Diary Burning: Horrible or Usual?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why is burning down a diary deemed horrible?

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

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

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

How Smoking Writers Quit Smoking Successfully

Creative people and caffeine and tobacco are like a trio.

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

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

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

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

So is it really necessary that writers must smoke?

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

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

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

From nocturnal to diurnal.

From unhealthy to healthy.

From sedentary to active lifestyle.

From an owl to an early riser.

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

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

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

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

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

JK Rowling Shared Her Writing Tips

“Would you like to be an author? Read as much as you can. I’d say read anything. The more you read the better. Because it’ll teach you what you like and what you think makes a good writing. It will increase your vocabulary. And you just have to keep on and on writing and then you’ll find you hate most of what you write at first but sooner or later you’ll write something that you quite like. And lots of trees would have to die and it’s because you’ll be crumpling everything up…” – J. K. Rowling

"Writing is an Art and You Don't Rush Art" – Super Wealthy Authors

‎I hate disturbingly affluent authors. Not that I want to choke them to death or beat them with pebbles or decapitate them like that poor Japanese journalist. I’m not that mean, seriously.

It’s more because they have the luxury and privilege ,or whatever you call it, ‎ to write their best works without having to give a single ( sorry) damn to what the market or readers or buyers or publishers desire. Deadlines are given but still they make sense and there’s still much time to produce and rewrite and rewrite like a thousand times so the best stuff can be served to people awaiting to read.

Joanne Rowling aka J. K. Rowling once said she never bothered whether she had to publish “The Casual Vacancy” or not. She for a period of time enjoyed ‎the secrecy and privacy of writing for the sake of writing, something missing while she was writing Harry Potter series for 17 years. She clearly didn’t write solely for financial purposes after being filthy rich. After the wildly successful Harry Potter series, Rowling seems to be very very very few authors on the Earth who least need more sources of income to support her daily basic expenses and besides, her spouse is a doctor!

Just like Rowling, Elizabeth Gilbert shared quite similar a fortunate story‎. After becoming a rich and illustrious memoirist, Gilbert also found solace in the abundant wealth she got in exchange for her privacy. You know what I mean because she wrote a heartfelt memoir on her love and spiritual life. Such a larger-than-life topic to cover within a single literary work, in fact.

But with the loss of privacy, she obtained the freedom of writing. She can use the money she’s got from the previous memoir royalty to fund the publication of her next ambitious fiction project‎, The Signature of All Things.

I’m convinced that these authors are not just lucky. Even if it is luck, I can argue that luck must be built. They worked their way up there. They started early, they’ve known what‎ they wanted to do since childhood.

Writing is an art, and you can’t rush art but why do deadlines exist in the first place? Anyone knows?

Lessons from the Book Launch

The coach mentioned, as long as my memory serves right, about this site called future.me. As he told in an exuberant manner on why everyone should visit the site and write down to his own future self, I got a shiver.

“You can write down your own life plans there to your future self. And what matters most is that… y’all will get the plans in your email inbox at the specified time. So if you set it to be sent 10 years from now, you’ll get the email 10 years from now. As simple as that. So if you cannot rach your desired goals, you’ll be so sorry. That means you suck and you must work harder and find the answer as to why you suck in this life,” the coach extolled the undertaking of planning life.

The audience kept silent. They moved nothing. Their eyes might roll in bewilderment. “What this ambitious, seemingly successful and wealthy young man was trying to tell us?”they might think.

I was stunned by this. Do we really have to think that way? Do we need to insult ourselves in the future just because we fail to achieve the objectives in our 10-year, or 20-year, life plans? Some people think we do.

I don’t, however.

I’m not that mad to plan my life in such a way. Not because I don’t have any ambitions in life. Not at all. I do have a list of ambitions. I want to get published a lot. I want to meet great people. I want to write books and anything useful for others. I want to have more freedom in life, making choices and taking responsibilities. I want to have my own family someday. I want to enrich my life with yoga, whether it be teaching or practicing. I want to be happy, ample and free. And the list goes on.

But life doesn’t always go your way. You cannot control life anyhow, no matter how great you are. Life is too powerful to conquer and to be controlled.

All these years, it has dawned on me that being a human being means accepting the fact you’re microscopic cosmic dusts in this infinite universe. Seriously, we in fact almost means nothing. Whether we exist or not, the world keeps going as it has to be. The sun keeps on shining even if your most beloved ones are dead. The Milky Way is still up there even if it’s time for us to leave this world. We’re really a mere complement to this world. Not more.

