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. (*/)

Slow Writing for Better Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dari "The Treacherous Writer" ( #UWRF14): Memahami adalah Memaafkan

uwrf 2014

David Lesser, Hannie Rayson, dan Liam Pieper memiliki latar belakang kehidupan yang berbeda-beda. Lesser seorang jurnalis pemenang penghargaan yang sudah menelurkan 6 karya buku yang di antaranya adalah sebuah memoar bertajuk “To Begin To Know: Walking in the Shadows of My Father”. Rayson menulis 14 drama dan memiliki reputasi dalam penulisan drama yang kompleks dan karya terbarunya adalah sebuah memoar yang akan diterbitkan tahun 2015. Pieper memiliki darah penulis dari sang nenek dan pernah menerima penghargaan Literary Residency tahun 2014 oleh Australia Council for the Arts.

Namun, pagi tadi ketiganya disatukan oleh satu benang merah yang sama:memoar. Ketiganya menulis memoar dan memaparkan pada audiens berbagai pengalaman dan seluk beluk menulis memoar yang ternyata tidak semudah menuliskan kegiatan sehari-hari sebagaimana para penulis diari/ catatan harian amatir.

Memoar memang salah satu jenis karya yang digemari, apalagi jika si penulis memiliki kehidupan yang menarik (atau kehidupan yang biasa saja tetapi berhasil dibuat menarik dengan penggunaan bahasa yang efektif). Lihat saja bagaimana larisnya memoar Elizabeth Gilbert “Eat Pray Love” yang juga ditulis dengan menggunakan Bali sebagai latar tempatnya. Ada juga memoar-memoar dengan nuansa komedi karya David Sedaris yang saya juga gemari. Kalimat-kalimatnya segar, dan menggelitik. Tidak sespiritual Gilbert, tetapi Sedaris juga memiliki kedalamannya sendiri, dengan mengkritisi asumsi dan keyakinan yang sudah diterima masyarakat.

Lesser melontarkan sebuah kalimat yang menarik tentang penulisan memoar, bahwa dengan menulis memoar, kadang kita mengerti bahwa hampir setiap orang melakukan kesalahan atau perbuatan yang menurut orang lain mengerikan  atau tidak termaafkan semata-mata karena mereka berpikir bahwa hal itu adalah sesuatu yang baik. Ia seolah mengatakan bahwa menulis memoar memberikan kita ruang untuk lebih banyak memahami pemikiran orang lain atau pemikiran diri sendiri yang mungkin kita anggap salah tetapi juga memiliki alasan dan justifikasinya. Semua itu ada alasannya dan memoar membuka celah untuk pemahaman yang lebih baik tentang diri kita, orang lain dan dunia.

Menimpali pernyataan Lesser, Pieper juga mengamini dengan mengatakan, “To understand is to forgive” (memahami adalah memaafkan). Salah satu cara untuk memahami sebuah kesalahan dan mengapa kesalahan itu bisa terjadi adalah dengan menelusurinya kembali, merenunginya, mengupasnya, dan mendapatkan pemahaman lebih mendalam mengenai bagaimana hal itu bisa sampai terjadi. Besar kemungkinan seorang manusia tidak melakukannya karena niat yang buruk, tetapi karena ingin mencapai hasil yang baik. Hanya saja caranya mungkin kurang tepat.

Tadi pagi di Left Blank Ubud, paparan dan tanya jawab ketiga penulis Australia ini memberikan kita gambaran singkat mengenai pengalaman mereka dalam menulis riwayat keluarga yang sangat kompleks. Ternyata tidak semudah yang kita pikirkan karena memilih detil yang perlu dikemukakan dan detil yang harus disingkirkan bukanlah perkara gampang.

Kita Mau #indonesiabersih!!!

‎Kebersihan sebagian dari iman, begitu katanya. Indah dan ideal sekali. Nyatanya? Di negeri yang secara statistik dipenuhi muslim ini, konsep itu cuma LIP SERVICE! Cuma slogan, hanya motto, semboyan, kata-kata mutiara! Sepanjang mudik kemarin, misalnya, saya saksikan sendiri bagaimana tepi jalan di jalur mudik juga menjadi korban sampah.’

