What are the things you would do anyway, even if you know you would fail?
What are the things you would do anyway, even if you can’t make money out of it?
What are the things you would do anyway, even if you know you won’t be great at it?
I wrote in my journal that 2021 will be my year of PLAY. After such a heavy and tumultuous 2020, I realized how much I missed living life with a playful attitude: being spontaneous and silly, doing things just for the fun of doing it, being curious and full of wonder.
Last year, I had been so focused on ‘understanding my purpose’ and ‘being purposeful’ it made everything felt heavy. At the end of 2020, I felt so overwhelmed I had a little breakdown.
I started questioning why I should continue doing the things I do if they don’t produce tangible results; if there’s no direct outcome.
But I forgot some things.
I forgot that life is more than just producing tangible results and direct outcomes.
I forgot that you can live a good life even if it seems like you don’t understand (or confused, or unsure, or unclear about) what your purpose is.
I forgot that ‘to have fun’ can also be a purpose.
I forgot that ‘to play’ can also be the answer to the question: “WHY?”
I realized that I had forgotten how to play.
So, this year, I want to learn to take myself (and my work, and my art, and everything else) less seriously.
Lately, I find myself asking these questions while working, designing stuff for my shop, having a call with a client, washing dishes, walking at the park:
Can I make it a bit more fun?
Can I inject more playfulness into it somehow?
Can I find something to help me enjoy it more?
Can I drop the importance of it and focus on having a pleasant time?
Most of the time, the answer is yes.
“What all play has in common is that it offers a sense of engagement and pleasure, takes the player out of a sense of time and place, and the experience of doing it is more important than the outcome,” Brown said. “To benefit most from the rejuvenating benefits of play, we need to incorporate it into our everyday lives, not just wait for that two-week vacation every year.”
So, if you know that you will fail at it, won’t make money out of it, and won’t be great at it, what are the things you would still want to do anyway?
Llia (Aulia) Halimatussadiah is a writer of 30 books, from novels to how-to books. She is also the co-founder of NulisBuku.com, an online self-publishing platform, and Storial.co, a social storytelling platform that allows writers to do direct publishing digitally. In the past 3 years, she’s been writing biographies of successful Indonesian Entrepreneurs. Her latest book ‘Done is Better Than Perfect’, is a biography of Indonesian Digital Marketer and Serial Entrepreneur, Denny Santoso.You can read more interviews with Indonesian writers here.
1. What is your view about productivity, discipline, and inspiration?
Llia: I’m not productive, I just have a lot of things to say. The abundance of my curiosity and energy has led me into a series of learning, from books, classes, workshops, people, situations. And every time I learn something new, I just have to share it. It can be in the form of social media posts, writing books, podcasts, and videos. Inspiration comes when you’re living with a sense of awe and wonder of the world, just being aware of the present moment. It’s so natural when you’re in the state of accepting, receiving, and allowing, you’ll get inspiration. I meditate every morning and night for at least 20 minutes, being still helps me a lot to be in coherence mode, and the effect of calmness inside will last for hours.
Once you’ve decided to create something big, for example, a long book, then inspirations alone are not enough.
You will need a plan to keep you accountable for your commitment. You need a structure. You need to be disciplined. I always said, structure before substance. Create outlines first, then pour your heart into it. I am proud to be able to be balanced (most of the time!), balancing my yin and yang, masculine and feminine energy that governs creation.
2. Do you have a writing routine?
Llia: I write a gratitude journal every morning, writing the evidence of the things that work well in my life based on my intention. For writing as in book project, I also do it first thing in the morning usually from 7 to 9 am, then I’ll get ready to go to the office. I am not writing full time, but my job as CMO at my own startup Storial.co allows me to have words, a big part of my life.
3. How do you manage a writing project? How do you organize your thoughts, your resources, and your time?
Llia: When I get inspired to write a book, it usually because I’m curious about a subject and I have spent enough amount of research that already benefits my life that I’d like to share with others. So I started a project with a clearly articulated objective, what the impact the book would make to the world when it’s done.
Then I would create a mind map to see how the book outlines would look like from start to finish. Then I’ll set the book launch date and count down from that date to figure out my researching time, my total writing time, my first draft, my proofreading time, my editing time, to my final draft. Then I’ll usually figure out from that schedule, how many pages per day I should write to be able to reach the goal on time. If I have to write 3 pages a day and I skip one day, then the next day my goal would be doubled.
When I’m writing a book project, usually my mind is fully occupied with my project, so I’m focusing on my energy and time to my writing project ’til I finished at least the first draft.
4. You are writing different types of books: novels, poems, guide book, self-help, travel book, spiritual, movie script, etc. Why? How do you want people to remember you or your work as a writer?
Llia: I’m bored if I’m doing the same thing over and over, I like some challenges when I do my work, that’s why when writing gets a bit too easy for me, I add the challenge by writing books on different subjects. The latest and heaviest challenge would be writing a biography book of entrepreneurs’ stories. The difficulty level is so much higher because I need to dive deep into another person’s life and become them for some time. It’s tough!
I want to be remembered as a person who falls in love with life. And it shows through my passion for words and my variety of books.
5. What do you “discover” when you write?
Llia: I discover more about myself when I write. I was almost sure I was an ADD because I can’t sit still. I can’t even sit comfortably at a cinema because I just need to move from one thing to another, mentally and physically. So, when I write, I need to stay with myself for a little longer, it needs a bit of forcing my body to sit down and type the words coming out of my heart and mind. And when you’re able to be at peace, your mind clears, and things come to you like a light bulb. You suddenly get it.