That said, I arrive to the conclusion that life always offers you failures. But some failures are not real failures. This type of failure leads us to a better life at times. What seems to be bad luck sometimes changes into an unbeaten, hidden path leading us to a higher level of life achievement which you didn’t even plan or never cross your mind before.

So when my future self receives the email in 2025, I might crack a smile and write a satire of it. Because it feels like I read a letter from a childlike version of me. Life so far has taught me how fast humans can change their minds, their beliefs, their spouses, their careers. And chronicling it enables us to track down the development of our foolishness.

I may lose some things in life but it doesn’t mean I’m a total loser. So long as I do my best in life, how can I become a loser?

To the coach, I wish I could say this:”Get a life.”

But thank God I held my sharp tongue. He’s still in his twenties. I hope he learns a lot over time.

Life After the Book Launch

Nothing‎ changes after the book launch took place days ago. The blue boy still gets busy with his dreams, plans and future itinerary while time is floating subtly as usual. He goes to campus, attends classes, and takes notes. Everything a university student usually does.

Or not. I just find out it’s the time when university students take recess between semesters. So that explains why the book launch was on last Saturday.

He works like a slave even on weekends. I don’t even understand why he has to do so in the first place. Get a life, I say it to him but soon I find out it’s I who need the reminder more than he. I work ‎on weekends sometimes, I admit it. But it doesn’t feel like work because my pastime is the same thing I do for a living. I write.

Speaking of the intensity of my love of writing, I almost throw up when I want to declare: “Writing is my spouse”. That sounds a little bit too much for a normal guy. I then sit and touch my forehead lightly and mumble,”Gosh! Maybe I’m not.” I should see a psychiatrist perhaps. This is not good for my well being. Blame it all on Elizabeth Gilbert and her wildly inspiring TED Talk about writing serving as home. But as I realize how easy spouses can get divorced these days, I change my mind. I don’t want to marry writing.

The last time I wrote a long and more intellect-demanding piece on weekend, a silly and curly old spinster warned,”You shall not write too much. Your feeble mind can get tired and that affects your work quality.” And my everyday work is in fact writing. So what’s the point of the heed? I dump the ridiculous piece of advice instantly. She might be out of her mind. Needless to say.

The privilege of being young and healthy is you can do anything you want until you almost kill yourself from extreme fatigue. But who cares? The blue boy keeps on toiling like a bull even though his mother shrieks,”Where are you going to go again?!!” She gets frantic of course. The blue boy just got home and he refuses to lock the gate, saying:”Don’t lock it. I’ll go out in a minute.” The clock strikes 9.30 pm. Luckily no curfew is in effect in the house.

Life is still hard even for a published writer like the blue boy, who is still 18. But at the very least, he is already selling his maiden 143-page book‎. He’s got something tangible to show off.

I frown to find the blue boy not having a personal site or‎ a Facebook page for himself. He’s the brand right now. He has to market his book and his skills as an author. A published one! No one can deny that. And he has managed to separate himself from a zillion of unpublished hopefuls like me. He has a product to sell but too bad he’s not aware of it.

The next effort needed to make his book best-selling in many bookstores‎ is making sure he can sell with whatever marketing tools and strategies available for free or applicable at very low cost. And he seems to be disinterested when I mention about Facebook or social media sites other than Twitter. He needs a profesional help for this. Badly need one.

‎All he needs now is writing a blog to promote his book and tweet like crazy to build a bigger audience.

The blue boy doesn’t need it, so it may seem. The mentor has done it all for him. ‎Definitely he wants to show people that he succeeded as a mentor of a fledgling young writer.

I suppose the mentor will bring and obviously sell the books to every participant of his trainings and public talks or whatever event he holds, co-holds or attends.

‎The books are then brought and sent to several cities in Indonesia. The mentor may promise the blue boy a greater channel of distribution if he agreed to write under his guidance. And boy, did the mentor have it.

The Book Launch Finale

bookI step into the room, hoping to see a huge number of audience. They could be clapping now or making a round applause after a considerably inspiring talk or ultra meaningful presentation.

I feel like I came into a giant gut of a whale. And this whale is dying of hunger, which is why almost nothing is in the stomach.

The room seems too big or there are too few people inside. It could be because of both. I mumble to myself, “They might’ve picked a smaller room for this ‎so as to make it look more packed as a venue.” But the show must go on.

