Vibrant, undeniably good-looking and talented, this student of mine dropped by my office to ask this question: “Pak, I want to write an article that sells. What should I do?”
Writing, not just scribbling or scratching, but writing, is a serious job. It’s a serious task done by seriously determined persons with serious approaches toward life. You need a contemplative stance to life. You need sensitivity to register even the faintest cries of humanity that is unfolding before your five senses. You cannot be a good writer if you are just a copycat, imitating all the things blindly for the sake of ‘being in vogue’. You cannot dive deeply into an inspiring insight, which later will turn to a seed of good essay, if you are merry-making lover, rambunctious, and boisterous person. You need to at times distance yourself away from the hurly burly of life, and reflect in total silence on all of those seemingly banal life events. Occasionally you need to mingle with people of different walks of life, be open-minded, non-judgmental, and see life from their vantage points. Only then can you become enriched with a multitude of colors that later will add to the beauty of your written thoughts.
Then you need a good model. Don’t be ashamed of reading and even admiring great works of great writers. Take Pramoedya Toer, or Djenar Maesa Ayu, or Hemingway, or Gede Prama (this one is my favorite), and learn how they pour their great thoughts in dense, sometimes deceitfully simple, words.
As for that mentee of mine, I have seen several writings by her. Mostly about life. And they are mostly impressive for the depth of the analysis and this hammering effect of her every sentence. She’s got the talent, and that’s already a step forward to being a good and inspiring writer. What she needs is determination and perseverance.