Whether about the content that you’re trying to write and the correlation with your reality, to the way you handle yourself to be able to finish the book. People you need to meet will also appear to show you what you missed. Writing invite you to a new piece of land you never knew existed inside you.
6. How is your stoicism reflected in your writing or in the way you approach writing and publishing?
Llia: Nothing is bad news for a stoic. When my manuscript got rejected by a publisher, I turn it into a print-on-demand business NulisBuku.com that later grows into a new company Storial.co, a social storytelling platform. You just kind of take whatever life has thrown at you and turn it into profit (laugh).
As for my writing, I guess I’m very practical in my view about life because of stoicism, my writing is simple and to the point. I kind of joke to my friend Henry Manampiring, the author of Filosofi Teras, that I need more drama in my life, otherwise I would never be able to write a novel any more!
7. How would your perfect day as a writer look like?
Llia: My perfect day started as I wake up in my little villa overlooking the hills and the pool. Then I open my wooden door, feel the fresh air in my face, then take a deep breath. I started to meditate for 20 minutes to expand my heart and reach out for my journal to write and be grateful for my day the day before.
I walked to my writer’s room just beside my pool and open my laptop. Took 15 minutes to read books on the table and start to continue writing while sometimes rest and see the forest view on my window. I will write for 2 hours then take a break to walk in the forest around my house for an hour. I start writing again after having a light lunch until around 2 pm.
I’ll sunbathe by the pool for an hour then take a 2 hours nap. I woke up to get ready to go to the beach and watch the sunset. Then taking notes for any inspired words coming out of my brain. I’ll have dinner with friends until around 9 pm then heads home. I can watch movies or read books related to my writing until around 10 pm.
NOTE: From time to time, I turn to you (yes, all of you) when I have no idea about what to write on this blog. Feel free to drop an email or DM me on Instagram if you have any ideas/questions for the blog!
Q: How to leave a toxic relationship?
Disclaimer: I am only sharing my personal take/experience related to this issue. I am not an expert, so please do not consider this post as your final answer. Take it with a grain of salt, do your own research, and reach out to an expert/authority figure if you need professional help to get out of a toxic relationship.
A: I guess I would answer this question with another question: “What makes you stay in that toxic relationship?”
I believe that to know how to leave a toxic relationship, we need to know why we’re staying there in the first place.
Dr. Lillian Glass, a California-based communication and psychology expert, says that a toxic relationship is consistently unpleasant and draining for the people in it, to the point that negative moments outweigh and outnumber the positive ones.
Dr. Kristen Fuller, a California-based family medicine physician who specializes in mental health, adds that toxic relationships are mentally, emotionally and possibly even physically damaging to one or both participants. And these relationships don’t have to be romantic: Glass says friendly, familial and professional relationships can all be toxic as well.
With that being said, logically, we know that we need to get out of a toxic relationship. That’s crystal clear. The problem is, we don’t always feel like we’re capable of getting ourselves out of that relationship, for many different reasons (one can be more complicated than another).
However, most of the time, it’s fear. We are afraid to leave.
What do you get out of that relationship?
We’re afraid of leaving that relationship because we believe that despite being toxic, we get something out of that relationship. Maybe we get the feeling of being loved, assurance, friendship, comfort, a sense of familiarity, security, or financial support. The fear is about missing these things in our lives if we decided to leave the toxic relationship.
Now, the question is, how can you get those things you (think) you need outside of this relationship? How can you give yourself those things? Are there other people that can provide you with those things and who are they? How can you get them to help you?
Make plans on how you can get those things that you need (or want) outside of your toxic relationship. Get it from other people, or get it from yourself. Once you know that you can have the things you need outside of your toxic relationship, you’ll gain the confidence you need to leave. You won’t be afraid to leave anymore because you know that what you need (or want) can still be obtained outside of that toxic relationship.
This is what I did to leave a toxic relationship I was once in.
Do you think this toxic relationship poses a serious threat to your life, either physically, emotionally, or mentally?
If yes, immediately reach out to a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a social worker/activist, or an authority figure you respect. If that sounds like too much of a stretch, reach out to a friend or family member you trust. Yes, it can be hard, but do it. Save yourself. Your life matters. Love and respect yourself by seeking help to get out of the relationship as soon as possible.
While you’re in the process of getting out of a toxic relationship, when possible, I find it best to totally cut ties with the other person. Do not stay with them, be with them, talk to them, or meet them. For me, this is important to prevent me from swaying or changing my minds (oh, maybe s/he’ll change. oh, this time s/he promised. oh, s/he said sorry).
It will be more difficult and more challenging to get out of the toxic relationship if we are frequently in touch with the other person. Their pull can still be so strong, and we’re risking ourselves to get sucked back into that relationship again.
However, if it’s impossible to totally cut ties with the other person at the moment, try reducing your time/interaction with him/her. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good. Sign yourself up to join various activities that you love. In the meantime, reach out to the people you trust and make plans about how you can distance yourself from this person.
But, I love him/her. I want to help him/her.
I know that this, sometimes, becomes our excuse to go back into a toxic relationship (I was guilty of this!). However, we need to know that we can’t love them if we can’t love ourselves. And we can’t help them when we have terribly wounded ourselves. The best thing to do is to love ourselves first by healing our wounds and nursing ourselves back to health. Once we’re completely healed and strong, once we’ve gained our confidence that we can be completely OK outside of that toxic relationship, then we can decide if we want to ‘help’ the other person, or if we want to get connected/interact with them again.
