There are so many excuses as to why someone stops writing or take a long hiatus. In my case, at first, it was marriage (or rather, the bliss of it). Lately, it has become my toddler There were so many times when I wanted to write but couldn’t because I had to look after my baby. I had to keep him from not only injuring himself but also from being dirty and generally keep him from being a further nuisance to me and my wife than he already is. I think most parents know that having a kid is taxing and the fatigue keeps them from writing. But then, I found a solution which I hadn’t thought of using before. And the thing is, it’s been there for quite some time! That solution, dear readers, is voice recognition.
As with any other method of writing, there are so many Kinks to iron out when using voice recognition. For instance, I might say one thing and the phone picks up another thing and there’s also the issue of speaking punctuations because as much as technology has advanced, speech recognition still can’t pick up on intonations as cues for certain punctuation marks. That being said, it still feels more intuitive. At least it does for me, withstanding my situation.
So After figuring out how voice recognition work, I set out a production pipeline. First, I try to speak as much as I can on the phone (yes, I write on my phone because of how sucky windows recognition is on my Windows laptop). Then, after I finish editing the text, I add punctuations and whatnot (thank heavens for Grammarly!). It’s been working great so far!
In fact, this blog entry is a product of phone dictation. As I’m quite happy with how this turned out, I might keep doing this in the future.
Two days ago, I asked one question to the writing groups I’m in: “Why do you write?” The replies were scant but meaningful.
But from all the answers, I quite like the notion that one writes to enjoy one’s writing. That is, writing for one’s pleasure. In this sense, one is free from foreign expectations, from norms (both social and linguistic), and perhaps, even from personal expectations. While exceptions might apply, I believe that writing for self-consumption allows oneself to be both carefree and careless. It should create a kind of bubble that protects from criticism because the bar one sets when one writes for oneself can be very low, or even non-existent!
On that note, I often read writings on blogs or platforms such as Wattpad or the soon to be renamed Ketix that disregard grammar, or established elements of style. These irk me from time to time. And sometimes I comment on them, pointing out grammatical, plot, or worldbuilding mistakes and oddities.
But here’s the rub. It’s up to them whether to take my comments seriously or toss them away. I admire people who do either. I remember asking worldbuilding questions to this one bloke on Wattpad because there were so many anachronistic things in his world. He was able to explain away those anachronisms so passionately, that it reminded me that we were talking about his personal creation. Basically, his world, his rules. He doesn’t have to give two damn fucks to anybody scratching their heads over a few odd tidbits. And the fact that he’s already written several dozen stories in that world showed me that he enjoys writing about his make-believe world. Furthermore, it endeared to me that he wore his influences on his sleeve… even crossing them over to his world wholesale. It made for some batshit crazy fun, and I enjoyed it! I tend to enjoy those kinds of stories more than highbrow serious stuff.
On the other hand, I also admire writers who write serious stories. I used to make fun of heavy-handedness. But after I joined writing groups and got to know other writers, I can tolerate it more. Sometimes being heavy-handed is a writer’s normal mode of thinking. In that sense, they’re honest. And I can respect that. Heck, I’ve written some heavy-handed stuff too!
So whyever and how we write, we should just write because it’s bound to be good for us.
So I’ve wanted to find a writing community that can help be more productive. I’ve tried sites like Scribophile and Critique Circle. But those sites are grindy, in which you have to critique other people’s writings up to a certain amount before you can post your own writing to be critiqued. Other places such as writing-related subreddits are a bit too loose for my taste. While Reddit can be home to great conversations, I somehow don’t feel a sense of community there.
Then I found out by scrolling down on my Facebook timeline that a friend of mine from my heady love hunt days is a writer who writes on this platform called Ketix. It’s an Indonesian platform. As I’m Indonesian, I thought I’d check it out.
I later found out that my friend was knee-deep in this online writing class/community called KMO. And that KMO’s main coach is one of the founders of Ketix.
After perusing much of what Ketix users have to offer (while the platform’s androidd app left a lot to be desired), I thought – on a midnight whim – that I should give this KMO thing a try. Especially because it’s free.
Little did I know that I was jumping into a rabbit hole.
Upon registering, I was given a Google form to fill. It asked for my address, email, phone number, and social media handles. I voluntarily wrote them down in good faith. After which, the registrant told me I’ve been put on a waiting list, and I had to persuade 2 other to join the class. After asking for clarification, I was told that it’s compulsory.
At that point, they already got my personal information (which is mea culpa!). Naturally, I was irked. Since they sell books on their platform, it’s quite obvious that the more people sign up for their training, the bigger the pool of people they can market their books to (not to mention other training/workshops). So I complimented them on their superb marketing tactics and was about to leave it at that.
The next morning, I got a WhatsApp message asking my permission to be invited to a group. Surprisingly, they accepted me. So I shrugged and set myself to enjoy the ride.
Suffice to say, it was not my cup of tea.
After the first session ended, everyone was tasked with writing down an affirming note, a kind of manifesto or promise to their self that they will be writers who will finish a book or more by such-and-such a date, which will become – at the very least – a best seller. That note has to be photographed and digitised with a photo of the person writing the note stamped into it. Then, that whole picture – note and all – have to be posted on Instagram with all the coaches being tagged. Certain hashtags are also required.
