As of now, I have been a diarist for years. I have been blogging for 9 years I have also been working as a professional writer for 8 years. I have also published my work although it is still under a big publisher’s name instead of my own name.
So today I found this interesting scientific finding on sciencedaily.com. It read:’Writing a ‘thank you’ note is more powerful than we realize”.
I was startled.
I have no idea how significant a thank-you note’s impact can have on human beings.
But as I gave it a deeper thinking, I can make sense of this.
Let’s delve into the report first. The University of Texas at Austin published this finding on August 28, 2018. “New research proves writing letters of gratitude, like Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Thank You Notes,’ is a pro-social experience people should commit to more often. The gesture improves well-being for not only letter writers but recipients as well,” wrote the website.
The subjects of experiment were told to write a letter of gratitude to someone who has done something good for him or her and then expect the reaction of the recipients. But if you’re an introverted person like I am, chances are you’ll find saying gratitude in person is a daunting task. Not to mention the growing anxiety of being misunderstood.
The researchers also pointed out these issues, too. They said anxiety about what to say or fear of their gesture being misunderstood causes many of us to avoid expression of genuine gratitude.
The takeaway of the study is that we should from now consider writing and sending people around us (whether they be family members, coworkers, etc) more thank-you notes.
What needs to be taken into consideration is that writing such a brief note, though, is not an easy feat for anyone. Even for those who proclaim themselves as prolific writers or professional writers, writing a heartfelt letter takes another type of skill and, of course, bravery to let our vulnerability known to another person or others. (*/)
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! (*/)
WHILE I have seen so many people talking about writing and its positive effects at school or at home, never have I discovered people applying writing as an inseperable part of their therapy for serious mental illnesses such as addiction. With so much instant gratification available 24/7 around us, I suppose addiction cases number has never declined in these recent years. Let’s say drug addiction. It has been forever since humanity waged war against drugs but to date no signs show that there is any possibility that it will soon or later abate, drop or totally vanish.
In the documentary short movie “Internado” published on Aeon which you can view and play now, you might have never thought of the use of writing as a mega useful tool to help control one’s unbearable addiction. Here the prominent psychiatrist named Dr. Martin Nizama Valladolid who works for National Institute of Mental Health in Lima, Peru, proves that literature and grand-scale, rigorous and disciplined writing (as well as arts and humanity sciences) can be applied to control severe cases of addiction that some of the world’s population are suffering these days.
And these addictions are not only ones related to drugs but also alcohol, internet, virtual games, and so forth. These addicts are sedated (so treatments are never conducted at their own will) and taken to the institution at the request of heavily concerned family members who have signed agreements so that their beloved are taken and treated in the mental institution for at least 50 consecutive days. They are ‘grounded’ in such a way. They are separated from the society and most importantly, their sources of addiction. They are much like prisoners in that way. And it is even better that these addicts are not functional members of society, which means they are unemployed. They are likely to become a potential source of social problems in the society they are living in. So before it is too late, their family members take them to the mental institution to be corrected.
To cut the long story short, the initial treatment only lasts around 50 days but then they are sent back to their homes. But it does not mean freedom. They are under scrutiny. And parents or guardians or other family members have already cooperated with the institution to apply a rigid daily schedule to these ‘interns’. Their way of living are seriously controlled. Family members are also educated to be in line with the institution’s rules and code of conducts so outcomes later on will be satisfactory because unless they cooperate and support all processes, addicts are never healed.
It is not always about discipline though. Addicts as well as their family members are reimmersed in moral values, affection, love and the value of hard work and meaningful life by means of literature and arts. They are made to read hundreds of canons, high quality literary works which most of them have never enjoyed before. But now that their days are filled with total silence (yes, they are not allowed to communicate with other people even fellow interns especially in certain sessions), they are forced to retreat from lives full of pursuit of things they are so addicted with to ones filled with peace and calmness. Almost like a hermit living in a jungle. They are made to contemplate more about what they did, have done and thus to control what they are now doing because the future depends on the present. Gone are days full of violence, conflicts, shouts full of anger, vulgarity, obscenity, horrible bickerings and traumatic fights. It is like they have been racing throughout their life and now suddenly they are told to stop and be calm, silent, still, and meditative like a Buddhist monk.
To let that overflowing negativity out of the system, expressive writing are used. Interns are required to write and draw every single day for a certain period of time. And the goal is so ambitious – almost impossible – for people who were not born and trained as writers or artists. They have to write in longhand 11,000-page ‘thesis’ which is autobiographical by nature. That way, they cannot copy and paste in a few clicks to accomplish the mission. And it solely depends on Valladolid’s decision whether one is healed and entitled to freedom or has to undergo the next phase of treatment at the institution. Those interns who succeeded to write 11,000 pages are let go.
