Reading Survey

Found this reading survey here, and I thought this is not a bad idea to kill time and share some books that I’ve read.

  1. Favorite childhood book?
    Eeeerrrrrr, is manga included? Because my answer would probably be the Dragon Ball series. If no then I guess it would be Enid Blyton’s books.
  2. What are you reading right now?
    Country of Origin by E. du Perron. Borrowed the book from my office, which would mean the book belongs to my boss. I blame the title, the cover design, and the summary for making me curious to read this.
  3. What books do you have on request at the library?
    Eeerrrr, I’m not really a member of any public library right now, but a friend of mine generously sending me books from her office’s library (which is opened for public) and I’d request any books available from my reading list if there’s any. Last time, I requested a book by Lisa See, titled Peony in Love.
  4. Bad book habit?
    Hmmm, taking too much time to finish a book? Is that a bad habit? Or smelling the paper (unless the book is very dirty), or feeling the paper especially when it comes to new books? Eeerrrr, underlining words or sentences that I like (doesn’t apply if the books are borrowed) ? Reading before sleeping and then shove the book away somewhere on my bed?
  5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
    From my friend’s office’s library? Schindler’s List by Thomas Kennealy and Peony in Love by Lisa See. From my office’s library: Country of Origin by E. du Perron. From my other friends and families’ private library: A huge pile of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s works.
  6. Do you have an e-reader?
    Not specifically an e-reader, I suppose. E-books that I read would be from my Galaxy Tab II and my iPhone. But no, I’d prefer read books to ebooks.
  7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
    One book at a time. The idea of having a book unfinished would bother me a lot. I’d leave a book unfinished if I think it’s really, really boring or I found it too difficult to understand. If it’s the latter I’d usually get back to the book someday soon.
  8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
    Hmmm, not really.
  9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)?
    Coelho’s By The River of Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. An utter disappointment.
  10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
    Eeerrr, wow, this is tricky. Maybe I’d pick the one I consider the most entertaining: Planet Word by J. P. Davidson. Quite a light reading, but not too light.
  11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
    My comfort zone being those genres I like? Hmmm, quite often, I guess. Books that I pick for myself (and buy) are usually those with genres I like, but I’d usually read anything any of my friends recommend me to read. That should explain why my reading list got expanded pretty fast.
  12. What is your reading comfort zone?
    Hmmmm, regarding the genres I like: anything related to philosophy (such as Gaarder’s work), historical fiction or non-fiction, debate between religion vs atheism, pantheism, agnosticism, and such, and life struggles. And maybe the works of those authors who are highly skilled to play with words (and I’d include Michel Faber here).
  13. Can you read on the bus?
    I can read everywhere, as long as I don’t have a headache or dizziness, and as long as I have enough light to read the printed words. This habit always irritates my mom.
  14. Favorite place to read?
    My room. Coffee shop. Cafés.
  15. What is your policy on book lending?
    Take good care of them. Do not fold any pages, not even the cover unless it’s already folded before borrowed. And do not lose them.
  16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
    NO. Especially with borrowed books. I used to do this in the past a few times whenever I’m lacking any bookmarks, though. But now I’d rather use anything that I could use as a bookmark when I don’t bring any rather than folding its pages.
  17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
    Nope. I know some friends who do, though.
  18. Not even with text books?
    Well, they are two different kinds of books. So yeah, I do that with textbooks sometimes.
  19. What is your favourite language to read in?
    Eeerrr, this is tough. I speak English and Bahasa Indonesia, and with authors such as Pramoedya or Ahmad Tohari (Bahasa Indonesia) and Faber, or Stieg Larsson, I can’t decide. I love reading in both languages if the authors narrate the words beautifully.
  20. What makes you love a book?
    Errrm, the language style (definitely Faber), the theme and genre (I’d probably refer to Gaarder most of the times, but Jonathan Franzen and Stieg Larsson also never ceases to amaze me).
  21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
    How infatuated I was with the book, or how inspired I was with the story (again–I hope you’re not bored yet, I never tire myself recommending Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, or Gaarder’s The Castle in the Pyrenees, as well as Vita Brevis, also Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy).
  22. Favorite genre?
    Oh well, I discussed the genre already in no. 12 (which means that no. 12 definitely didn’t refer to the genre–but I can’t think of anything regarding the reading comfort zone other than the genre).
  23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
    Eeerrrr, politics? Law? (These two are my grandad’s favorites.)
  24. Favourite biography?
    Wow, erm, I can’t think of anything. I don’t remember reading so much biography, really. I usually read information about someone famous via Wikipedia rather than through books.
  25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
    Does Personality Plus by Florence Littauer considered a self-help book?
  26. Favourite cookbook?
    Okay, why is this question included? Moi and the kitchen? Not compatible.
  27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
    Aaarrrggghh, this year? Inspiring? Hmmm, Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley, I guess (and I answered this only after I retraced my steps through my reading list, again).
  28. Favorite reading snack?
    Aaawww, Amanda Scott’s Scottish historical romance!
  29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
    Eerrr, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho. As for me, I really think Coelho’s overrated.
  30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
    Not very often, really. But I sometimes check out reviews from the internet to get me another perspective of the book. In case I miss something, I guess.
  31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
    Quite bad, actually, especially if the book is a friend’s favorite. I’d usually argue with my friend if this happens.
  32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
    French. And Norway. It’d be super to be able to read Gaarder’s works in his native language.
  33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
    That I’ve ever read? Hmmm, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, and perhaps The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński.
  34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
    Dicken’s classics. And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave. Read the introduction (which is actually a verse from the bible, geez!), and I thought to myself, “No. I’m not ready to read this. No way.”
  35. Favorite Poet?
    Hmmm, I’m not really into poet, to be frank. I do have the Selected Works of Henry Lawson in my room, though. Still trying to read it.
  36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
    From my friend’s office’s library? As much as my bag could hold. They told me that I could borrow as many books as I want (devil smirk). From my office’s library? 1. From families and friends’ libraries? As much as they allow me to, huahahaha.
  37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?
    Almost never these days. This is why I usually prefer to borrow from libraries where they allow me to borrow books as long as I want to, because if not then I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the book. I used to do return books unread during my high school days, though, since they only allow me to borrow the books for a certain amount of period of time.
  38. Romola Garai portraying Sugar