In a non-chalant manner, I pick my seat. I hate sitting in the rear row like a lazy university student I’ve always hated throughout my shortlived teaching career and decide to sit in the penultimate row. A seat ‎looks unoccupied next to a girl, as if it were trying to lure me into sitting on it. Without trying to be polite, I just sit. She might have a friend sitting there but why do I have to bother asking? Chances are she is younger than me and I’m a haughty, self-centered old jerk who attends an event for the sake of searching writing ideas. I assert my rights to be rude to younger people. That’s the privilege of being older, I’m sure.

It’s all green here. And the audience is so so quiet like a collection of sitting manequins. Most of them are young girls wearing hijabs, but all the speakers in front are males with almost all of them growing beards.‎ You know who they are typically like. I have a single or two strands of beard and that’s more than enough to prove I’m male without costing me much money to buy razors or any facial hair removal methods on a weekly or, if you’re Arab, daily basis.

I know no one in the room. I guess they’re all just under my age. A lot younger even. But thanks to the youthful looks and outfits I’m sporting, no one notices.

I’ve known this type of men. This one falls into this group of activists on campuses. He wears a hoodie jacket, speaking in a bold manner just like a trainer because he is. He says a lot about the book industry. He mentions a whopping sum of money, 25 millions for writing a book he ghostwrites. On another occasion, I found out he has a car. Brio car, which a lot resembles his name. So I suppose he leverages his book writing service by training more hopefuls to be writers themselves. Yes, he promises anyone to be an author, a published one, not just an intermittent blogger well known inside your social circles. He’s got the connections. Celebrities, he knows some of them. Thanks to his mentor anyway.

It is totally one of my life missions; becoming a published author. A well-fed author. A financially independent writer.‎ Whatever it is to earn a living with my writing skills because it frees me from talking too much with people or any living things that can judge or comment about how much I should ideally weigh or what I seriously need to fix in my life. That’s the best thing in any writing professions. I love being paid to be left alone, working and making lots of money.

He later details more about the joy of being a writer. “It’s a super lucrative business that makes you filthy rich,” he said. Probably it holds true about J.K. Rowling but I feel sorry for most of writers who still have to struggle for years or ever to feed themselves.‎ He tactfully excluded the miserable stories of Indonesian writers like N. H. Dini who leads a financially deprived life in Central Java despite having published many novels, and a prolific moslem author Pipiet Senja, who in her 60’s lost her house to a disease. She is really sick and to get rid of the illness, she had to sell her small brick house. Life’s a total bitch for most living writers out there, you know. And he sugarcoated this all.

He says he’s written 7 books and ghostwritten 3 books. Very productive, I should say. I imagine he’s busily hiding in his bachelor pad with a laptop on days and nights in search of coherent and cohesive words to publish.

No one needs talents to be a writer, he claims, all you need is consistency! To a certain extent, I know it’s true and wrong at the very same time. With all the competition in the publishing industry right now, you also need creativity ‎and insanity to stand out, to impress potential readers.

Content and context, the two are crucial to our master trainer cum professional published author. Content is stuff you think useful for others; context is how you serve it to people you think will enjoy the benefits of your stuff. In other words, context is the packaging. Sort of thing.

The blue boy stands up. It’s now his turn to speak up. And he does speak like a lion. It’s hard to believe a mouth that small can speak that loudly. He reminds me of myself during my first class back then. But my audience was fiercer. Some of them were morons who ‎took another class after flunking the prior class in yesteryear’s semester. That was a difficult phase I had gone through so successfully. The blue boy is a lot luckier.

The atmosphere truly goes odd when the blue boy narrates a clamshell story. That’s the time when he shouts like a small boy asking for mercy. It makes me question him:Is it a book launch or theatrical performance?! I giggle impishly like a leprechaun.

Processes matter. My goodness, can’t we have enough with this? Results are what people want to see. You suck when things go wrong and people don’t forgive your failures. People just don’t. They blame you, they crush you for being a loser certainly.

And here comes the drill:What do you want to be in 10 years? The blue boy – who cowrites the book with the master trainer – asks the audience. His voice goes way up to the ceiling of the hall but fails to reach the eardrums of audience. No one answers. I can understand. They want to be successful writers, not speakers. So they don’t feel like they’re obliged to open mouth. They will write instead. Just like me, who silently follows how the discussion goes and takes notes on my offline phone.