I am so impressed by the use of literature and writing here to occupy addicts’s troubled minds. Both are just the best tools to divert their energy and attention to a more beneficial and meaningful aspect of life so they are not overtaken again by triggers of addiction. Though I too think that writing 11,000 pages is totally impossible for someone with no extraordinary writing talent (because even my favorite novel “A Little Life” only spans 800-ish pages and it is already considered gargantuan) but considering the impact and costs of addiction on the society as a whole, this is worthwhile. So worthwhile. (*/)
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. (*/)
Don’t try to write about winners. Too many people have written about them. Write about losers. They’re many and everywhere to see but each has a unique stroy to tell.
That’s what Mitch Albom stated in his talks:
“Go to the corners. The best stories I’ve ever written come out of those corners.”
The best stories are not always about winners or those with gold medals in their necks. Some are even less than that but they actually hide equally touching or even more heart-wrenching and inspiring lessons to let audience know.
Albom discovered one of his best while he was covering Olympics in Barcelona 1992.
He was sitting around and the story came to him unexpectedly. “Sometimes stories come to you when you put yourself in certain places.”
When everyone there seemed to be engrossed with Carl Lewis, the fastest runner at the time, Albom spotted a runner who seemed to fail to make it. This poor runner failed to perform as he wished because his hamstring got injured.
Every spectator thought he was done.
But as a writer, Albom had his instinct to keep an eye on him.
“He was in the lane, lying down on his knees. You can see his agonizing pain. He got up and cried.”
And then Albom saw an unexpected scene afterwards. There was a man running towards the failing runner. He grabbed the runner and lifted him up and persisted to walk the runner along the remaining track. Everyone seeing this cheered them up. In marathon, if you do cross the finsih line, no matter what your time is, you’re entered in the book as one who gets there fastest. So what matters most is that you finish.”
Albom ran towards them and talked to both. As the two men were in tears, he found a fact that the runner is the man’s son.
“That’s what my father taught me how to run when I was a little boy…,” the runner said to Albom.
Writing from ‘corners’ sounds very counterintuitive, I must say. But this is a worth-trying approach to gain a fresh perspective towards an issue or topic.
When everyone’s attention is absorbed by winners, those who fail sometimes save the best lessons for us writers.
I find this very useful for novices and beginners in writing who assume they have to find a huge and spectacular story to write so that they can be called a great writer.
Some writers are known because of their great and grand themes. Some are not but still they make great success. The second succeed thanks to their instinct of finding the most substantial themes in life among piles of mundane, ordinary and boring things around them. In other words, they write about things most people and new writers ignore or choose to ignore in a greated depth, a fresh angle and a brand new style no author has ever tried or dared before.
What’s your most mundane story? And how can you turn them into captivating stories? (*/)
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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! (*)
TRAVELING is the best time for shopping! I mean, shopping of experiences, instead of goods. I am not an anti-materialism advocate in this case but I am hooked by the idea a thought leader said that “if you have money, buy experience. Don’t buy things.”
I guess that’s one of the root causes of why leisure economy is skyrocketting these days. It explains why suddenly working hard is no longer as cool as it used to be. Working smart (less sweat, more results) and going on vacation a lot is. This is understandable as more younger generations can see how flawed and unbalanced the lifestyle of their parents (babyboomers) who sacrifice their wellbeing in exchange of their financial stability.
So if you’re fond of traveling and really think that writing is also your best knack to earn a living (or simply another extra income), you may find the following points I elaborate here useful.
Here are some essential elements for you travel writers to bear in mind. Read on.
As a travel writer or blogger, your main task is bring your audience from their mundane whereabouts (homes, offices, nursery homes, buses, commuter lines, etc) to a place you think they need to see, visit and enjoy fully.
Detailed, interesting and well-arranged description on places such as tourist attractions you just visited is one and the foremost element in travel writing that helps you attract readers. Details like these help form images in your readers’ brain. This vicarious thrill drags them to your world of experience without them being there as well.
Adjectives you may use have to vary. Cliches such as “beautiful”, “awesome”, and “gorgeous” can be avoided to keep boredom at bay. Instead of directly providing the entire verdict of your observation, let readers decide themselves by serving them details tourists usually miss on tours. Pay more attention to small things such as how fresh the air is, the condition, width and length of roads to get to the destination, etc.
But to add description only to your travel exposition is not enough.
After a setting description that captures readers’ attention, you also ought to tell them what you do along the trip with people you run into and you travel with. Of course, you can set the line of privacy. Share only activities you feel comfortable enough to share without compromising your privacy. There are interactions that bring inspiration or positivity in the mind of readers. These are ones you need to add to your writing.
Describe interactions that occur naturally on your trip. As you observe, find out what is unique or inspiring or eye-opening or insightful from this. As a traveler, you’re also an anthropologist actually. You not only see and adore landscapes before you but also humans and interactions around you. This element – if carefully picked – can allow you to be an authentic storyteller.
No pretense. Just essence.
And interactions can comprise larger than ones with other humans. It can mean interactions with mother nature and – if you’re in the meditative, soul-searching mode – your own self or psyche. Along the trip, you make conversations with yourself. And because this is so cerebral and private, you need to divulge this in the form of writing.