    Favorite fictional character?
    Lisbeth Salander (from Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy), Sugar (the smart whore from Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White), and Flora Aemilia (from Gaarder’s Vita Brevis).

  39. Favourite fictional villain?
    Villain? Bad guys? Rigaud/Blandois from Dickens’ Little Dorrit. Played very brilliantly in the TV series by Andy Serkis.
  40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
    Hmmmm, I usually bring anything that I’m reading at that moment of the holiday period, so… no particular book.
  41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
    Okay, I really don’t remember this one.
  42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
    The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński, and I’d nominate C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series.
  43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
    My Macbook and my iPhone for sure, hahaha.
  44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
    Honestly, I never really like film adaption, unless I watch the movie first before I read the book, because if I read the book first I’d usually be disappointed. Hmmm, I guess my favorite though, would be…. The Millennium Trilogy and… The Lord of the Rings. And if I could nominate a TV series, I’d go with Little Dorrit (a 2008 BBC series).
  45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
    Definitely Harry Potter (sorry Potter fans, but to me, none of the movies really satisfied me. Watching the very last HP movie instead make me miss the book even more, but DIDN’T make me want to watch the movie again and again).
  46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
    150-190 thousand-something Rupiah. I know for sure I wouldn’t spend more than 200 thousand Rupiah for just a book, no matter how much I love the book–unless the book is really good, or something that I reaally, really, really want.
  47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
    Do it all the time before I start to read a book, or buy a book.
  48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
    If the plot’s too boring or too complicated for me to understand (at the moment of reading). If it’s the latter, I’d usually give it another try.
  49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
    Yes. I have a bookshelf in my room, and I always laminate my books (and often, my friends’ books as well), before I start reading them.
  50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
    Keep books. A friend of mine told me that I ought to sell those books one day, and I simply told her I’d give it a thought, but not now. I’m not ready to let go of my “babies.”
  51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
    Yes. Goosebumps. I avoid anything horror. Including movies and TV series. Never watch The Ring, Ju-On, and Jelangkung.
  52. Name a book that made you angry.
    Because it turns out to be a complete disappointment and completely time-wasting? By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Coelho.
  53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
    Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I wasn’t so much captured by her previous work Eat, Pray, Love, so I didn’t really expect to actually like this one. But it turned out I did. As well as Lamott’s Bird by Bird.
  54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
    By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Coelho. That’s why it’s such an utter disappointment.
  55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
    Hahaha, romance, though I don’t read all kind of romance (and I usually read them only to criticize them later). Historical romance would definitely caught my eyes. And sometimes I read chick lit, too, although usually it would revolve around Meg Cabot’s or Sophie Kinsella’s works, hahaha.

Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: The Last Class

This  is the end of the book. Yes it is.

I’m extremely grateful for my friend, Danielle, for giving me this amazing book. I learn a lot. Truly I do.

When Danielle first gave me this book, she told me that she still rereading the book and promised to hand it to me as soon as she finished the book. The reason she reread it was, she said, because she wanted to make sure she’d underlined all the interesting and important parts for me.

That’s so sweet.

And when I started to read the book, and as I read page per page, I kept chuckling whenever I saw a sentence or two that could be, indeed, a very useful input or even critics to me. And those sentences are the ones that she underlined. I would even reread it when I saw a smiley Danielle drew on a passage.

I really enjoy reading that, especially with her writing and notes on the book, I feel like I was reading the book with her. It made me feel like attending one of Lamott’s class with her.

So, before I move on with the last quotations from the book, I’d like to thank Danielle from the bottom of my heart. Terima kasih, temanku!

But now the class is about to over.

I was sad, yet at the same time excited for I now I’m gonna read another book. Very excited. Especially since I already decided what the next book would be (check the right side bar, if you wouldn’t mind).

So. This is gonna be my last journal on Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I hope you guys enjoy this journal as well as I enjoy reading the book.

The Last Class

“Write about that time in your life when you were so intensely interested in the world, when your powers of observation were at their most acute, when you felt things so deeply.” ~p. 225

Like I’ve written before, those times are usually the times whenever I felt depressed the most. Should I keep on being depressed, then?

I guess not. I don’t wanna end up like Nikolai Gogol, for sure, despite how brilliant he really was.

These ones are one of my favorite ones (sorry, I got so many favorite lines in this book):

“Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done.” ~p. 226

Right. Even if it’s just a practice, it’d mean nothing if it’s left unfinished, right? Besides, a fiction will still stay a fiction.

“Risk being unliked.” ~p. 226

I can’t help but agree, although I must say I’m afraid of this the most.

Before Pramoedya Ananta Toer finally became known and highly respected in his home-country, Indonesia, he spent most of his time in either jail or home, being kept and guarded during Soeharto regime. Of course he was respected too, back then, but imagine his work is not known by his fellow Indonesian for his book was banned for years. It was being translated, of course, in English, and widely distributed to many countries abroad. It was why he became really famous, indeed. But it took me more than 20 years to finally recognize this amazing man. And even now there are still many others who don’t know him (I must exclude my friends, I’m afraid, for most of them have read even more Pramoedya’s book more than me).

“Tell the truth as you understand it.” ~p. 226

Then, after telling the truth, here comes the disguise.

“It is knowingly, maliciously saying things about people that cast them in a false or damaging light.” ~p. 227

The rest of the explanation that follows this quotation is really hilarious. Because we might never know whether any of our friends or families would sue us because they inspired us to create a character, what we should do is actually disguise these characters and make them unrecognizable. And give them teenie little penis (for guys, of course) so they wouldn’t come forth anyway.

The story and the truth will always be ours. But there’s no harm in disguising these characters so they wouldn’t thought that we’d just revealed their secrets. Give them teenie little penis.

I don’t know whether I would actually give them teenie little penis, but I would consider that option to secure myself. I don’t wanna get sued, you know.