Well, first, it was because of #inktober–the 31-day challenge in the art community to draw something with ink throughout October. I was thinking of joining, but I wasn’t sure that I could actually do it for 31 days. Drawing (or painting) is still something quite new to me, and I’m still trying to get a hang of it.
I was trying to come up with something that won’t take a lot of time to do and won’t need any specific tools/supplies; when it suddenly dawned on me that in 3 months, we’d say goodbye to 2018! How time flies! So, I thought, why not having a journaling exercise that will help us to reconnect and discover something new (or old) about ourselves–thus, we have 2 more months to prepare for our smooth transition to 2019?
Some refer to it as freewriting or automatic writing. The idea is to set a timer for a certain period of time: one minute, three minutes, five minutes, ten minutes up to you (although for this challenge, we’ll do a 3-minute session per day).
As the timer starts, begin writing (with pen and paper) in your journal, without really thinking, without really stopping.
Write whatever crossed your mind.
It doesn’t matter if things appear to sound weird, funny, or senseless.
The idea is to translate your tangled and busy mind into the paper.
Here’s the secret: DO NOT stop as you write, not even for a split second. Do not think. Just write until your time is up. Follow the chaos of your mind and write everything down. Everything.
You could even write something like, “I don’t know why I am doing this, oh, I’m so hungry, like so, hungry and my foot itches and what should I write this is strange really…”
Keep writing no matter what until your timer beeps.
I like to call this technique ‘intuitive writing’ or ‘intuitive journaling’ because after doing this practice for a while, you will notice the magical moment when your intuition starts talking to you from the chaos of the page.
This is exactly why you need to relax and let go of the need to control; set aside the urge to think, to edit, to look for the right words or sentences.
When you’re still trying or thinking, you are not letting your intuition take over.
So, let it flow. Let whatever needs to come out from within you find its way onto the page.
How to Join This Intuitive Writing Challenge and More.
Here’s how it’ll play out:
All you need is a pen, a notebook to write, and a timer (you can use the timer on your phone). Set the timer to 3 minutes to start your intuitive journaling session. Can you do more than 3 minutes a day? Sure. However, remember that we tend to go strong at the beginning of a project and then lose our drive a little bit more every day. Personally, I believe that completing the challenge by writing 3 minutes a day for 31 days will benefit you more than writing for 15 minutes a day, but stopping after the first 7 days. And please only write by hand! Why? Find the answer here.
Every day, before 8 am, I will post your intuitive journaling prompt on this page (at the end of this post). I don’t want to post all the prompts right away, because I think it will be overwhelming. Plus, there will always be that temptation of “thinking” about what to write for tomorrow’s prompt, which is something that will beat the purpose of intuitive journaling. So, every day, when you’re ready to write, open this page and see that day’s prompt. I will also share the prompt via my Instagram Stories.
If you want, you can share your experience of going through each challenge or even share what you write. But you don’t have to do this. Just know that you’ll benefit from it even if you want to keep the journal to yourself. Don’t feel the obligation to share if you don’t feel like it.
I am using the hashtag #intuitivejournaling #writeandwander and #octoberjournal to talk about this challenge/project on social media. I might not share what I have written throughout the challenge, but I might want to share some lessons, memories, or sentiments that come up when necessary. You can also share your experience by using those hashtags, so we can find each other. Know that you don’t have to share or use the hashtag if you don’t want to. You know I’m not fussy about those kinds of things 🙂
Have fun, and don’t forget to set your intention to use this challenge as a way to discover something about yourself, or to hear the message you need to hear.
I couldn’t remember how our conversations started, but after messaging one another back and forth for quite some time, we left the site and started emailing one another more frequently.
He was around my age—at times bold and rebellious, other times mellow and deeply curious about life, and always in love with reptiles the way people are in love with a purring kitten. Our friendship flows through words and thoughts, bursts of emotions and lines of secrets, alphabets, symbols, and pictures—these were the things that form our alternate universe.
We sometimes wondered how amazing it was to keep such a long-lasting friendship with a stranger: with someone who lives in another part of the world, someone we have never even met, someone we have never even had any phone conversations with.
But ours is the kind of friendship that blooms naturally, in a genuinely platonic manner, and lasts for another 16 years after our first online encounter.
I don’t check my Facebook messenger unless someone sent me something there, and told me to have a look. Just like a few days ago, when I opened my messenger only to check a message left by a friend. As I hovered around to find it, my eyes caught a message from unknown contact.
Usually, I would disregard the message without opening it, but that day, somehow, I clicked it.
Hanny, we never met, but I’m T’s Mom. It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of T’s death. He left me a small list of people he cared about and wanted them to know. Again, I’m so sorry.
I needed to read this message over and over again, each time with a sinking feeling in my stomach. I knew what it meant, but I just couldn’t grasp the cold reality of it. I couldn’t even cry because I couldn’t digest things properly at the time.
T left me a message about a week before.
It was one of our casual what’s up messages.
In the middle of my workloads and hectic business trips, I decided to save my reply for the next weekend, when I would be more chill and have the time to write longer. This wasn’t something strange in our friendship.
In 16 years, there were times when T would reply to my email two months later, or I would respond to his 2-3 weeks later, and there were also times when we did not write to each other for 5-6 months altogether. Nobody would chase anybody for a reply, apart from leaving some lines like hope-all-is-good or happy-birthday or congrats-for-that-thing.
