Writing from ‘Corners’

Sometimes you have to shift the focus, from the limelight to the corners. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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? (*/)

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).


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

Travel writers

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

Fiction writers (novelists)

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

Practice 1 (15 minutes)

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

How to monetize your English writing skills

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

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

Practice 2 (15 minutes)

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

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

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

Last but not least…

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

5 Essential Elements of Storytelling Travel Writers Should Never Miss

(Credit: Cecep)

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

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

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

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


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. (*)

Manual Book: Anatomi dan Penyusunan

(Sumber foto” Wikimedia Commons)

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. (*)

Berlatih Menulis Gaya Lama

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

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

Seperti apa latihan menulis fiksi gaya lama yang ia lakukan?

Eksperimen Sudut Pandang

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

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

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

Detail Pribadi

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

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


Siapa Bilang Minat Baca dan Tulis Kita Rendah?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cara Mengajarkan Menulis dalam Bahasa Asing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tantangan dalam Mengajar Menulis

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

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

Santai Itu Penting

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

Pentingnya Instruksi Menulis yang Baik

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

Elemen-elemen Instruksi Menulis yang Baik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenis Teks

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

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

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

Proses Menulis

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

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

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

Model Workshop

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

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

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


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

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

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

A Day in the Life as a Copywriter

As the year changed , I also did some changes in my life. Professionally, now I’m no longer a full-time yoga teacher and writer cum journalist. And I’m learning and adapting to a new profession of copywriting.

No one says it’s easy. And guess what, it is NOT. I have to deal with a great deal of deadlines every single day. Even at night I still have to do some work and weekends might not be immune to deadline, too. News told us how horrible life of a copywriter can be. We’ve read news about Indonesian copywriter dying of overwork.

As crazy as it may seem what I like from this new world is the challenge, which is enormous and daunting at times. But that’s, if you think more, manageable still.

Copywriting that I do is more of writing copies for corporations, be it annual reports (mostly though) or manual books or calendars.

So today I woke up around 10 to five am. Why so early? I push myself to wake up early to pray. And after performing my morning prayer, I resumed my sleep for around 1-2 hours. This is not advisable though but what can I do if I still feel drowsy?

Yesterday was weekend but I had to finish a draft of a chapter of annual report on good corporate governance. For you foreign to this stuff, good corporate governance or simply abbreviated GCG (I swear there’re many other abbreviations you won’t ever heard elsewhere in the realm of copywriting) means how a corporation runs its business responsibly. That’s all. And they report it in detail. Very detailed you can find a company with hundreds of pages dedicated only to this page. So you can imagine how thick it is.

The copywriting of annual report I’m doing is relatively easy because I may take a look at the previous year’s release and imitate what is already used there. But of course I have to modify here and there according to necessary and latest changes and updates. This is where the hardest part of the job. I need to pay a great attention to details. And that’s not an easy thing to do for like more than 10 hours a day.

The first semester of the year like now is the most hectic period of the copywriting gigs because companies need their reports done before a set date of their annual shareholders meeting. And it causes a lot of tension and drama because I’ve been in a company too and I’ve seen people in it get stressed out and work overtime to collect data to complete their reports for the bosses. Collecting data internally seems a piece of cake but it is not. It’s another hardwork for anyone doing it.

At 8 am, I had my morning walk (because I take a bus from where I live to where I work) and it takes usually 15 minutes, enough to make me sweat if I have no time to work out. Today I have no such privilege but usually I bike to the nearby park and do some workout and brief yoga session.

Though the office hour starts at 9 am, I try to start earlier (though most of my coworkers start whenever they feel like starting). I decide I have to apply discipline and regularities in my work life to be living better or else, I can get sick easily. I like this job but I won’t be dying for this.

It’s now 14:30 and I just found out I was working on the wrong document. The document I translated yesterday was not the updated version and there were some changes left out. If you think I would freak out to discover this while working on another document, you are wrong. I was as calm as a swan floating on a serene lake. I might be distracted but then I came to think of the problem. “Just do it. It’s only updating the result of your toil yesterday…” No drama. And poof by 16:30 the document is done and translated perfectly into English.