“The best solution is not only to disguise and change as many characteristics as you can but also to make the fictional person a composite. Then throw in the teenie little penis and anti-Semitic learnings, and I think you’ll be Okay.” ~p. 230

I’m considering an old hag character now. Who would want to come forth and tell the whole world that the old hag is them anyway?

“This is what separate artists from ordinary people; the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.” ~p. 231

The truth is ours. So is the disguise. We writers tend to build our own world in our own castle. In a good way, though. I think this alone is a guilty pleasure for bloggers/writers. No one can ever take the pleasure away from us.

“Becoming a writer can also profoundly change your life as a reader.” ~p. 233

I couldn’t agree more. This is why I’m so in awe with Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. He got me at “Watch your step.” And that was the very first sentence of the very first chapter. The same reason why I love Jostein Gaarder’s works so much. And Stieg Larsson. If only I could take just a chunk of those brilliant brains so I could also put some brilliance into my writings…

No, of course I wouldn’t chop off their heads and took their brains just like what Zachary Quinto’s character did in the series Heroes. Creepy, you know.

But as Lamott puts it, as much as those writers inspired me, I gotta find my own voice. I have to speak up with my own voice, not Gaarder’s, or Faber’s, Pramoedya’s. My own voice.

“You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as you hear them, as they come to you.” ~p. 236

“Even if you never publish a word, you have something important to pour yourself into.” ~p. 236

For the sake of the spirit (to write). For the sake of the heart.

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.” ~p. 237

“We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again.” ~p. 237

Lovely words. And very well put as well.

I’m dancing with the absurdity of life right now. And I’m not gonna rush it. Instead, I’m planning to enjoy my every second of it. Oh yes, I’m dancing right now.

Now this is where you ought to finally realize and conclude, that satisfaction, as well as the enriched soul alone, are the actual holy grail of writing. And hereby I end my Bird by Bird journal.

See you on another posts.

Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Publication–and Other Reasons to Write – Publication

I’m almost reaching the last part of the book. I’m getting impatient now for I would like to move on to my next reading (which I still haven’t decided what it would be), yet at the same time, I really don’t wanna rush everything. I still wanna enjoy the book.

But still, I’m reading as fast as I could while trying to slow down as well.

Before I finally reached The Last Class, there’s Publication. One thing that I’d like to read the most. Isn’t this one of the holy grails for most writers?

Apparently not.

“I tell you, if what you have in mind is fame and fortune, publication is going to drive you crazy.” ~p. 214

Right. I imagined.

I only got published twice so far, and that was long time ago as well, and in a Christian magazine as well (not to discriminate Christian community of course, but this should reveal that I have a very limited number of readers, not to mention that not all Christians are going to read my writings–I doubt that), yet I’ve boasted all about it, perhaps more than Margaret Mitchell ever did with her Gone With the Wind.

At some points, I know that publication is not at all the end of the journey. Well, except for Margaret Mitchell, perhaps. At the same time, I still want publication so bad. Really bad that I kept trying to send my crappy writings to any newspaper and magazines available.

Here I am! Please, please, publish my writing even if it’s nothing but rubbish!

But of course, unless I’m Andrea Hirata, or Ahmad Tohari, or Ayu Utami, or Pramoedya Ananta Toer, there’s no way to make sure that even if I ever finally published something, it would be such a sensation.

Reality sucks, so suck it up.

There are bigger chances out there that no one would even notice my (unpublished) book. There are plenty chances as well that no one would even buy my book.

Yet here I am, always dreaming and picturing myself, with my published book. That people would read it and praised it. That people would talk about it over and over.

Then I would read other writers’ books (the more accomplished ones, of course) then I would feel like crap. I mean, who the hell am I? What the hell makes me ever think that my book is going to be as good as these people’s books? They’re sensational, fantastic, and genius. Me? I’m just nobody.

Still, publication is something that I’m after.

Oh, holy grail, indeed.

“…whenever the world throws rose petals at you, which thrill and seduce the ego, beware. The cosmic banana peel is suddenly goin to appear underfoot to make sure you don’t take it all too seriously, that you don’t fill up on junk food.” ~p. 218

Not to mention my ego is already huge.

Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Publication–and Other Reasons to Write – Giving

“You are going to have to give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward.” ~p. 203

In another words: make it personal.

“Your work as a writer, when you are giving everything you have to your characters and to your readers, will periodically make you feel like the single parent of a three-year-old, who is, by turns, wonderful, willful, terrible, crazed, and adoring.” ~p. 203

Aha!

My mom always freaked out every time I told her that I would probably not getting married, or even have kids in the future. Well, I’m not saying that I don’t want to, I was simply telling her that it’s a possibility, but apparently, even a possibility freaked her out already. Now I might have just the perfect answer for her. (Writing down the quotation above.)

 The quotation above is probably the reason why it always heart-breaking for writers to get their writings rejected or returned. Because we always make it personal. We always try to put our best effort into it, and these editors or supervisors simply read and then call our best effort as rubbish. Really, who wouldn’t want to electrocute them? If our writings are just like our own kids, then those editors are actually telling us how ugly our kids are.

Fine, I don’t have kids, but you get the idea, right?

“Your child and your work hold you hostage, suck you dry, ruin your sleep, mess with your head, treat you like dirt, and then you discover they’ve given you that gold nugget you were looking for all along.” ~p. 204

Only sometimes, we don’t always get the gold nugget like, stat.

Yet we, as writers, stick to our child, our writings.

Lamott puts it that writing is like giving back. You know the times when we were so much in awe with other senior writers’ books? Writing our book is just like thanking them by writing back to them.

“So write a book back to V. S. Naipaul or Margaret Artwood or Wendell Berry or whoever it is who most made you want to write, whose work you most love to read.” ~p. 204

Enid  Blyton came to my mind. Her works are probably the very first reason why I wanted to write. Of course Michel Faber and Jostein Gaarder also came to my mind right away.

Oh, no. Low self-esteem attack. How am I ever gonna write back to those sophisticated genius people? Compared to their writings, aren’t my writings gonna look like nothing but crap?

“Writing takes a combination of sophistication and innocence; it takes conscience, our belief that something is beautiful because it’s right.” ~p. 205

Oh well, it wouldn’t hurt to try, isn’t it? Writing is, after all, a passion.

“What your giving can do is to help your readers be braver, be better than they are, be open to the world again.” ~p. 206

(sigh)

Okay. Breathe.

Give back. The innocence. Think about Michel Faber. And Jostein Gaarder. Jhumpa Lahiri. Vladimir Nabokov. And my readers. My friends. My family.

I can do this.

What about you? Who do you want to write back for? Who’s your favorite writers? Do you also struggle with the same problem when you write? Just like dealing with a three-year-old kid?

Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Publication–and Other Reasons to Write – Writing a Present

“Publication is not going to change your life or solve your problems. Publication will not make you more confident or more beautiful, and it will probably not make you any richer.” ~p. 185

Hey! A little imagination here, please?

Of course all of us, aspired writers, aim for this specific goal: Publication. Yes, publication, where I thought would lead me to fame. Well, not exactly fame, for I’m never actually sure of it, but at least I could finally google my name and found it alongside my own book.

But Anne Lamott here, ruined my imagination by sharing her experiences about how publication is not where it ends, and that publication is just another beginning. Publication, in fact, is not the most important thing of all–like, if you’re a Moslem, publication is not exactly like finally being able to go to Mecca to finally experience the spiritual journey. It is not at all like finally going to the Holy Land of Israel for Christians.

In this chapter, what really matters–and almost touch my heart, really (I don’t wanna give you the idea that I’m all that sensitive and soft-hearted) is what and who you’re actually writing for.

Lamott then shared this experience about how she finally published her first book about his father who was sick at that time, as well as her other books which are mostly dedicated to people around her–her friend, Pammy who was also very sick at that time, and another book dedicated to single mother like her. She wrote and wrote in order to finish her book before sickness finally got the best of those people–so they would be able to finally read the book dedicated to them before their sickness finally got worse.

That is so sweet, you know.

It’s not merely about the publication, but it’s more about what the book meant for you and people around you.