We know that no matter how infrequent, we would always get back to one another with longer updates and replies and intense email marathons. It’s like an unwritten rule: we will always get back in touch—no matter how late.
But maybe, this time, I was late.
I know that T had been dealing with depression his whole life.
A month into our friendship, he told me about the things he sometimes saw or heard, and when I responded to this story with more questions and curiosity, he said I was probably the only person that didn’t label him crazy.
Probably it was this trajectory that enables us to talk about T’s depression, medication, and his ways to cope up with it openly—along with other things in our lives: like the movies we watch, the song we listen to, our passion, our dreams, our current crush, our heartbreaks.
We didn’t have any agreement on this, but somehow we knew that if he emailed me saying, I-want-to-talk-to-you, this would be his way of reaching out during his lowest days. I would know to respond right away, and we would be emailing each other back and forth until he dropped our email intensity: a sign that he already felt a little bit better.
But what did I know?
The thing is, I know nothing.
We know nothing even about our closest ones.
What if I responded to T’s casual what’s up right away a week ago? Would things change? Would we talk things out? Would he still be alive? Was that even his usual and casual what’s up? Why did I come to that conclusion? What if that was his signal of reaching out, instead of the usual I-want-to-talk-to-you? What if, in reality, there was nothing casual about what’s up, ever?
These were the things that came to mind the first few hours after I heard about T’s death. I spent a few days after receiving the news of his passing by rereading our old email exchange, trying to bring back the feelings and memories of our friendship.
Maybe, I was looking for a clue.
How did I miss this one? How did I miss him? The day when he left me his last message, did he think about leaving? Did he make up his mind already?
I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare. | Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story
My partner told me that sometimes he wondered if people choose to leave to ease their pain or to free their closest ones and family members from the pain and trouble they thought they are causing. I sometimes wondered, too. And still, I didn’t know the answer.
However, this is what I know.
I know that T had the dream of coming to Asia and Australia, working with reptile researchers and conservationists. He used to send me pictures of his snakes and the baby alligator he’d been working with at a reptile hospital. He believed that reptiles were kind and gentle, but they were generally misunderstood.
I know that T decided to stay home after his sister moved out from their family house because he didn’t have the heart to leave his mother alone—although staying means putting his dreams on hold. “What if something happened to her and I didn’t know about it until hours or even days later?” he said.
I know that these are two of T’s happiest times: 1) when he worked with reptiles and 2) when he went to Hawaii and got to run through a rainforest barefoot.
A few weeks ago, I just wrapped up the writing of a book: a self-healing journal about nursing heartbreak and dealing with loss. At the time, I didn’t know that I would need this book for myself this soon.
Maybe, subconsciously, I wrote this book for myself, for the memories of T, and for those who have their hearts broken by depression every single day, struggling to survive another day.
Bernard Batubara (Bara) is an Indonesian author living in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He begins his writing career as a poet. Today, his works have been published in newspapers, literary magazines, literary web portals, as well as several anthologies with fellow authors. His books are Angsa-Angsa Ketapang (2010), Radio Galau FM (2011), Kata Hati (2012), Milana (2013), Cinta. (2013), Surat untuk Ruth (2014), Jatuh Cinta Adalah Cara Terbaik untuk Bunuh Diri (2014), Jika Aku Milikmu (2015), Metafora Padma (2016), Elegi Rinaldo (2016), and Luka Dalam Bara (2017). Radio Galau FM and Kata Hati are now major motion pictures. He occasionally gives lectures on creative writing in high schools, universities, and communities.
How does Bara—the writer—see love and heartbreak in his writings?
Bara: My first novel draft was a love story. I wrote it when I was in junior high school. It was about the life of a rebellious high school student and a love story that blossoms with a classmate. A cliché, I know. Like a template. But it was only this kind of story that crossed my mind the first time I tried to write a novel. The draft was completed in 2 years.
I sent it to a big publishing company in Jakarta and got a rejection letter 6 months after.
At first, love-themed stories (and heartbreak; these two are actually a unit; it is impossible for each one to be written on their own) became the fuel for my writing. Simply because I felt that these stories were the ones closest to me. It was a theme I thought I understood the most. Actually, I wanted to write fantasy like Harry Potter novels, but all the monsters I could imagine already made their appearances there. I felt less imaginative to write fantasy and I didn’t read enough to write a historical novel. So, I wrote romance.
As time passed by, with 2-3 of my books were still talking about love, my readers (generally they are younger than me) labeled me: Bernard Batubara—the romance writer.
I started to be known (or seen) as a romantic guy because I write love stories. There was one time when I tried to ditch the label because it felt like I have been somewhat dwarfed by the market. I do possess other interests apart from writing love stories. However, now I accept it and think of that label (the romance writer) as a good opportunity to deliver various ideas outside my ideals about love itself.
My other books, although the ‘outer packaging’ is still revolving around love, are actually talking about a wide array of issues. I talk about illegal logging, horizontal conflict, social condition, law, modernism, urban living, existentialism, religion, and many more. Love stories are used as packaging, a prelude to my ideas.
One of the heaviest tasks for a writer is to make the reader feels connected to what he writes. Love (and heartbreak) story is the easiest material to get people to resonate with it. I use love stories as a bridge to talk about other things with my readers.
How far do you process real-life experience into fiction?
Bara: At first, I thought one of the most important skills a writer should possess is imagination. Writing is about creating things that once did not exist. That’s the joy of writing.
However, lately, I feel as if I am not too clever in making things up. It’s easier for me to write about the things I have experienced.