The clock shows 6 pm. And that means we may leave this workplace. I won’t stay if I really have the chance to leave. It’s not that I hate the place or the people in it. It’s just because I need my down time as an introverted worker. In my own place is what I badly need after a day of getting together with others. Being alone is my oasis in the desert of social life. And anyway, I can still work anywhere else. As long as the deadline is met, there’s no reason to get stuck here although some of my coworkers prefer to stay thoughout the day. Yes, they really spend the nights at the office. But I’m not one of those communal, extroverted people who feel convenient enough to spend my entire 24-hour life with others without my own private space. I need that private space, physically and mentally, to survive the tight schedule and workload.

It’s 9 pm and I’m still working on a company’s report but then a coworker calls and tells me,”We still need a document of improvement. Please send it out by 9.30 pm. We must have it with us to see the client tomorrow.”

What can I do?

All I can do is do what is asked, of course. I have to what I have to do. Thank God, we copywriters have templates. That helps a lot in this time of urgency and emergency when the brain is like almost falling apart for working too long.

The document is sent via email and I can see the wind blowing hard outside. The weather has not been very kind lately so I prefer going home early than staying too long in the office. The night weather is so unpredictable and unforgiving. Health is my very treasured asset especially in this demanding profession. I won’t let myself fall sick when I can stay as healthy as possible. It’s silly to see how people always push themselves for work but neglect what their body and mind need. That’s awful. I like and love and adore my job but still I have to leave it when I have to because that’s what I must do to be able to do it longer in my life. Working long hours insanely just doesn’t work for me. And I keep telling no to such demands. I know my limits and that’s my rule and people must respect that.

It’s 9.30 pm and I’m done with the work stuff. It’s time to shower. A cold shower after so much brain work really helps me unwind. And then the head is getting sleepy. But before the night rest, I’m tempted to check up on what my friends are up to on social media. I know I shouldn’t have done that. Because it’s very hard to stop. Everytime I or one of us says good night, that’s when another person begins another topic to discuss or a line to respond to.

It’s 11.13 pm, I guess and I’m really sleepy after more than an hour of chat. Nuts! I planned to go to bed way earlier but somehow I failed. But anyway, it’s time well spent to have a chat with them while I feel like I have to reconnect with them. It’s been weeks I don’t see them and we grow apart. We get too busy with ourselves and this is the only chance to get close together. Albeit virtually, it’s enough already.

Digital Journal

IF you ask me when and where we first met just like what some people did on Facebook, instead of relying on my grey cells that are reluctant to save trivial social information well, I will try to leave through my diary that I have kept for the past several years.

I have started documenting people I have encountered since the first day and it feels marvelous because I can revisit the memory again and again even if the person in question or circumstance has changed a bit or a lot. 

At first, I simply wrote it down in a notebook but then I changed my mind. One main reason is that it will never provide you the security and privacy. And what makes it more disturbing is that people who are the most likely to trespass your privacy line are the ones who are the closest to you. That means they can be family members or best friends with unnecessary curiosity. This is why I ditched the idea of keeping a journal in its physical form. Too unsafe to keep from the uninvited readers.

By shifting to the digital form, it is very much easier and more secure to jot down and save every bit of memory and experience and emotion from the eyes of the unwanted. And even if a hacker can go through your digital diary, we are least likely to suffer from indignation or shame simply because the information is deemed valueless in the hand of someone without any meaningful relationships. Yet, that would not be the case if the hacker is one of the people who have interest or relationships in such a way with the digital diary keeper.

I know some authors who do not possess a single bit of interest in keeping such journals on daily basis. Joanne K. Rowling for example admits she never keeps a diary. She poured her creative energy into her fiction writing. They are way too busy with all these fiction works they are making.

But to me, reality is the inspiration of fiction works, and in some way it can supply myself with a huge number of ideas. And because my imagination thrives rampantly by things I see and perceive in the real world, keeping track of what I experience is vital to my fiction writing process. (*)

Biografer Keblinger

Salah satu jenis buku nonfiksi yang paling menantang untuk ditulis ialah buku biografi. Pengerjaannya memakan waktu, butuh banyak biaya, menghabiskan tenaga dan pikiran. Penulis mesti mewawancarai tidak cuma si karakter sentral yang kehidupannya akan dibeberkan tetapi juga semua orang yang memiliki sangkut paut dengan kehidupan tokoh utama.