“So first I wrote down everything that happened to us, and then I took out the parts that felt self-indulgent.” ~p. 193

Writing an autobiography of you might not actually interest everybody, unless you’re Jesus or Barrack Obama. I doubt that everybody actually read stuffs about Barrack Obama, really. But what’s important is the value and the story about your surrounding, I suppose.

Which is why Lamott ended up writing stuffs about people around her–as a present. As a gift, dedicated to them.

I honestly have no clue to whom my book, let alone my prologue, will be dedicated to. My family? My friend? My enemy?

Maybe as I write and babble I would figure it out. I suppose.

So I’ll get back to my writing now.

And eliminated parts that felt self-indulgent.

Okay. Eliminate them. Eliminate them.

Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Help Along the Way – Writer’s Block

“Writer’s block is going to happen to you. You will read what little you’ve written lately and see with absolute clarity that it is total dog shit.” ~p. 176

“Or else you haven’t been able to write anything at all for a while. The fear that you’ll never write again is going to hit you…” ~p. 177

Oh, bummer.

I hate writer’s block. And I’ve been having it over and over for years.

Sometimes I would feel like I had this wonderful ideas about how my stories should turn out. Then I would write and write and write, but as I typed, I realized, if not feel, that the story has gotten sidetracked, and that I didn’t like the story at all.

Then I would shut down my iBook, feeling like crap and go to sleep.

The next day–or a couple days after, I would turn on my iBook again, trying to write something completely new. Something that might fit better than the previous crappy ideas.

So I’d typed. And typed. And typed.

Then I’d scrapped it again because I felt like it’s nothing that I’d imagined it would be.

Of course, I didn’t actually scrapped it.

Well, depends on how crappy I feel at that time, really. If I felt really depressed, I would definitely scrap it. But if I didn’t feel so bad about it, I would just copy-paste it to a new document and save it. Who knows it might be useful, right?

“Writers are like vacuum cleaners, sucking up all that we can see and hear and read and think and feel and articulate, and everything that everyone else within earshot can hear and see and think and feel.” ~p. 177

 I just chuckled because the sentence remind of Overheard in New York and Nguping Jakarta right away. Just in case you don’t know what those two is about, both sites contains silly, ridiculous, funny conversations of passerby in both cities (New York and Jakarta) and sometimes it would turn out to be extremely hilarious. I remember reading posts in Nguping Jakarta (which is written in Bahasa Indonesia and sometimes in slang, though) in an internet cafe and I struggled so hard not to laugh out loud. I bet the guy sitting next to me thought I was nut.

The contributors of Nguping Jakarta are Jakarta citizens who happen to hear funny comments or remarks and would later send what they heard to Nguping Jakarta. The creators of Nguping Jakarta call themselves as Kuping Kiri (Left Ear) and Kuping Kanan (Right Ear). We can never be safe whenever they’re around because, as Lamott puts it, they suck up all that they hear and see and articulate and all. But we feel entertained, really. At least I feel entertained.

Anyway, I guess, I really need to buy index cards and start to bring them everywhere I go from now on. Point is, whenever I feel this kind of stupid block going on, I might need to take the advice from Anne Lamott, saying that I’d better go and take some fresh air, and perhaps, do a little observation here and there, and take notes on everything, related to my story or not, for, we might not know which one might be useful someday. Maybe I should try to make my own ‘Overheard in Malang,’ or perhaps ‘Overheard in The Office.’ But the first would, I guess, make my friends feel so insecure around me and the latter would make me desperate hope that none of my boss would ever read this ‘Overheard in The Office,’ or they’d hang me, I suppose.

Okay.

Breathe.

“The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you’re empty.” ~p. 178

Gee, why I never thought of that?

“The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. …But if you accept the reality that you have been given–that you are not in a productive creative period–you free yourself to begin filling up again.” ~p. 178

Acceptance, huh?

This definitely won’t be easy. Of course I was taught of acceptance, but it was never easy. Someone would come up and told me the opposite, let’s say, that they’re being very productive lately, which would definitely make me feel like crap, or someone would say that perhaps I’m never that good anyway, or perhaps would told me to work and try harder otherwise, and then I would stressed myself out. This last part is where you’d need to take away all the knives and scissors that you have.