I don’t need to find the scenes, characters, or situations that don’t exist. I need only to daydream for a while, remembering a situation or a scene from my past, then write about it.
But of course, it’s not always easy to write about your personal experience. There were times when I didn’t want to remember the things I needed to remember. I want to write about the things I have experienced, but I don’t want to write them all.
However, censoring my memory means a betrayal to memories itself.
At the end of the day, I just face it. Anger, disappointment, sadness, all the negative feelings that surface when I remember certain parts of my memories… I learn about them. I dissect my memories. I ask myself why it happened this way or that way, to the point in which I am able to digest those negative feelings and understand them; while turning them into stories.
The first step to remember is by reminiscing the most important part of my experience. For example, if I am writing a love story based on my experience with my ex, I will remember the most impressive moment of our relationship. Usually, that part contains a conflict, and this becomes a conflict in the story as well. I will start writing them down. From here, I can move in many different directions. I can go forward, or backward to past experiences until those memories turn into a full write-up.
How far do I go? Radio Galau FM—almost all of it is based on my personal experience. Kata Hati only takes some ideas and conversations that happen in the real world. Cinta dengan Titik is about someone else’s experience (my friend). Milana, part of it is a personal experience, and the other part is not. And there it goes.
I am most straightforward in my latest book, Luka Dalam Bara. In some of my social media channels and talk shows, I told my readers that the book recorded my romantic experience with someone (most of them know who this someone is).
Someone says, write only for one person. Do you agree with this?
Bara: I would say that I am quite in agreement with that suggestion. It reminded me of one of my favorite writer’s advice, Kurt Vonnegut. He said, write to please just one person. “If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”
Another favorite writer of mine, whose name I do not wish to mention here, once said that he writes only for one person: himself. I think I have done the same thing, writing only to please myself, and I did it because it’s easier than pleasing everybody. (Everybody means 7 billion people on earth? Scary)
All stories are love stories. How do you feel about this? Is this something you believe in?
Bara: Yes and no.
No, because there are good stories I have read, and the writer does not write about romance at all. Some good stories talk about war, violence, political intrigue, glum future world, and many more. Good stories are not always about love.
However, I think even in those stories where love-themes are avoided, at a certain point they will indirectly tell us something about love. Love becomes something subtle and inherent in the story of life, and this—at times, enables us to see love stories in novels that don’t fall under the romance genre. When I read 1984 by George Orwell, I read a love story between the protagonist and his female partner, although Orwell might want to tell a story about the forlorn future of humans.
All stories are love stories—this could be true for the previous reason: love is something inherent in life and it takes different shapes. We’re not only talking about eros love or platonic love but many different kinds of love. Just like it is impossible to write a story without a mention of human sufferings, it is also impossible to avoid bringing forth a love story, however subtle, in a story.
As a writer, how do you see the difference between your male and female characters when they fall in love or heartbroken?
Bara: Male characters in fiction works I’ve ever read face their broken-heartedness in a way that is not too different from my male friends in the real world. First, they will deny it. Second, they find distractions. Third, they regret the things they have done. Fourth, they know it’s impossible for them to turn back time, so they’ll enter the next step. Fifth, they accept the fact that they are the real problem in that broken relationship.
The same goes for female characters. They’ll weep, mourn until their tears dry up, and in no time they find someone new to love.
I guess because fiction is a reflection and a result of contemplation of real-world events, the characters’ actions would not be that far different from what we have seen in the real world. These are also the things that make us feel connected to a novel or short story we are reading. We feel as if we are seeing ourselves (or our friends) in it.
How is your attachment to your works? How do you deal with compliments and criticisms?
Bara: I would think of myself as a writer that could move on easily when it comes to my work.
At the time a new book is being published, I no longer think about it. I am already focusing my mind on the next one. Sometimes, during talk shows, there were questions from readers about certain scenes in my book—and I had to dig my mind really hard to answer that—since I had detached myself quite far from that work.
I used to think of my published books as my children. In that sense, our relationship is like this blood-connection between a father and his children. But then, I thought, a good father could be one who lets his children grow independently and find their own ways to face the world. Furthermore, the world the children are facing is their own world—a world that is different from the world of their father.
My attachment towards my published works is limited to a chronological memory. Which book, published by when, or how I began writing that book… those kinds of things. But when it comes to emotional attachment or the like, I don’t think I have that kind of feelings inside of me.
I do not have enough energy to cultivate an emotional relationship with all of my works. Life moves forward and I invest my energy on my future works.
And speaking about criticism, I was once annoyed with the mocking of my works on social media. However, afterward, I realized that being annoyed had no benefit for me. So, that was it. Today, I think of all the responses to my work as appreciation. I only take into account inputs from people whose reading taste and thinking ability I trust.
The rest are just different forms of appreciation.
Theoresia Rumthe co-authors the poetry book Tempat Paling Liar di Muka Bumi (The Wildest Place on Earth, 2017) with her partner, Weslly Johannes. Theo was born in Ambon and currently lives in Bandung, writing, and facilitating workshops on poetry making and public speaking. She is also one of the initiators of Molucca Project, an effort to bring some good vibes about her hometown in Maluku (Molucca).
How do you give birth to poetry?