Touristy places are nice but they won’t always give you new stuff to discover. If you can make a choice yourself, go to a place where very few tourists are willing to visit. Definitely, this may mean you have to sacrifice some degree of convenience. For example, when offered two options of route when hiking a hill, I could pick the shorter route with more even roads and treks. But I am also told that on a longer route, I could enjoy a better view, see more trees, and breathe in more fresh air. With my body ready to enjoy this trip to its fullest, I pick the longer route.
Also, add more history so readers know contexts of whatever place you visit. When was it built? Why was it founded? Who built it? Was there any background event or incident to accompany the description? It all enriches the travel writing you’re composing.
Like any other work of storytelling such as short stories, novellas and novels, your travel writing also needs to have its own central conflict. Don’t present too many. Concentrate on one single conflict so your writing is sharp and focused.
In additoon, choose a conflict that make people stick to your writing until its last paragraph.
This may be your self reflections. Add some certain things that might remind you of given pivotal moments in life. What comes from your journey can also evoke the similar emotion from readers as well. (*)
Buku manual (manual book) belum banyak dikenal oleh masyarakat luas. Bagi Anda yang menyukai hal-hal yang berbau pertukangan, kelistrikan, teknik, teknologi informasi, komputer dan sejenisnya, buku manual mungkin sudah familiar dan bahkan menjadi santapan sehari-hari.
Bagi yang belum tahu buku manual, buku ini secara garis besar memuat instruksi-instruksi, terutama yang berkenaan dengan cara-cara menjalankan sebuah mesin atau mempelajari sebuah subjek. Kata ‘manual’ sendiri berasal dari ‘manus’ (bahasa Latin) yang artinya tangan. Jadi, secara umum buku manual membahas soal apa yang harus dilakukan oleh seseorang untuk menjalankan atau mengoperasikan sesuatu.
Menyusun sebuah buku manual memiliki tantangan dan kemudahannya tersendiri jika dibandingkan dengan buku biasa. Tantangannya adalah bagaimana penulis mampu meringkas dan meramu informasi penting secara mengalir, enak dibaca dan mudah dicerna. Di sini, penulis tidak perlu berpanjang lebar menjelaskan segala-galanya. Yang perlu dilaksanakan si penulis ialah memfokuskan uraian dalam buku manual hanya pada topik-topik yang sudah ada dan lazim dikemukakan dalam sebuah buku manual. Bagi mereka yang terbiasa menulis fiksi atau artikel blog yang menyediakan banyak ruang untuk berimprovasasi dan bereksperimen dengan kata-kata, tampaknya akan menjadi orang yang paling banyak menemukan batasan dalam proses penulisan manual book.
Kemudahannya ialah penulis tidak perlu menghabiskan banyak waktu dalam proses penulisan manual book. Kenapa? Karena lazimnya ketebalan manual book hanya belasan halaman. Namun, tentu saja ada beragam faktor yang menentukan ketebalan buku manual. Yang paling utama ialah kompleksitas atau kerumitan sebuah subjek yang dibahas. Makin rumit, bisa dimaklumi makin tebal juga buku manualnya.
Terkait anatomi buku manual, biasanya sebuah buku manual tersusun dari sejumlah bab utama yang bervariasi sesuai dengan bidang yang menjadi subjek pembahasan. Untuk contoh, mari kita lihat sebuah manual book tentang logo perusahaan. Dalam buku manual ini, terkandung tiga bab: filosofi, unsur dasar dan aplikasi/ pemakaian.
Dalam filosofi, dapat diuraikan secara singkat dan jelas mengenai landasan pemikiran sebuah logo yang dipilih oleh sebuah entitas bisnis. Dalam bab Unsur Dasar, penulis dapat menuangkan beragam hal esensial dalam sebuah logo bisnis. Di sini dijelaskan secara rinci makna-makna yang ingin disampaikan melalui pemilihan beragam unsur visual dan desain yang spesifik, termasuk di dalamnya ialah pemilihan warna, jenis font, bentuk unik, tipografi, dan sebagainya. Semua ini perlu dijelaskan secara tertulis untuk menyampaikan pesan yang standar dan sama kepada seluruh pihak yang berkepentingan dengan perusahaan yang bersangkutan.
Kemudian di bab terakhir, aplikasi atau pemakaian logo, penulis memungkasi buku dengan menjelaskan lebih mendetail soal penggunaan logo beserta deskripsi visualnya dalam bentuk foto atau gambar yang spesifik. Yang tidak kalah penting ialah pemberian uraian yang singkat, padat dan jelas mengenai hal-hal yang terlarang untuk dilakukan dengan logo perusahaan yang bersangkutan. Larangan tersebut agar pesan yang ingin disampaikan perusahaan tidak terdistorsi. (*)
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 thriller “Gone 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)”.
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.
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. (*)