When Do You Call Yourself A Writer?

Dear readers,

I did it!

The draft above was created on 18th August, 2013.  It was sitting still on my document folder before I discovered it again from browsing through my other old drafts.  I was disappointed with a new draft I recently wrote, a 92-page long 30,000 words of drama, took 1,5 months to finish.  I came across this one--It did not sound too bad, in fact, it was good enough and I felt totally related to the idea of it.  On 3rd August, 2014, the draft was finished. Unlike the other drafts of my other attempted novel, the title never changed... It will always be "BIG FISH". I am proud of that, because it shows how I started writing this with a strong orientation unlike my other attempted. This story comes nearly as organic, because it was inspired by some events that has been occurred in my life.  Friendship, Relationship, and Ambition...

Anyway, I am not going to talk about the novel, but more to the process of writing.  I am glad I have finished the story.  Eventhough, this is not the first time I wrote a novel. I used to have 2 complete teenage story from 2004 which were gone nowhere.  On 2013, I joined NaNoWrimo for a month-writing challenge, in English, which made me felt unconfident about it so I did not really count. Last month, I wrote a realistic fiction but I ended up hating it. So Big Fish was the actual draft that counts so far for me.

I read too much quotes on writing....
"Write drunk. Edit Sober." - Ernest Hemmingway"Self-doubt is an enemy of creativity." - Sylvia PlathBut what motivates me in this particular process are..."Write a story that you want to read" and a general quote that says "Finish what you have started." Though, I could not remember where the source is.

When I was younger by like 10 years,  I found a joy in writing.  Started with the boom of teenlit novels, along with my other wannabe-writers classmates I joined to write. I keep on writing because I realized probably writing is the only thing that I am good at.  (Do not take this as self-vanity, but take this as a weakness, because you are only good at writing... not sports, accounting or sales!) Then I realize, writing is also an excuse of a comfort zone too... maybe this is not my only problem, but for many others to who claimed themselves writers too... but there is absolutely no regret when I finally finished BIG FISH draft in another 45,000 words.  Instead I feel greatly rewarded.

Unlike 10 years ago, I have "lost" my identity in writing.  I remembered when I wrote the story "The Transpoter" for KawanKu competition.  I did not expect the story to win as a runner up story. I thought it was an conceptually unoriginal science fiction shorts that involves a kissing scene in it which makes it totally inappropriate for Indonesian teenage audience. Miraculously, it was not judged that way by the panel. All I am saying is, I used to write carelessly... I did not think of the outcome, I just wrote and I did not really care what the people will think.  The matter is that I write to tell a story.  A definition that I missed from time to time.

Ever since I caught up reading simple English novel, I have an ambition to write one.  Simply I got caught up on my linguistic orientation.  I know, I am not too advanced in English, but I know how to write Indonesian well because it is my native and I grow up by the language.  Even the simplest things such as languages made me confused.  Things that hindered me from writing is of course my personal judgement, the "what ifs".... what if the kissing scene is too sensual? what if this part is too graphic? how do I know if Byblos has many beaches?  Is that accurate?

I think I forget the part where writing is fiction... so we can all freely write whatever we want readers to believe.  These considerations make writing no longer comfortable as it used to, but that is no matter, I think it shows how seriously we are into this shit.

Last week, I met a fellow writer and a blogger who has the same ambition to write seriously.  She commented how sad it is to find a bad and trashy manuscript printed into a novel.  She thinks she can write better--and honestly, that was (past tense here) also my motivation too.  I was reading 50 Shades of Grey and realized how raw it was, the storyline and the graphical scenes... so I challenged myself to write something better and I know I could.  But did I write better?  Did I even write anything at all?

Writing isn't that simple and it is a separate production from publishing. A lousy manuscript may get published if it is sales-worthy, while your genius and epicly written story may be denied because it is not considered appealing to readers.  Life shits, Bieber sells more records than The Beatles... but hey, JK Rowling was rejected few times before she scored a deal with publisher for Harry Potter!

There is always a silver lining, only we, who proclaim ourselves an independent, aspired writers must know what is a purpose of the writing....

Are you writing to show you are the best at this shit?
If yes, I think you are in a wrong lane because I have been there... or maybe I am still here.  I have been so idealistic and easy to judge. If you want to claim something you are best at, I suggest you take a baking class, science experiment, English debate or obotic ensemble class. Something that is esthetically available. If no, move on to the next question

Are you writing something that only appeals to the audience? 
If yes, I hope you are on the stage where your editor tells you.  I know few writers who write an arranged setting and said, "Oh, Korea or travel story is so in today... I am writing one." or "I'd prefer to write with "gue-elo" (a slang, modern-style reference of 1st and 2nd person in Indonesian) rather than "aku-kamu" (a traditional reference of 1st and 2nd person in Indonesian) because it sounds more modern and appealing." well, guess what, we are not creating trends or fashion here.  In fact, writing and reading is so conventional today, people do not read anymore. We can say this profession or business is nearly doomed and only few people still take pride of what they are doing... so don't play for the market, play for you believe in.  If no, please answer proceeds to the next question.

So, what are you writing for?
Before this, I was so cynical everytime I listen to Bukowski's "So you want to be a writer".  I have posted and referred to the poem so many times in this blog because it was painfully and beautifully true.  But then I found something that has been lost...

unless it comes out of

your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

For me, personally, If I may translate these particular verses is that...  if you have something you truly believe it or something that is worth-writing or worth-telling to the others... THEN DO IT.  I realize writing is a part of communication, bridging your innerself to the world, I guess that is my motivation to write... I want to be understood and communicate with others with the thing I do enjoy and best.  I have to admit, my point of writing was to prove I am good at writing, because this is the thing I only do best... how sad it was.  Now I realize,  I need to change. Writing does not come from ambition but from the soul and imagination... 

E.L James wrote 50 Shades of Grey because of nothing but she thinks it is hot... Stephenie Meyer did not write Twilight Saga because of anything but maybe she thinks love triangle amongst human-werewolf-vampire are so interesting.  Probably the same reason when Paulo Coelho write The Manuscript from Accra when he discovered an important bridge between world's Abrahamic religions, Slyvia Plath described her personal struggle in the Bell Jar, Lauren Weisberger turned her manic boss into fiction and Nicholas Sparks find yearly romantic inspirations because (somehow) he can... I am saying that writers write from a story the consider to be important and simple enough to be told or else it stays unsurfaced and it shuts them down.  Of course there will be further objections and adorations... but that is subjective to readers.  So fuck it!  Start writing

So, when do you call yourself a writer?
At least you wait until your manuscript be published and has an ISBN registry code.  But I believe, each one of us is a writer from birth. We are capable of creating. I guess like other professions or identity, being a writer is a choice and long discovery.  For now BIG FISH is freshly delivered from the oven.  I am not touching my baby until I am ready to first-read, before  I let any publisher touch my baby

...and of course, a sense of entitlement.  A poet master and a friend, Jamal Raslan, told me that "once a poetry (in this case a story) is out to public, then it has no more value.  It has been owned by readers."  and John Green believes that a story belongs to the readers, not to the writers.... when you are finished, be ready to let go... bare it all to the readers, because that is the point.

One more quote for you before you start... "THE FIRST DRAFT NEEDS TO BE WRITTEN!"


With humblest regards,
The Naked Soul.

(Additional note:
I would like to express my happiness that my poem A Family Affair is curated inside Asian Center Anthology of Malaysian Poetry in English by Dr. Ghulam Sarwar Yusof. Click here to view it on amazon.com!

My name on the table of content!
It is wonderful because my friends from Spoken Word family are also featured. Ah the joy of sharing!!)


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