Kasus lain yang baru-baru ini terjadi adalah di jalur hijau seberang gedung Mahkamah Konstitusi. Sejumlah orang tanpa ampun menginjak tanaman. Menginjak rumput masih dimaklumi, tetapi mereka menginjak dan menduduki tanaman yang lebih besar, untuk kemudian duduk, makan dan minum. Bisa ditebak, kemasan plastik dan kertas bungkusnya tersebar ke mana-mana. Tidak ada yang mau peduli. Sangat menjijikkan!

Saya peduli, tetapi saya malu memungut sampah mereka. Malu dianggap gila.
Gila karena terlalu gandrung kebersihan di lingkungan sekitar.
Gila karena ingin negeri ini lebih bersih dan tertata.
Gila karena ingin Indonesia dianggap lebih Islami daripada negeri-negeri Barat.
Gila karena ada orang-orang yang belum sadar mereka mengotori rumahnya sendiri dan tidur di dalamnya!

Saya teringat dengan penulis David Sedaris yang juga dianggap gila. Selain karena tulisannya yang gila dan blak-blakan, Sedaris punya satu kebiasaan yang amat ingin saya contoh. Sebelum ke luar rumah untuk berjalan-jalan di bukit dan padang rumput luas di rumahnya di Inggris, ia membawa kantong belanja. Bukan untuk membawa belanjaan, tetapi untuk menampung sampah-sampah yang ia pungut sepanjang perjalanan. Sedaris selalu melakukannya setelah menulis di pagi hari. Ia menyusuri bukit dan jalanan di pedesaan Inggris yang sepi dan indah tetapi menyimpan sampah. ‎Persetan dengan orang yang menganggapnya eksentrik. Ia mengaku pernah dianggap orang sedang menjalani hukuman kerja sosial memungut sampah karena sudah berbuat kejahatan. Padahal tidak demikian adanya. Untungnya, tidak seperti saya yang malu dicap gila, Sedaris terus melakukannya. Ia terus berjalan dan memungut sampah, membawanya ke rumah dan membuangnya pada tempat yang semestinya.

Lalu tiba-tiba tadi malam saya dihubungi ‎oleh seorang teman yang mengajak saya untuk menggalakkan semangat menjaga kebersihan ini. Ia ibu 3 anak, dengan suami berasal dari Prancis. Bosan dan kesal, itulah yang ia rasakan tatkala anak-anaknya membandingkan Indonesia dengan Prancis soal kesadaran menjaga kebersihan lingkungan dan alam sekitar. Indonesia, mau tidak mau harus diakui, adalah bangsa yang masih harus belajar banyak soal satu itu ke bangsa-bangsa lain. Teman saya ingin sekali “memunguti semua sampah plastik yang bertebaran di Senayan”. Mungkin karena Ia kerap membawa anak-anaknya ke sana.

Begitu mengakarnya budaya buang sampah sesuka hati itu membuat saya memiliki satu hipotesis bahwa orang Indonesia sebagian besar tidak peduli atau memilih tidak peduli pada urusan sampah (terutama plastik dan ‎bahan-bahan kimia non-organik berbahaya lainnya) karena mereka belum diberi edukasi bahwa sampah anorganik itu tidak akan bisa membusuk begitu saja dan terurai di alam bebas layaknya sampah organik. “Kenapa harus dipungut dan dikumpulkan? Toh nanti akan lenyap sendiri,”pikiran mereka bisa jadi begitu. Tetapi sampah plastik bukanlah daun rontok yang bisa lenyap dan menyuburkan tanah secara alami. Sampah plastik berasal dari senyawa-senyawa kimia buatan manusia yang tidak secara alami ada dan terbentuk di alam bebas sehingga ia dianggap asing oleh alam dan membutuhkan waktu yang jauh lebih lama untuk akhirnya terurai, diterima kembali oleh alam ini.

Sekali lagi, perlu ada edukasi untuk membangkitkan kesadaran menjaga kebersihan dan menjaga kelestarian alam. Dan yang tak kalah penting ialah memberikan keteladanan, seperti halnya teman saya yang ingin dirinya bisa menjadi panutan bagi anak-anaknya dalam menjaga kebersihan. Jangan beralasan:”Yang penting hatinya bersih” karena kita tahu keduanya – kebersihan fisik dan rohani – itu penting.