“I remind myself of this when I cannot get any work done: to live as if I’m dying, because the truth is we are all terminal on this bus. To live as if we are dying gives us a chance to experience some real presence. Time is so full for people who are dying in a conscious way, full in the way that life is for children.” ~p. 179

Okay. Not helping.

To live like we’re dying?

I’ve been noticing for years, that I felt really productive mostly when I was depressed. And most posts that has gotten most positive comments are, unfortunately as well, the ones that were written when I was in my lowest, darkest, bluest, and bitterest times. No, I’m not lying.

I remember there was one time when I felt really depressed when I was still in college. I was taking more than 20 credits in a semester (approximately around 9-10 classes per week), not to mention 2 additional credits that I spent in the Performing Arts Department to practice my piano and drumming skills, and at the same time, my days were also filled with choir exercise at least twice a week, plus a drama rehearsal about twice a week as well (if I had not mistaken). During that busiest time of my life in college, I was, as well, having a turbulence with one of my dearest friend. We stopped talking, and it tortured me. I felt so alone, and I began checking out all sites in the internet about depression. I even did a stupid checklist on the internet to check my depression level. They said I was heavily depressed. Then I went to the drugstore, telling them that I need a Prozac. A woman told me that I’d need a doctor’s prescription for that, but as another customer came, she’d disappear out of my sight in a second. So I tried another person in that same drugstore and told her that I need a Prozac. She’s probably new, because she gave me Prozac right away.

Anyway, during those times, I remember writing plenty and plenty of blog posts–name it, poems, stories, or just chunks of metaphors.

And that’s when some of my friends told me that they love what I wrote.

Okay, fine, depressed is not the same as dying, but what if, instead of pretending that I’m dying, being depressed is the key for me to be productive?

Well, that could still be nothing but a hunch. Besides, men are always evolving, right?

Okay. Breathe again.

I think I need to sit down and relax for a minute.

‘Your unconscious can’t work when you are breathing down its neck. You’ll sit there going, “Are you done in there yet, are you done in there yet?” But it is trying to tell you nicely, “Shut up and go away.” ‘ ~p. 182

 Okay. I’m gonna go and find some fresh air now. Maybe even brew a cup of coffee.

Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Help Along the Way – Letters

“When you don’t know what else to do, when you’re really stuck and filled with despair and self-loathing and boredom, but you can’t just leave your work alone for a while and wait, you might try telling part of your history–part of a character’s history–in the form of a letter. The letters informality just might free you from the tyranny of your perfectionism.” ~p. 172

Arrgghh. Another perfectionism. Again.

This is what I actually do at first when I try to make an outline of my story.

Oh yes, dear fellas, I used to make an outline for the story I’m about to write, to mkae sure that I wouldn’t get sidetracked.

I know, I know, I love free writing, and I still do, but even in this part of free writing, some outlines might help.

Or at least that’s what I believe.

I remember writing timeframes in chronological order for a story I was writing.

Well, in outlines, you usually write simple chunks of words instead of a complete sentence in a full body paragraph, right?

But sometimes, a simple fragment sentence doesn’t help. So then I’d write a letter to myself.

Yes, to myself. Does that sound selfish to you?

Nevertheless, the fact is that I wrote a message for myself.

“So after this, what Eddie would want to do is to shut himself in his room and think about his dead girlfriend. He would grieve until his brother, Samuel forced to enter the room and asked Eddie to stop grieving and move on with his life.”

Then I would transform that message into sentences, dialogues and paragraphs.

Or sometimes, I would do that whenever I still feel like writing, yet my time is extremely limited. So I would write and an outline, combined with short messages to myself to remind me on what’s supposed to happen next.

Well, so far, that works. Really does.

Of course there’s still a possibility that after I continued my writing at another time, I might read the message and think that my former idea is stupid. Then I’d write a brand new sentence. But at least I’ve tried to tell myself and remind myself what to do.

At least that’s what I think.