Diary Burning: Horrible or Usual?

Andy is a friend of mine who everyone will never thought to be a diary keeper. The 37-year-old guy looks too sturdy and manly. His biceps have girth twice as mine. So is his visceral fat level. Though I take pride that both of us share the same muscle mass percentage. While I’m somewhere between the ‘lean’ and ‘thin’ spectrum, he is positioned at some point in the ‘stocky’ side.

He one day declared that he had managed to successfully let go of anything that he used to clench tightly. These past things were among other things a stack of diaries he wrote and thus treasured for all these years especially during his adolescence years.

“I burned them all down… I am now relieved. I let them go. These past memories. I used to keep them like my gold and silver bars inside my safe. But now that I know it’s no use to hold on to them, I shall move forward, make progress with my current life, and leave everything in the past behind. Hence, total relief,” he went into greater details.

I never took him as a diarist before and I got even more surprised to discover he had burned all of his diaries. What a waste of time and energy and dedication. As a diarist myself, I know too well how much it takes to write a diary entry every single day in your life.

A diary writing session is my very precious time slot in a day. I liked it, as that is just the right time to write about things I cannot write publicly. Things everyone else does not need to know or think or care about. I write it down for myself. Not even for posterity. Well, maybe. But for now, it’s all about myself.

So all that said, I’m questioning my own aim of keeping a diary.

My favorite living diarist David Sedaris was asked by his friend’s 7-year-old child and he wrote about it in one of his books “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” that I love and keep reading for many times.

He wrote like this in response to this question:”That is the question I’ve asked every day since September 5th, 1977. I’d known on September 4th that the following afternoon I’d start keeping a diary without it consuming me for the next 35 years and counting. It wasn’t something I’ve been putting off. Once I began, I knew that I had to keep doing it. I knew it well what I was writing is not a journal but an old-fashioned girlish keep-out-this-means-you! diary. Often the term I use interchangeably though I’ve never understood why. Both have the word “day” as their root but a journal in my opinion is a repository of ideas. Your brain on the page. A diary, by contrast, is your heart. As for journaling, a verb that cropped off around the same time as scrapbooking, that just means you’re spooky and have too much time in your hands.”

“Diary” is about feelings and “journal” is about ideas and thoughts. A journal is more intellectual, filled with worthwhile stuff. But a diary is a feminine form of expressive writing (am I being gender-biased?).

So why is burning down a diary deemed horrible?

Although a diary tends to contain pointless rants, fleeting moments of daily grinds, I still believe that any diary is worth keeping. Keeping a diary is never a regrettable thing for me. Even, it’s a good thing for my psyche. Everyone’s psyche!

And if keeping a diary is one thing you regret, why don’t you just donate or give that away to someone else? But just don’t burn it down in purpose.

I liken burning down a diary to burning down a book. What makes it even worse is the fact that you had spent so much time and energy in the past for it and suddenly for any reasons, you exterminate it with fire. I never condone such a thing. It’s like murdering your past self but that won’t happen because burning down the diaries won’t erase the sad and grey memories we had in life. (*/)

How Smoking Writers Quit Smoking Successfully

Creative people and caffeine and tobacco are like a trio.

When I was working at an advertising agency, I came to learn this fact the hard way. With me as an exception, everyone in the office is a smoker and coffee drinker. Even the female coworkers. Even the female coworker who just had a baby and then was breastfeeding it. I judgmentally questioned her motherhood moral and conscience. What a workplace!

Traumatized by this, I then quit working there and changed my workplace. I was appalled by how much smoke and fumes I had to inhale on working days, giving me a shiver everytime I saw them.

As a writer myself, I have never drawn inspiration from smoke or cigars or cigarettes or any tobacco products. Even the overly-hyped vape!

I am not fueled by those things while writing. I am fueled by fresh water, whole foods and ample night sleep and serenity.

So is it really necessary that writers must smoke?

Two of my favorite writers don’t seem to agree. Even in their professional journey as authors, they can stop smoking totally. And by making the decision, they are even more productive.

David Sedaris has a rather unique story of quitting because he did not quit smoking because of himself. It’s more because the Ritz Carlton staffers who prohibit smoking in all of their establishments. He told NPR that his mother’s tobacco-related death and being shown a lung of a heavy smoker did not change his mind about smoking but once he found out that he can never smoke while spending nights at any Ritz Carlton hotel is a shocking reason to pick from a lot of more logical ones.

Haruki Murakami in his running memoir “What I Talk about When I Talk about Running” said after he sold his club and established a more steady income from writing, he then radically changed his lifestyle.