Siap membuat #indonesiabersih dari sampah?

Baca juga: Bagaimana Amerika Serikat Bergulat dengan Sampah Plastiknya

Jalur Pantura saat mudik kemarin terasa seperti lautan sampah. Semua orang berhenti dan beristirahat lalu makan dan minum kemudian membuang sampah seenaknya. Kenapa orang Indonesia seperti ini? Sebuah keprihatinan bagi kita semua yang merasa warga negara yang peduli.

What's the Point in Receiving Something I'll Only Have to Send Back?

Says, or writes David Sedaris on page 45 of “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls”. In the episode titled “A Friend in the Ghetto”, Sedaris tells us a man who calls him “mr. Sedriz”. But this wrong pronunciation and outlandish accent makes Sedaris stay in the conversation for the time longer than he expected. He admits he enjoys the phone conversation.

Isn’t it great to have a sales person like the unknown man on the phone? So pushy but he has got the power to make Sedaris miss him, having another pointless conversation with the man about the new cell phone offer that offers more cutting edge features like taking your own selfies in better resolution.

The man may not close a deal with Sedaris and sucks based on commercialism point of view but from the humanity point of view, he is someone to reckon with. He is a creature with personality Sedaris and others won’t easily forget. Not a mere non descript voice on the other end of the line.

Is that what Sedaris is trying to point out? That’s my best guess. Or maybe Sedaris feels so lonely and needs someone to talk to and with. Whoever it is doesn’t really matter.

How Does It Feel to Write a Story without any Climaxes and Conflicts?

I remember when my writer pal Titik Kartitiani joked,”I imagine someone wrote a story as flat and boring as daily routines. We don’t have to think of anything that excites readers, just provide lengthy recounts of happenings, events. Will such a story invite readers or make them frown with dislike?”

That kind of story, however, may exist and people simply pick it and add it to their reading list or read it on and on just because they like the flow of the story, or the punch lines or the most glorious or most pathetic part of the plot.

Again, David Sedaris shows us that without conflicts at an epic scale or problems that leads to life or death, we authors or storytellers can still enchant readers, viewers or listeners. He uses daily experiences as the raw materials, and they’re absolutely not anything that will make us drop our dear jaws. It’ s more about how he tells the stories rather than the colossal conflicts or plot or complications or resolutions that are more intriguing but can hardly be encountered in everyday lives, which ultimately makes them more difficult to relate to?

I can conclude Sedaris writes ordinary stuff that almost everyone can relate to. His childhood or past might not be as adventurous as Laura Ingals, or as scary as Anne Frank, or as magical as
Harry Potter stories but still he ‘wins’ by being himself. He writes as himself and no one therefore can beat him for being the best David Sedaris.

So don’t worry if we think we just finish a terribly boring story. With a little twist here and finetuning there, it’s going to be much better, more amusing a story for anyone to read.

David Sedaris: Write First then Collect Rubbish

david sedaris

David Sedaris’s face  was sweating a bit. In his left hand, you can see a white canvas shopping bag in which he threw some rubbish he found along the way. He complained,”It drives me crazy…” He took a stroll again and found more rubbish. This time, the rubbish was more than the bag could hold. He gave up collecting these cans, and walked again.

I know why Sedaris does such a thing on a daily basis because he CANNOT take it anymore. “Why people keep spoling the superb nature??!”I might scream on behalf of the American author.

“It’s so beautiful here (around his neighborhood in England) but look….! Look over there. People throw rubbish everywhere,”he approached it and took some with his bare right hand.

He doesn’t understand why people throw rubbish and hence the rubbish collection.

He admitted he can collect more if he walks from where he stands and the hill top before him. This peculiar activity has been part of his daily routine since he moved to the neighborhood.

Upon watching the interview, I just realized that Indonesia is not the only place where rubbish is a major problem. In a developed world, it’s been one since forever and as an anglophilic person, I can’t believe it. Simply can’t. How on earth do these first world nations fail to address the issue we in the third world ones are facing? Now, I know they’re not even any better in terms of rubbish management attitude. Yes, in cities and towns, there’s remote chance to find rubbish at public places but in the nature, humans are still humans regardless of their races, citizenship, welfare, and so on. They tend to think that rubbish can get rid of itself over time, so it’s ok to throw it away anytime anywhere they wish.