‎It’s self-sabotage which is mostly the culprit of our failure, the blue boy utters. To convince us, they play a footage of a team of American Football players training like medieval African slaves. And the blue boy begins explaining while the footage is being played. I really want to scream,”Why don’t you just wait while we watch the brief movie and as the screening is done, you can resume explaining?!” He refuses to shut up before the movie is done. So we have to listen to both his voice and audio of the footage simultaneously. Very neatly done to torture our ears, young man!

The sinister sister makes a harsh comment on the secretively planned sudden appearance of the blue boy’s mother and herself,”It doesn’t seem like a surprise. So dull and ordinary.” She is a sort of sister you wish to disown at some point in your life. The one that makes you lament,”Maybe my whole life is a lot better without her being born.” However, life is not that simple.

So he brags about how he can write 50 pages a day, and fasting all day long in the process. While we’re at it, I remember the stamina of writing of Jonathan Franzen. He admits he can’t write 8 hours a day like a toil. Even 6 hours is already fatiguing for him nowadays. He touches on the issue of age (he’s not young anymore) and hence he has fewer things to prove in life. So when the master trainer tells us the need to push to the highest point of our potential, I simply think,”Way to go, mr Superwriter!” Well, you can’t write that way every day. It’s not a sustainable way of work.

The book signage starts right after the talks end. Only two people throw questions. Impressive, considering the number of engaged audience. I’m obviously excluded from the crowd. Maybe it’s only 10 people or so and the rest of the unsold books are brought back home. ‎The sinister sister and her mother and I go home right after that.

In the taxi, I am wondering how my first book launch will go. Maybe the historical moment would involve a million viewers, so I imagine. I waver, maybe I don’t need the stellar height of fame. There’ll be too much responsibility for my readers’ satisfaction. I can’t imagine having stalks or die-hard fans. Privacy always comes first, J. D. Salinger teaches us so.

All I can imagine is people gathering to talk about my books. I want them to create dialogs because words alone don’t bring anything but entertainment.

All I need is the happiness of being able to share what I have through writing. So to answer the question “What do you want to be in 10 years?”, I’d say I want to be a happy writer. Just be happy and be able to write and make a decent living in the process. Not too skimpy, not too much. Only enough.

Writing as Id's Way to Overdo Ego and Super-ego

‎Back then on college, I used to study Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. It was such a rigorous subject to handle almost no students in my class liked it, which is why I’ve been still questioning up to the very second: “So what’s actually the gist of it?”

I took two separate classes of English literary analysis both in my junior year of my under graduate program in 2004 and master degree‎ circa 2007. Both classes only slightly touched on Freud’s propositions and left me in curiosity still.

Yet, now I can tell you I have a better grasp of the subject. Kudos to growing older after years!

I totally can better relate to the theory these days after experiencing it myself and identifying the three ‎intangible constructs Freud proposed decades ago. Id, as long as my memory serves right, acts like an agile, wild, energetic child. It acts based upon sheer instinct, sudden impulse, biological urges, and so forth. While Ego is a personality in reality, as a result of innumerable number of compromise between Id and Super-ego. So what’s Super-ego frankly? It can be briefly defined as our moral standards, a set of rules played and influencing all of personalities in the background.

That being said, Paulo Coelho has some points to ponder. It’s true that we are not who we want us to be. There are some things in our life which cannot be compromised or completely removed ‎in spite of the consequence that we are being part of a people, a society with a certain set of norms (read: expectations). Id is so much under pressure that it sometimes starts to leak through dreams at night, or creative works like literary pieces, without our knowledge. Super-ego is morality, norms, dogmas that a person embraces which at the same time bind him. In other words, id is the wild side of us, super-ego is the most civilized, idealized version of us. Meanwhile, ego is who we are in reality, a result of clashes between the urges of id and super-ego. Ego is built through perpetual accumulations of compromises between our willingness and societal demands.

To me, id deserves its way to ‎express itself. The suppression of id would, I guess, result in psychic imbalance. And we know imbalance is the root of most of problems in life. It’s either because we do too little or too much. It’s always been an eternal quest to achieve the ideal, the sought-after balance.

This is exactly where writing is needed. It may help our id to channel its primal urge without having to enrage super-ego (which keeps dictating us) or disgrace ego (because it is ego which has to deal with a society).

That brings me to the resolution of 2015: I want to write more and better. And I promise I will write more prolifically and professionally in 2015 and years ahead.