Theo: Poetry is born out of the most mundane things inside of me. If you asked me how the process looks like: I love to observe. I love to observe the smallest things around me, for instance, the green grass, the dried leaves with their textures when I stepped on them, a droplet of water from the tree trunks that fall on my skin, raindrops crawling on the window, the glimmer of lights from the car’s headlights when it’s dark, and the eyelids of a lover. I love to observe these things closely, slowly. Once I observed them, I connect them to the feelings inside of me. The next step is to pour them into a piece of paper.
How does ‘the wildest place on earth’ look like?
Theo: The ‘wildest place on earth’, in my opinion, is inside our head. There’s a limitless world in there. If I need to give meanings to the word ‘wild’, then I would perceive it as an ‘adventure of feelings’—of how courageous we are in exploring each and every feeling inside of us, whatever those feelings are, bravely. When I thought of the word ‘wild’, I have this memory of when I was twelve or thirteen: I sneaked out of the house only to watch a midnight-movie in the cinema, without asking permission from my parents. (laugh)
What kind of ‘wildness’ runs inside of you?
Theo: I like things that hit me first. Whether they are sentences that come first or feelings that come for the first time. I do not like to edit them. Something ‘raw’ is usually way more honest. This is the reason why I never edited my poetry, except when it comes to the choice of words. Something that is more ‘raw’, more ‘matter-of-factly’, more ‘honest’ has its own wildness. And that resides inside of me.
How do we find poetry?
Theo: I believe that inspiration can nudge whomever it visits. The problem is, who would be sensitive towards that, and who would not. When you get nudged and you’re indifferent, inspiration will find someone else. So, if you’d like to find poetry around you, there’s only one key: don’t be indifferent.
Poetry is not always about words. We can see this from the way the Universe creates poetry; could be from the rainbow, the colors of sundown, the breeze that caresses your face, the salty sea that sticks to your skin, the traces of sand on the sole of your feet.
How does your birthplace influence your works and the way you see the world?
Theo: Ambon, my birthplace, significantly influences my works, the way I see the world, and my creative process. My Mother and Father had introduced me to ‘the stage’ when I was young. I grew up with two sisters, and we love singing since early childhood. Not only singing, but also reading poetry, and we’re quite friendly with the stage since we’re playing amateurish drama and theatre. My Mother and Father also introduced us to books. I remembered that I already composed my first short story when I was a teenager, although it remained unfinished until today.
The exotic natural landscape of Ambon also gives a stimulus for me, who grew up there, to create. I don’t know, but I feel as if the ocean is not only blue, but there’s a richer gradation of colors. And the mountains are not always green. They can have hues of salted eggs. There, I learned to see all possibilities in the midst of all impossibilities.
How do you stay true to your art, to the creative force inside of you?
Theo: Do you create poetry every day? If this question is posed to me right now, then the answer is yes—because I am preparing my next poetry book. But, sometimes, for a long time, I don’t create poetry.
What’s important for me is to give birth to creative works, and this should be done every single day. If I don’t make poetry, I write for my blog. If I don’t write for my blog, I write whatever sentences that come to mind in a small notebook I carry around, or on my mobile phone’s note page. If I am negligent about this, I feel anxious and restless.
I choose to stay true to the art and creativity inside of me. I think it’s simply about making your choices. My ‘fire’ won’t go far from art and creativity. To live and to choose to lit your fire consciously and fully, I look at it as an achievement in life. The most important thing about lighting your fire is to do it wholeheartedly, instead of doing it only to look ‘cool’.
Most of the time, I found myself saying the things I didn’t want to say, agreeing to things I disagree with or getting caught in a situation I didn’t want to be in–simply because I wanted to please others. Simply because I was afraid of saying these things out loud:
1. I don’t know
I used to feel ashamed of saying this. I felt incompetent. I felt stupid. I didn’t know where exactly I got the idea that I couldn’t simply say these words bluntly. Maybe at school, when I learned that most of the teachers wouldn’t accept those words kindly.
Either it was a marketing term, a new band, a song, a movie title, or breaking news… I used to pretend as if I knew everything. But it was tiring, really. And I just realized that it was actually pretty stupid to pretend as if I knew everything. Because it’s impossible for us to know everything.
Not knowing about something is okay. These days, I say I don’t know when I don’t know about something. I am surprised to know that most people are okay with that.
2. I can’t afford it now
It used to be a sensitive subject. Something you would avoid discussing. Probably because most of the time, we linked our success based on the things we can afford. Wasn’t it the case? When I was a kid, I saw how the adults around me measured each other’s successes based on how many things they can afford.
It was almost like a taboo to say: I can’t afford it. Or that I can’t afford it now.
When a friend asked me out to an expensive restaurant or went on a luxury trip somewhere, I used to feel as if I have to find a way to afford it. That I have to work for it. To make it happen.
It could be that I withdrew my savings. Took the money from another account that I had allocated for something more important. Spent the money anyway and braced myself for a week of only eating instant noodles. Or I would find a kind of lie to avoid the invitation altogether.
Was it shameful to say that we can’t afford something at a particular moment in life?
One time when I was still in university, my group of friends was planning to go to an expensive cafe. And one of them responded to that, light and loud: “I can’t join you, guys. I’m broke for the week!”
We all laughed. We understood. We didn’t perceive her as if she was less than before. We’ve all been there.
Sometimes, it’s not that we’re broke. Sometimes we’re saving money for something else. Sometimes, we have more expenses to cover at particular moments. Sometimes, we ran out of lies and excuses.
So, these days, I take it upon myself to be honest and straightforward with it: “I can’t afford it now. Maybe some other time?”
