poetry into a vehicle that leads him to the answers to any questions that he thinks might threaten his life.

Mansyur is accused of taking advantage of the romantically anxious Indonesian youths because he selects love as the grand theme of his poets. But he thinks there is nothing wrong with using love as the the theme. He jokingly argued that by picking such theme helps him to state his rebel against the Bugis people way of decorating their houses. “They tend to tastelessly decorate their houses only to impress people so others know how wealthy they are. I want to protest such behavior,” he added. And as a poet, he does so by picking a simple and modest theme in his poetry that everyone can connect to relatively easily, i.e. love. “But I know not many people voluntarily read poems for its social criticism so I put more social criticism inside the deeper layers of my simple poems.”

Through his poems, he also provides enough space for readers to interpret and create their own meanings if they feel they want to. He likened his poem to a house. “If they want to gossip, I provide a living room. If people inside it want to cook, I provide a clean kitchen. If they want to sleep, I provide them a spacious bedroom.” That is how the young poet sees his poetry.

Despite his recent success, Mansyur has no intention to be a poet by profession that helps him make more money for a living. To be a poet, he is willing to do other jobs. “There is no money in poetry…,” Mansyur softly added.

Dubbed as one of literary celebrities on Twitter, Mansyur had a cold attitude. It is just another medium and there should be no overglorification of Twitter. But he agreed on the fact that Twitter really helps him reach wider audience for his poetry. And he feels that it is a good way to reach readers who in turn may purchase his books. As a poetry marketing tool, Twitter proves to be great and efficient. So he fails to understand why some poets think being on social media is dirty, cheap and inappropriate. “Poets are people of paradox. They get angry when only very few of poetry books are sold but when some poetry books sell really well, they claim those books are of very low quality.” He often deals with accusation of making use of his virtual popularity as a means of marketing his books. “They credit my best selling books for my high number of followers. But why does it seem so wrong? Don’t we just want our books to sell well?” he protested while saying he does not see his followers as consumers. Rather, he sees them as audience and Twitter enables the poet and audience interact in real time, in a much easier way. And this is a blessing.

Mansyur has an intention why he deliberately collaborates and cooperates with artists from different fields. He refuses to only cooperate with fellow poets and chooses to work together with movie makers. This way he tries to show his belief that poetry has a unifying power and he puts poetry in trial to prove it can withstand, survive and even flourish in a totally different ‘ecosystem’. With poetry, Mansyur can work together with anyone regardless of their attributes. And he wants to convey this message to everyone.

He also has a very great concern in the issue of Java-centered Indonesian literature and poetry. He has been observing the tremendous scale of Javanese influence on the the Indonesian language and literature curriculum taught in schools throughout the country, including Sulawesi. He agrees he cannot singlehandedly change the fact but he rebels in his own way through social media where everyone and every entity is equal.