But oh blimey, that’s not enough. Each person has to persuade 5 other people to join the next batch.
Failing to do a task will lower a participant’s score (everyone starts off with 2). And if you’re out of scores, you’re out.
Blimey! That’s clever marketing, eh?
To be fair, the K in KMO refers to “kelas” in Indonesian. So it’s an online class from the start. The community chats are a part of the learning framework.
That being said, I feel that the marketing here is blatant. Yes, I don’t have to pay for anything here. But they’re essentially getting free advertising from every participant!
Compared to MOOCs (such as the ones organised by The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program), I feel that KMO is cheesy.
Throughout the various MOOCs that the IWP has organised, I feel that I’ve gained insights, constructive criticism on my writings, and thought-provoking discussions. The lessons were completely free (you only have to pay if you want a certificate). And the syllabus was great! I was able to plan my lessons ahead, and I can pick up previous lessons if I ever got off the saddle during the MOOC period. And they weren’t selling books. Every MOOC participant can access lesson materials freely during the period. Anyone can walk away from the MOOC with downloaded PDFs of knowledge for future perusal. For free!
The thing is, the head coach of KMO actually wrote about bundling writing courses with selling books!
That being said, I understand it’s a common and fair business practice. But honestly, I kind of feel stupid for jumping down this rabbit hole.
Well, good for him. He said that KMO has gone on for 5 years now. It started with 30 participants, and it’s grown to about 400 now. Whatever he and his team did, it worked. I can’t really fault them for trying. They’re good people who worked their arses off.
Though perhaps, in the end, it just might not be for me. I’ve nothing to lose if my score reaches nil.
It seems my fingers got trigger-happy and published a post far from being a draft. I suspect that those who subscribe to my forlorn blog received an email update that might have looked rather cryptic. If that’s the case with you, I apologise. But if that’s not the case with you, then I say you’ve missed a bit of (unnecessary) excitement!
Right, on to the thing was on my mind, which is… serialised fiction!
This topic came to mind when I stumbled upon a 2016 blog entry on the Wattpad blog. The blog post revealed that almost 90% of Wattpad’s stories are serialised. They surmised that this is because “Today’s audiences enjoy serial narratives on-the-go and on their terms.” This makes sense because their data shows that “90% of Wattpad traffic comes from mobile devices.”
Coming back to today with all the things in life eating up good chunks of your time, reading serialized fiction on an app that tracks your reading position is highly convenient. I mean, I’m not much of a book reader myself (I used to read books almost exclusively in the loo before the advent of wi-fi), but I find that tracing back where you left off on a real book can be a bit of a hassle. But that’s no excuse. It’s a bit enjoy unlocking your phone, swiping until you find the app, followed by selecting the specific book that you want in your ever expanding digital library, until finally, it comes up on the screen, automatically scrolling down to the part where you left off.
Come to think of it, that’s not as easy as I’d thought!
But the cellphone (and similar thingamajigs) has clear advantages: it’s relatively lighter, doesn’t take up much space, can store a lot of books in a single device, so on, and so forth…
Personally, I’m all for it! Bless my wife for her love of books. But I find that with my lowering attention span (which I might write about at another time), I feel like reading on cellphone screens is my thing. I recall that I’ve been dreaming about something like it throughout my youth in the nineties. I remember thinking that it would be nice to just lie back and read something that doesn’t need much lighting like books do. Or something I can use to read under the sheets without the need to bring a flashlight. And then, smartphones were invented.
That being said, writing is a rather different affair. I prefer to write on a laptop or desktop PC (never a Mac! Hahaha…) over writing on my smartphone. It’s not just because of the bigger keyboard, but the relative ability for more powerful machines to open many tabs! But that’s a musing for another time.
It’s been written many times by many writers, bloggers, and what have you, reading other people’s works is something that you should do if you want to become a good writer. Now I would like to be a good writer. But I find that I don’t like reading much. So I ask myself, am I doomed?
I guess that sometimes bloggers just write to “keep it sharp”. This is especially true after significant pauses in writing. But after being away from the keyboard for some time, writing down a blog post can be rather daunting. In my case, it seems that I’ve run out of things to say.
Well, not apricots with blood on them. That would be quite unsightly.
Rather, I find the sudden urge to explain why I use pictures of apricots to represent myself online… despite not a single soul actually urging me to do so. It’s just an idea that popped up in a random “aha” moment at odd hours of the night while taking turns with the missus to watch over our lovely little mister and attend to his needs when beckoned through the use of gestures, facial expressions, and various styles of crying: including (but not limited to) the soft cry, the loud cry, and the “eh, eh, eh” cry (which is usually followed by the loud cry).
Right, back on the topic of apricots.
You see, the word “apricot” starts with the letter “a”… which incidentally, is the same letter that starts off my name. And since my first and last name both start with the same letter, that very letter takes on a mythical stature in the alphabetic pantheon within my mind.
The thing is, I’ve never eaten an apricot in my entire life!