I used to think that I need to be a good ‘follower‘ to be accepted. That I have to say yes even if I want to say no. I repeatedly found myself in a situation I didn’t want to be in, simply because I have no courage to say no, to turn down an invitation, or to just simply say, “Sorry, I’ll have to pass this time.”
In the old days, this would mean finding myself being really sleepy and tired, couldn’t wait to go home and curl up in bed; but forced to laugh, dance, and make jokes with a bunch of friends or colleagues until midnight.
I used to think that if I wasn’t there if I wasn’t present in each and every moment, I would lose my friends. Or they might enjoy the night without me and stop inviting me altogether. I was afraid that they would look down on me, or talk about me behind my back.
My insecurities made me suffer.
But I’ve had enough of that. If suffering is an option–like what Murakami said–then I would say: “Sorry, I’ll have to pass.”
4. Actually, I have a different opinion
I learned that it was safe to be similar, and it was dangerous to be different. The best way is to be like everyone else, doing what everyone else is doing, following the majority, and trying hard to be a part of it.
This was unnatural. Differences exist in life. We are all different in many different ways. What is it that makes us afraid of being different? Are we afraid of rejection? Of triggering conflicts? Of hurting others? Of hurting ourselves?
How did it get to us? Who taught us that we’re not allowed to be different, and to embrace our differences?
I used to go for the easy way: agreeing with everything everyone is saying. Just to be on the ‘safe’ side. But it only got me trapped in a more difficult situation: because how is it possible that you agree to everything, that you agree with everyone?
At some point in our lives, we need to know where we stand. So I start learning to disagree. And to voice my disagreement better. To accept that we can agree to disagree. To feel comfortable having my own opinion. To speak up. Sometimes, it starts with a tentative stutter: “Actually, I have a different opinion…”
5. I don’t want that.This is what I want
I was raised to accept whatever comes my way.
This is actually a good thing, to some extent. The other extent is when I thought I have to accept anything that comes my way; even if I don’t want it. This includes wearing clothes I didn’t like to allow disrespectful behavior towards me.
At a certain point, it became unhealthy.
There were times in life when I didn’t even know about what I really want because I thought I should want the things other people want. I used to feel as if I was not grateful enough to say that I didn’t want something; or if I wanted something else.
I learned to be assertive. To say the things I want and the things I do not want. I tried with the simplest things: “I want to eat pasta today.” Or, “I don’t want to go to that event because I don’t find it interesting.”
I realized that I used to hold grudges against certain people in my life, because I felt as if I have to do the things I didn’t want to do, only to please them. Then I pitied myself, saying: why am I the only one who needs to make the sacrifice? I ended up hating these people, or blaming them for the way they ‘make my life miserable’, for the way they ‘make me feel this way’.
Only lately I realized that this scenario happened only in my mind. The other person might not really know about this. They are not mind-readers. They didn’t know how I actually feel because I was too afraid to tell them about what I really want.
What about you?
Do you have some things you were afraid to say as well? Why do you think you were afraid of saying these things? Did you manage to overcome your fear of saying those words out loud? How do you think saying these words make you feel better connected with who you really are?
Traveling alone? Going solo on a trip of a lifetime? I know how challenging it could be, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s the thing: you don’t have to end up alone throughout your journey–if you don’t want to.
TRAVELING ALONE DOESN’T MAKE YOU A LONELY TRAVELER.
It was a hot, cloudy, and humid afternoon in the mid of 2012. At around 1 pm, the beach of El Nido in the Philippines was deserted. The colorful boats were floating sleepily, swayed by the occasional waves.
Most tourists were out for island-hopping; or hiding from the scorching sun in one of the many bars and restaurants around town. There was really nothing much to do at this hour. Electricity was cut off from 6 am to 2 pm, forcing everyone to get out of their stuffy rooms.
“Don’t you feel lonely traveling alone?” asked Lani, a Filipino mother of two who sat beside me by the beach.
This was the next question she asked—right after she learned that I was in El Nido by myself.
Maria and Klein, Lani’s giggly children, were the ones who found me first by the hammock. They said hello after spending some time curiously eyeing my DSLR. I signaled them to come closer and showed them how to take pictures with the camera. Once they got a hang of it, they ran around the beach capturing the sky, the ocean, the sand, as well as themselves.
Lani joined us a moment later, bringing over a plate of pink cold coconut jelly she made. She was there to enjoy her military husband’s day off with the kids.
“Even I still feel lonely here at times,” Lani said. “I moved here following my husband. Originally, I came from Nara—my family and friends were still there.”
I looked at Lani in disbelief. “What a coincidence, Lani! Two days from now, I am planning to go to Nara. But I still haven’t found out how to get there.”
“Really? You’re going to Nara?” Lani’s face lit up. And her voice caught a cheerful tone that wasn’t fully there before. “Hold on! Don’t worry. I’ll call a few friends!”
And just like that, Lani left me with a plate of pink cold coconut jelly. She was busy punching her mobile phone’s keypads and talked loudly and rapidly in Tagalog. Her hand is moving comically. She made several other phone calls afterward. A few minutes later, she came to me with a big grin on her face.
“All is taken care of! You’ll go by small bus to Nara. They’ll pick you up right here at 7 in the morning. Then you’ll switch to another bus at the terminal. The bus driver who picks you up here will hand you over to the next bus driver. Then they’ll get you off by a small path leading to the beach. There will be a motorcycle there already, waiting to get you to the beach resort you want to go to.”
I was impressed. And touched. I didn’t expect that everything could be arranged so instantaneously. I thanked Lani many times.