On Digital Story Telling #UWRF14

There’re some static aspects of writing, such as intrinsic and extrinsic elements of it. They’re so universal you can find them in any stories from ancient times to the digital age. These days, however, writers enjoy more varities of writing media and the media could be one of the most dynamic aspect in writing. It always evolves along with the advancement of civilization and technology. As bamboo paper, papyrus and lontar have turned relics of the past, we now are more accustomed to blogs and social media. These popular digital media may not change the essence of stroy telling which we may assume is as old as the human races on earth but it surely changes the way stories are told to audiences. “I don’t any platform will change story telling. The story has to be great, first and foremost. What those platforms will do only change the way we experience the
stories,”Daniel Dalton told us with confidence. He’s a British who now works as a staff writer at BuzzFeed in the UK, where he covers books, art and culture. Aside from BuzzFeed, his fiction and essays have appeared in “Cuttings”, Medium and Thought Catalog.

At The Digital Story Telling session on October 4th 2014 in Ubud Writers Readers Festival, I was sitting there to get to know what these digital authors had to say about the digital world as a channel of their literary creativity. Aside from Mr. Dalton, another speaker of the session was Angela Meyer, an Australian author based in Melbourne. She works also as an editor and literary journo. Her books are “Captives” (Inkerman & Blunt, May) and “The Great Unknown” (as editor, “Spineless Wonders”). Meanwhile, the other spaker was Elliott Bledsoe , a digital producer at Regional Arts Australia. He earns a living by working as a freelance digital producer, looking after all things that publish, play, post, tweet and trend. These three speakers were telling their own experiment with digital story telling.

Digital and print media cannot be seen as different, separate entities. They in fact are intertwined with each other, complement one another. As the digital media rise, authors can’t ignore the traditional print media. So digital media may never murder
conventional media although we have to admit that digital media definitely change how readers consume content. But still it’s much to early to claim conventional media have lost their edge completely.

Being asked on what digital platform is the best one for writers, Meyer could provide one certain answer. Rather, she answered,”Authors need to keep an eye of the kind of platform or the kind of established online journals perhaps that work for the kind of stories they want to tell.” Each of those already have its kind of audience. Maybe it takes time to find the most suitable platform to write on but eventually, as you’re experimenting with more and more digital media, you’ll find one that suits your needs and content best. Because different people often have different luck when it comes to this. Meyer recounted one of her friends published stories on his personal Facebook account, his friends like the stories a lot and all of a sudden he got a book deal out of the blue. So there’s no hard and fast rule about the best digital platform to write on. Dalton also added he experimented with Tumblr with his stories. Some of his blogs onTumblr worked but the rest just didn’t. Just experiment and you’ll find it. And listen to your instinct as a creative person.

As a digital author, we’re lucky enough to be able to unpublish or ‘recall’ the works we’ve released as soon as we find it wrong or profane or simply embarassing (though Google can still record it on their cache). Or if the works are too dear to delete, you can simply make it private or hide it from the public for your own consumption. This happens also to Meyer, who admitted she felt embarassed by her own blog posts she wrote years ago. One of them was hidden from the visitors as she thought her voice of writing at that time was far from her current idealism as a writer with a more developed voice. “I just wrote so badly… because you grow as a writer, you write all the time annd inevitably you grow, you get better and that includes like, writing tweets and stuff like that. You’re just constantly honing the way you develop your voice and your voice can be spread to all different kinds of platform.” She advised that we write on the place (digital platforms) where we feel the most connection with. “Because it speaks to you and you may also have something to offer for them (audience),”the female writer elaborated.

Still about digital platforms experiment, Dalton used John Green and his VlogBrothers campaign on YouTube as a perfect example on how an author uses online digital platforms to his advantage. From YouTube, he builds and strengthen his audience and their loyalty. He started vlogging in 2007 when no one gave it a damn. Vlogging, as Dalton put it, helped Green publish his works and build his fan base from time to time. No wonder his book sales are getting better. So that’s why writers need to actively engage in digital platforms that suits their personalty most because not all platforms work best for different authors. You have got to find one and leverage it. Authors now are challenged to go to digital world and craft their own digital story telling that could be different from the traditional methods.

On that note, Bledsoe added how digital story telling for writers on social media is seen as an advantage by publishers in Australia. The staff of this publisher told Bledsoe that they will not publish potential authors who don’t have a certain amount of following on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Dalton also told the same stories, that his friends in Sydney and London are confronted with reduction of marketing budget. “So you come to the publishers with great stories and the ability to market your stories.”