Ambil contoh biografer sekaliber dunia Walter Isaacson. Ia saja yang sekampiun itu memerlukan waktu dua tahun lebih untuk menyelesaikan penulisan buku biografi Steve Jobs. Ia memang mengerjakannya sendiri tetapi tentu pengalaman dan reputasinya sebagai pewarta terkemuka banyak membantu untuk mempercepat penyelesaian proyek buku tersebut. Isaacson mewawancarai ratusan orang untuk melengkapi cerita. Dari kawan, keluarga, rekan bisnis, kenalan sampai musuh bebuyutan Jobs juga tidak ada yang luput. Layaknya menata banyak kepingan puzzle, ia mencocokkan keterangan banyak orang itu untuk membuat cerita makin mendekati kenyataan sebenarnya. Kerjanya mirip tim pencari fakta dari sebuah kasus di masa lalu.

Melelahkan secara intelektual memang tetapi begitu selesai puasnya bukan kepalang.

Kerja Isaacson juga lebih mudah karena Jobs sendiri tidak mengekang proses penulisan. Ia tidak ikut campur tentang isinya, mana yang boleh dimasukkan atau yang sebaiknya dihapus agar citra diri tidak ternoda. Tetapi karena saat itu Jobs sudah sadar dirinya sekarat karena kanker, ia tak mau ambil pusing. Terserahlah kau mau tulis apa tentangku, begitu kira-kira pesannya pada Isaacson dalam sebuah sesi perjalanan kaki. Jobs memang dikenal suka berjalan kaki daripada duduk diam di kursi saat membicarakan masalah yang amat genting. Berjalanan mungkin membuatnya lebih rileks.

Biografer yang sial akan menemukan orang yang ingin dirinya ditulis dalam buku tetapi sangat ingin memelihara citranya. Saya pernah mengalami itu. Dan kini entah bagaimana nasib proyek itu. Padahal sudah transkrip wawancara berpuluh-puluh orang juga. Kalaupun rampung, isinya juga pasti membosankan karena melulu mengagung-agungkan sosok utama di dalamnya. Mirip advertorial. Hanya saja ini subjeknya manusia, bukan produk atau jasa. Membuat muntah pembaca yang kritis.

Tetapi untuk menjadi biografer, yang terkenal sampai ke zaman selanjutnya, kerja pikiran yang sedahsyat itu bisa juga tidak terlalu diperlukan. Lihat saja karier Feng Menglong, seorang sastrawan Tiongkok yang pernah hidup di tahun 1574 sampai 1646. Ia dianggap sebagai pakar sastra paling bersinar di eranya selain karena kiprahnya menulis dan menyunting sejumlah karya sastra dan cerita pendek, juga karena tulisan biografinya yang digemari masyarakat.

Biografi yang ditulis Feng tidak mengisahkan perjuangan seorang tokoh besar masa itu, juga bukan tentang penjahat terkeji, atau orang bijak terkemuka atau pejabat paling berprestasi atau seniman paling tersohor di dinasti Ming saat ia hidup.

Alih-alih biografi semacam itu, Feng malah memilih menulis biografi pelacur. Para perempuan penghibur ini bukan sembarang pelacur sebab menurut Feng, mereka ini memenuhi kriteria kecantikan dan keterampilan menghibur yang di atas rata-rata. “Jinling Baimei”, demikian judulnya, memuat biografi 100 wanita tuna susila paling seksi dan panas di kota Nanjing, Tiongkok. Urutannya bukan alfabetis tetapi peringkat. Iya, ia memeringkat para perempuan ‘berbakat’ ini layaknya sebuah kontes.

Ketertarikan Feng menulis biografi orang-orang dari latar profesi yang tidak lazim ini memang wajar saja karena hobinya yang utama selain menggumuli dunia sastra ialah bermain perempuan.

Ya, tak masalah. Yang penting biografi pelacur itu laris dan kariernya makin meroket. Siapa bilang biografi harus membahas tokoh-tokoh yang ideal, alim, soleh, inspiratif?

Mungkin nanti dini hari saya harus bersiap memburu narasumber potensial. Kabarnya mereka tak jauh dari tempat saya tinggal. Mereka bertebaran, keluar bak laron di musim hujan, saat malam mendekati fajar. Begitu yang saya pernah dengar dari para sopir taksi yang kerap melintasi daerah Karet Pedurenan.