On the day of my departure to Nara, all went smoothly—just the way Lani had planned.
The bus drivers recognized me as Lani’s ‘foreign friend’ and always tried to make friendly conversations. On my way to Nara, Lani called the bus driver to check up on me. Even when I had arrived, Lani was still sent me text messages to see if I was doing okay, if I liked the resort, or if I needed more help.
I almost giggled, but then I was swept by a gush of love and affection towards her.
Lani acted like a mother: anxious when having to part with a daughter who needs to travel far for the first time.
That was when I got reminded of Lani’s question a few days before, by the beach:
Don’t you feel lonely traveling alone?
But with people like Lani on my journeys, how is it even possible for me to feel lonely?
TRAVELING ALONE ISN’T ALWAYS EASY. BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE DIFFICULT, EITHER.
Solo traveling is not forever light and easy.
I have to admit that there are loads of other challenges (apart from ‘being lonely’) need to be addressed when you’re traveling alone.
budget issue – it can be more expensive when you have to rent a car or a boat by yourself, while when you’re traveling with a group, you can easily share the costs.
quota issue – some activities, i.e. island-hopping, snorkeling, cooking class, etc. sometimes require a minimum quota of 3-4 people.
safety issue – when you’re going out late at night or finding yourself in a ‘tricky’ situation, you feel safer when you’re not alone.
social issue – sometimes you simply want to eat with someone, connect, have a chat, or a nice conversation over drinks.
However, lately, I started to recognize the most comfortable arrangements for me when traveling alone.
For instance, when I’m traveling alone, I would choose to stay in a hostel rather than in a hotel. Even if I have extra money, I would still prefer to splurge on a private room in a hostel rather than in a budget hotel. Or else, I would rent a room in a local’s house—preferably, with the owner living there.
In Kyiv, for instance, I stayed at a hostel in an artsy stretch of Andriyivsky.
When I got there in the morning, a lady with blonde hair gave me a warm welcome at the entrance. Her name was Katya. “If you have rested well, this evening just comes down to the common room,” she said. “We can go club-hopping together if you like dancing!”
Oh, I really love dancing!
One of the challenges I need to face when traveling alone is going to a dance club by myself late at night. For safety reasons, this particular activity does feel more comfortable to be experienced with at least another friend—except if the club is quite near to the place where I stay; or if I have recognized the surrounding areas really well.
That evening, when I came down to the common room, I didn’t only meet Katya. I also made friends with Fransisco—a Brazilian who traveled around Europe and stayed at different hostels because he wanted to open up a hostel, and his roommate, Francois—a French guy who resides in the UK. There were also a bunch of Russian guys and girls who didn’t speak English fluently—but fortunately, they never gave up on communicating and sharing their stories.
Together, we wandered around the streets of Kyiv at night: laughing, singing, dancing, and sharing taxis to move from one dance club to another—before ending up at a small restaurant, sipping chicken soup at 4 am.
In Mumbai, India, I met Tej.
I knew him through one of those sites that aim to connect travelers.
Since I was in Mumbai for a business trip, I stayed in a hotel not far from the city center. It’s a nice business hotel, but I still don’t know how to connect with other travelers in a hotel. As I was still keen to discover the city with a local and see Mumbai from a local’s perspective, I was happy when Tej generously made an offer to pick me up at my hotel and show me the city.
That afternoon, Tej took me for a walk around Coolaba market—helping me to bargain, choosing saris, as well as carrying a bag of storybooks I bought impulsively. In the evening, he took me to Bandra—an area that is well known for its lines of fancy homes and apartments that belong to Bollywood celebrities.
“Look!” said Tej, pointing to a house with many people crowding in front of it. “That’s Shahrukh Khan’s house. It’s usual for people to have a picnic in front of it. And that one, over there, that’s Karisma Kapoor’s apartment.”
Lani, Katya, Francois, Fransisco, the entertaining Russian guys and girls, and Tej: they were the reasons why I never felt lonely when I was traveling alone.
TRAVELING ALONE? HERE ARE SOME TIPS ON HOW NOT TO BE (AND FEEL) ALONE:
Find free accommodation, free tour, or a local friend to explore the city with at Couchsurfing.com
Through this site, you can find people from all around the world who open up their houses for you to stay in, for free. Choose a host that has been verified and received a lot of good reviews from other travelers. You can also search for various traveler’s meet-ups or joining a free tour around town that is often being offered by fellow site members.
Living in a traveler’s hostel is the most comfortable way to meet with other travelers—especially with those who are also traveling alone. Through this site, you can find a hostel with the most suitable location and price for your needs. You can also read reviews about these hostels as well as interesting activities they are hosting for travelers. Having a credit card will be really handy to do bookings through this site.
Stay with a local and experience living with a local family via Airbnb.com
Compared to staying in a hotel, renting a room in a local’s house or apartment can be an option. It will be better if the host is living there with you. You can get a lot of interesting insights about the local’s favorite places to visit, or even get invited to spend time with your host and his friends! Your credit card will be very useful to confirm your bookings.
Meet like-minded friends in the city you’re traveling to by attending meet-up events via MeetUp.com
When you have a particular interest: cooking, dancing, language exchange, developing websites… it’s always nice to bump into a group of people who share the same enthusiasm towards these things. Finding meet-up events in the city you’re traveling to is a convenient way to get connected with people who share the same passion. You can also ask these people about secret venues/hidden gems in the city, based on your specific interests.
Traveling alone means having the opportunity to make more new friends along the way!