Sedaris added,”I write in the morning and I go out and pick up rubbish.” He keeps doing that despite the fact that some people think the author is obviously nuts. Well, that’s what I always thought when I started to move and live in Jakarta. I always wanted to pick the rubbish I see and find along my path but I think I’m simply too afraid of being called “eccentric”. I know it doesn’t violate the rule or norm but that’s unusually kind to environment and the super ignorant majority and that’s considered strange by laymen.

Sedaris is greatly eccentric and geez, that is sexy! I meant, intellectually sexy.


David Sedaris tentang Susahnya Jadi Guru

Terpingkal-pingkal sendiri. Itu sudah mafhum bagi penikmat buku “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” karya David Sedaris. Seperti bagian berikut yang saya ingin bagikan pada Anda. Penggalan kisahnya akan saya terjemahkan ke bahasa ibu. Bila Anda sudah punya, buka saja halaman 144 di episode/ bab “Author, Author”.

Begini tulisnya:
“Saya memikirkan ini selama berhari-hari saat terbayang tentang seorang guru sekolah luar biasa yang saya temui di Pittsburgh. “Anda tahu,”katanya,”Saya tahu kata-kata itu dan otomatis berpikir, Cacat, atau, Tak Mampu Belajar. Tapi bukankah banyak murid Anda yang sangat menjengkelkan?”

“Anda paham itu,”ujarnya. Kemudian ia mengatakan pada saya mengenai seorang anak – di hari terakhirnya masuk sekolah – yang menulis di papan tulis,”Ibu J____ seorang pakar ‘burung’.”

Saya begitu terkesan karena saya tidak pernah mendengar istilah itu sebelumnya. Sang guru terkesan karena anak laki-laki itu sudah bisa mengejanya dengan benar.”

Ya, saya juga sering mengalaminya. Mengajari begitu banyak kosakata pada anak-anak bimbingan dalam kelas bahasa Inggris saya, dan hampir semua gagal. Tak ada yang ingat. Kalau ada juga segelintir saja. Payah. Akan tetapi begitu saya tanya kosakata yang jorok, kurang sopan, kurang etis, kasar, tidak beretika, mereka seolah menjelma tiba-tiba menjadi sekelompok pakar.

Itulah susahnya jadi guru. Mengajari yang positif itu susahnya minta ampun. Mengajari yang negatif itu jauh lebih mulus, enak, dan jitu.

My Book Crush: The Mundane yet Mindblowingly Successful Book "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls"


Anyone has got his or her own crush, whether it be a guy crush, girl crush, coffee crush, shoes crush. Besides gadget crush, I’ve got this book crush, which is way more affordable than the aforementioned.

I can’t help myself hopping for joy upon getting “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls”, one of the most anticipated books of David Sedaris at a bookstore I frequent. I like it too because of the color of the cover. Brown, chocolate, woody. And oh, my dad is also a diabetic.

I saw the book more than a month ago and kept seeing that displayed for weeks after since. And at last, the temptation conquered me. I couldn’t say no forever every time I saw it.

There’s nothing particularly extraordinary, or shocking, or curiosity arousing that one can get from the stories written in it. The stories have no traditional villains that possess super power to abuse like Magneto who can read anyone else’s mind, no ‘cool’ conflicts which any serious, earnest authors would never write without. Sedaris’ stories are so so so usual and ordinary. If I can compare, it’s like your own personal diary but Sedaris’ looks more than just sentences written for diaries. The words are meant to be told. There’s some interactiveness in the tone. Sedaris’ wrote it as if he wrote a personal letter to his own pen pal, which wroked so great. The way he writes just like the way he tells funny stories.

There’re 26 brief stories in Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. One of the most interesting recounts is when he told the readers the sour relationship with his own biological father. I totally can relate to that. As a son with less-than-impressive physical ability, size and strength, I know how hurt it may get for a child to be compared with other kids who the father thinks are much better than his own offspring. Now every time people compare me to someone else, I shun these folks because they choke me to death mentally.

His jokes are witty and so selectively picked you won’t get offended. And of course I can sense a great deal of cynicism and sarcasm, two things a great author has to possess.