From nocturnal to diurnal.

From unhealthy to healthy.

From sedentary to active lifestyle.

From an owl to an early riser.

Murakami saw the needs to stay fit because he is the type of person who easily gains weight if going physically inactive. And he is very grateful about this as it encourages him to stay in shape as long as he can so he can write more in life.

And he chose running because running is cheap and doable without any special equipment or infrastructure or supporting facilities. He doesn’t need a world-class jogging track. A decent lane will just do. While he started running, Murakami also gave up smoking.

“Giving up smoking is a kind of natural result from running every day. It wasn’t easy to quit. […] But the desire to run even more makes me not to go back to smoking and a great help in overcoming withdrawal symptoms. Quitting smoking is quite a symbolic gesture of farewell to the life I used to lead.”

So what’s the takeaway from these two authors’ journey to tobaccoless life?

Probably this: A combination of external interventions and some internal motivation could be of greater help for those who want to quit. (*/)

Writers’ Commitment Renewal

Ethiopian_-_John_the_Evangelist_-_Walters_W850153V_-_Open_Reverse

Last night I discovered someone’s Instagram handle. Out of curiosity, I clicked it and I was led to a feed full of heavily edited travel photos, urban landscapes and social gatherings.

Very typical, indeed.

But what caught my attention is the bio of the feed owner. It says: “travel writer”.

Wow!

As a linguist and bibliophile, I just cannot help myself admiring those who have a knack for and talent of writing.

Writers are always intelligently sexy to me. And that is irrespective of their physical shapes.

Travel writers in the glory days of leisure economy are known as a highly respected profession.

They travel for – well maybe – free.

They make money in the process.

They showcase such a leisure lifestyle that everyone envies.

They are on holiday all the time, it seems.

They enjoy being in the wilderness and still looking lively, sprightly, fashionable, photogenic and cool ice cream.

This is a to-die-for job for millenials of my age and generations that follow (Gen X, Y and Z).

But as I clicked, I found a webpage that is dry and deserted.

The most recent post was dated back on some day in 2016.

I compared to his Instagram feed which has quite a huge following for some unknown self-proclaimed travel writer (or it is I who do not know his level of popularity).

Well, I formed a conclusion that now one does not need to get certified by anyone else but himself to be called “travel writer”.

Though you may think I am as sinister buffoon as one can be, I take some lessons to learn for myself from this disappointing discovery.

And one of those is UPDATE YOUR BLOG MORE OFTEN THAN YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FEED!

That is especially recommendable for someone who claims himself or herself a writer by profession. No matter what the field s/he is writing in.

Because if you don’t, you deceive the public.

Social media services has sucked up so much of our time and turning us from writers (read: content creators and producers) to readers (mere consumers of ideas, emotion and information).

So the next time some people think it is enough to become a travel writer by showing a heavily edited holiday photo with a short caption on Instagram, I would say: TRY HARDER. (*/)

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

Slow Writing for Better Results

coffee cup mug apple
(Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

NOW I’m confident enough to say that my slow typing habit is justified and defended by science.

I saw J.K. Rowling showcased an admirable typing speed in the documentary years ago. She punched that keyboard with the enthusiasm I’ve never seen.

I’ve never been and never will be a fast typist. And I once wanted to be a faster one when a friend saw me typing and commented,”Apparently, you do not type with all of your ten fingers. Strange though, because I can.” He continued, he was taught typing with ten fingers long ago while in high school. What kind of school was teaching typing skills, I wonder? It couldn’t be a secretary school because this friend is a guy.

But anyway, that friend tore my ego as a writer apart.

Should a writer be able to write and type faster than non-writers do?

The question haunted me so long until I saw this scientific finding from the researchers from the University of Waterloo.

They said whoever types slower writes better. That means, the quality of our writing enhances when we slow down, not speed up.

The scientists said it was because typing with one hand only seemed to affect one’s important skills in writing, such as how to select apt words for certain contexts. There is no further explanation as to how this is the case but I suppose this was made possible because someone had more time to make decisions regarding words to pick or remove from their compositions.

This is especially true when you aim to write to make impacts.

And maybe the case is so much different if we write only for fun, relief and self expression, or write to take notes for academic purposes in classes or for professional purposes during interviews with some sources or amid meetings with other colleagues or superiors.

I conclude that it’s NOT the speed of writing that can ruin one’s writing quality but it’s more because of the impulsiveness. When I write fast, I notice that I tend to rush (deadline is looming!) and make less accurate choice of words. What I want to achieve is to get the job done. Period.