Dalton thought Tumblr is good for building fans base. He also mentioned WattPad, which is a huge digital publishing platform where people love reading fiction, so it may be good for fiction authors to market their stories there.

One thing Dalton and I were agreed on is that writers don’t have to sell hard their works. Just be genuine and interesting, that’ll be the best selling points ever. “I quickly unfollow writers who promotes his books all the time,”Dalton giggled. I do, too.

{image credit: Commons.Wikimedia.org}

Cara Mengapresiasi Sastrawan

Di Ubud akhir pekan lalu, saya bertemu dengan seorang teman. Ia baru saja merilis sebuah buku puisi. Ia menawari saya buku tersebut. Ia merasa sangat bersemangat untuk memperkenalkannya pada semua orang yang ia temui di Ubud Writers Readers Festival (UWRF) tahun ini.

Edrida, begitu namanya, menawari saya,”Kamu mau beli?” Matanya berbinar-binar. Dan saya mengangguk. Ia makin tidak percaya saya ingin membeli karyanya.

Sekali lagi ia bertanya,”Benar? Mau beli???”

“Berapa?”saya bertanya padanya.

“Lima puluh enam ribu,”ia berkata dengan sedikit haru, masih dengan antusiasme lalu mengambil tas besarnya di sebuah sudut.

Saya kaget dengan reaksinya. Jujur saja, saya tidak mengharapkan reaksi yang demikian meluap-luap. Ia seakan tidak percaya ada yang ingin membeli karyanya, padahal ini bukan karya pertamanya yang diperjualbelikan. Ia sudah menerbitkan beberapa buku.

Usut punya usut, setelah mengobrol saya tahu ia mengeluhkan harganya yang cukup mahal menurut beberapa orang. Tetapi apalah artinya Rp56.000 jika saya bandingkan dengan sebuah kumpulan cerpen hasil suntingan editor negeri kanguru Angela Meyer yang dibanderol, ehem, Rp400.000 lebih. Padahal tebalnya sedang saja. Mutu kertasnya juga tidak istimewa sekali. Apakah karya di dalamnya sangat bermutu? Entah. Itu sangat subjektif dan saya tak bisa meneliti lebih lanjut isinya karena tidak ada sampel yang bisa dibuka untuk sekadar baca cepat.

Setelah ia menerima uang itu, saya berkata santai,”Kalau saya nanti menerbitkan buku, saya juga mau buku saya dibeli. Bukan dibagikan gratis.”

Membagikan buku secara gratis memang tragis. Ada teman saya yang seorang jurnalis Pertamina selama berpuluh-puluh tahun yang, entah terpaksa atau tidak, membagikan buku puisinya yang sudah diterbitkan secara cuma-cuma untuk para kolega dan kenalannya.

Saya merasa ini kurang benar. Kecuali jika sastrawan itu benar-benar ingin memberikannya secara gratis, orang-orang di sekelilingnya haruslah membeli buku itu. Bukan, bukan nilai nominalnya yang menjadi poin utama tetapi bagaimana apresiasi itu diberikan. Sastrawan itu merasa sudah dihargai, sudah dianggap ada, sudah dianggap bekerja dan sukses berkarya. Ini bukan semata-mata belas kasihan tetapi dalam sudut pandang yang lebih luas juga bisa dianggap sebagai upaya awal untuk menggiatkan dunia seni kreatif kita. Tolonglah jangan menyalin tanpa izin, memfotokopi seenaknya lalu membagikan ke siapa saja. Berikan setidaknya penghormatan atas hasil kerja mereka.

Saya tahu hidup penulis tidaklah mudah. Banyak yang harus berjuang setengah mati mencari nafkah. Lihat saja NH Dini di masa tuanya. Ia sudah produktif menulis sekian lama, toh di masa uzurnya masih saja menderita di dalam deraan keterbatasan finansial. Meski tak harus kaya raya bak JK Rowling, setidaknya Dini dan semua sastrawan dan penulis kita di Indonesia memiliki tingkat kesejahteraan yang lebih layak.

Edrida, seperti banyak penulis Indonesia lainnya, masih menunggu apresiasi kita. Apresiasi yang tak kunjung mengemuka. Malah apresiasi yang datang lebih banyak dari mancanegara. Ia ingin saya menerjemahkan buku puisinya. “Siapa tahu bisa diundang ke sana!,”jeritnya gembira.