I’ve heard that writing is basically rewriting for a numerous number of times. To improve writing quality, multiple revisions are not avoided but strongly required even.

Which is why I can totally get it when David Sedaris, one of my favorite living authors, said before he sent a piece to The New Yorker, he had rewritten his article for more than twenty times.

All in all, when writing for quality, just slow down. But writing for emotional and psychological relief, choose to be quick and less picky with vocabularies. (*/)

Light as Antidote of Writer’s Block

AFM01

WRITER’S block is always considered the culprit of every writer’s low productivity (I can imagine some of you nodding in agreement).

But regardless of the triggering cause(s) of writer’s block, what can we actually do about it aside from complaining at all times and blaming it on others?

Two Harvard scientists in 2004 told the world that getting rid of writer’s block is possible. How is it so?

By LIGHT.

So Alice Flaherty who works at Harvard Medical School as neurology instructor and Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson experimented with light to find out whether it can dispell writer’s block or not.

Why light in the first place?

In countries with four seasons, more people are seen to experience a decrease in productivity and originality. The two researchers likened this phenomenon to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is getting more common and widepsread when days are becoming darker and colder. SAD can actually make humans depressed and less creative, which also translates to writer’s block.

The disorder can be healed by getting ourselves exposed to light. In the experiment, subjects were treated by means of light boxes (no sunlight is available in long winter; hence the artificial light sources). They sat in front of the light boxes so they can enjoy the light as if it had been from the sun.

As for me, my takeaway from this research that I won’t have to get myself a pricey light box in front of which I must sit patiently. That’s because I have the most effective, natural, free light source for this therapy: the sunlight!

800px-Sunbathing_couple

Reference:

The brains behind writer’s block

Will Writers Be Replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

person holding white paper and typewriter
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly intruding our civilization, everyone from every job sector seems to be frantic and anxious right now.

“Will I be replaced by a robot?”

“Will I lose my current job in the near future to a machine?”

“Will I be jobless because of all this AI trend in my industry?”

Regardless of your professions, these questions are haunting us.

As a writer myself, I also share the same worry with you all, people.

Wired.com took an optimistic view towards the issue by stating that “Narrative Science” is not going to replace journalists/ reporters with AI/ robots. Both can be hopefully complimenting each other if humans want to.

It says:

In 20 years, there will be no area in which Narrative Science doesn’t write stories.”

Still cited from Wired.com, we are also ensured that AI is actually useful for journalists but can never replace human journalists and editors for their more strategic decision making tasks.

But this technology seems to have taken over only some of the grunt work.

Undoubtedly, the development of AI in journalism and writing is intriguing and inevitable but only time can decide how it evolves in the next 10, 20, or 30 years from now.

But, here’s the thing. Imagine our news outlets are dominated by AI-generated content, which shows no empathy, no humane feelings, and to some extent, opinionated-ness. How dry is a piece of news written by a robot that has no past memories, beloved ones, or people they despise so much? You get my point.

So the good news for us writers is NOT ALL jobs will be replaced that easily by Artificial Intelligence. There’re four (4) types of occupation that are predicted to be impossible to be replaced by AI in the future.

Kai-Fu Lee – as quoted from his writeup in Times magazine this month – mentioned four types of irreplacable jobs in the modern history of humanity:

  1. Creative jobs: In creative processes, there’ll be no clear and rigid objectives.
  2. Complex, strategic jobs: You’ll see people like business executives, diplomats, economists here.
  3. Jobs created by AI and thus currently non-existent: Only God knows how this is going to be like.
  4. Empathetic and compassionate jobs: Good news for teachers, nannies, doctors! You all are indispensable workforce in the 21st century.

Fellow writers, we fall into the first category!

But don’t be too happy. If you’re a writer that only reports what you see (like what a conventional 20th century reporters did) or a churnalist (a pseudo journalist that merely rewrites other people’s work), you’re certainly going to be sacked sooner or later. And even if you can survive, you’ll be really suffering due to the crazily, inhumanely low salary and wage.

Don’t do the grunt work!

Don’t just compile facts!

Don’t just type and publish to get clicks or page views!

Be a creative writer that produces something worthwhile a robot, algorithm, application, software, or AI can never ever manage to create easily without humans’ assistance.

 

References:

https://www.wired.com/2012/04/can-an-algorithm-write-a-better-news-story-than-a-human-reporter/

https://www.wired.com/2017/02/robots-wrote-this-story/

After 9 Years of Blogging Tirelessly…

silver macbook pro
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! (*/)

 

 

 

 

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.

Integrity

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.

Organization

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 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! (*)

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.