Reboot

On Thursday I finished the first edit of my manuscript. It was early so I walked to the hospital to spend the afternoon with a friend who’s there to have her appendix removed. That evening I cranked open the old laptop that still has Word with Finnish spell checking on it, and after the 1,5 hours that it took to open it, I used it to print the whole thing too. This version is already so complete that I’m giving it to my dad and a few friends to read. I set the printed manuscript on the bedside table and went to sleep.

On Friday evening, I was expecting a friend to come for a visit. She would come at 7 so I had the whole day to tidy and clean the flat. She happens to be my oldest friend and there really is no need to do that, she’s known me long enough, but I used it as a good excuse to get things done. While I’ve been writing, the household hasn’t fared too well… So I started around 8am and finished at 4. That’s a full day of cleaning and organising. There were a couple of boxes left from the move that I hadn’t emptied and I found spots for all of the random items in them. I washed the kitchen and the bathroom as well and dusted a bit in the livingroom. Then I took a nap, and when I got up, I baked apple muffins for us. It was great seeing my friend.

But on Saturday morning when I got up and set about my morning routine, I realised, I was beat. My mind was internally wordbleeding and my body was tired too. Though I skipped the morning workout on Friday, I had cleaned so vigorously that it had totally tired me out.

So yesterday I just lay on the sofa and tried to switch my brain off. I did read a few of my dad’s short stories that I’m stylizing, but that was the only cerebral activity of the day.

Usually, when I want to switch off my brain, I just look at the clouds and lose myself in them. I find shapes in them and concentrate totally on just the clouds. But yesterday the sky was evenly grey and I couldn’t even find a youtube-stream of live clouds (which I actually searched for!). I also felt averse to using my phone. It was just in my mind, but the screen seemed to be sucking energy from me every time I glanced at it, so I put it away.

It’s really hard to come up with an activity that uses up time, but doesn’t involve words. Reading, writing, even watching a film, all of those require some effort. And I was too physically tired to go for a walk (and the weather is horrid). I ended up crocheting some more. Finally I felt up to watching an old film and later even cracked open a book, but that’s all.

This morning I woke up before 6 with some ideas for the novel. I think that’s a sign that I’m recovered. Which is good, because the manuscript is still waiting for me on the bedside table. After stylizing yet one of dad’s short stories, I’m going to pick it up.

Happy Friend’s Day!

Nope. This isn’t one of those schemes to turn Valentine’s day into something new. Instead, I will tell you what it’s been for me ever since I was a kid.

In Finnish today is called Ystävänpäivä. Ystävä means friend, päivä means day. The n in the middle is the possessive suffix (or smth close to that). When we were kids we made cards for all of our friends at school and sent cards to those friends we might have elsewhere. Telling that we were thinking of them on this day, that we loved them and cared for them and sometimes just that we remembered they were there.

It wasn’t until the internet, and mainly social media brought to Finland the idea of Valentine’s day, something which was for lovers. But while I have nothing against lovers, I still prefer friend’s day. With your lover you can have an anniversary, on the day you met, started dating or on the day you got engaged or married. With friends — well, to be honest, there are few friends of whom I can remember the exact day we became friends. Even now, a lot of my friends are online but I still can’t remember the first tweet or the day we first started messaging. And usually you just drift into other people’s vicinity and become friends. So, I always liked the idea that today was to remember friends.

To celebrate Friend’s Day this year I went to have lunch with a friend of mine during her lunch break. I messaged a few people with whom I have lost touch or am in a state of mutual neglect. I have friends that are important to me, but they aren’t part of my daily life, so I have to make a slight effort to send them a message. Today it’s easy to remember to make that slight effort.

I have been neglecting my friends lately a lot. The reason, the excuse is my writing. I spend days in the company of my imaginary friends. But I figure that that’s the real measure of our friendship. My friends know how important this is for me. And because they support me, they are still waiting for me when I emerge from the imaginary world. Thank you, friends!

Anyway, writing has gone well today. I’m starting to wonder why I didn’t trip before over these piles of planks… I’m finding them everywhere!

Happy Friend’s Day!

Love,

Maiju

Editing, Galentine’s day and Research-of-a-kind

The editing process has started. I’m lost already in revisions and revisions of revisions, but occasionally it hits me that I need to start looking for a publisher at some point.

There are lots of indie writers nowadays, but I write in Finnish and the audience is limited by the language to such a few people that I don’t think it works. Almost all the self-published authors in Finland either have their own publishing house or the books are available in bookshops by request. Well, my knowledge on this is a bit dated, but anyway, I want to send the text to a publisher. I would like to write more and it would just make things more easy if someone else took care of that… stuff. Yeah, I don’t even know what stuff that is.

Anyway. The idea of offering the book to a publisher isn’t as daunting as the process. I start getting short of breath and other mild symptoms of an anxiety attack when I even think about the cover letters etcetera. But I’ve decided to finish this one first edit and then sit down properly to read through all of that stuff about what kind of a letter in what format with what identifiers do I have to send to a certain place. Yeah, a lot of information.

Funny things have happened as I’ve been editing the text. For example, a character’s fate, for which, when I decided it way-back-when, I didn’t so much feel sorry, now felt really emotional. I guess it’s a good sign that at least the writer feels something for the character.

Today is Galentine’s Day, and because I have no money to go gallavanting with my gals, and no one’s really around anyway, I decided to spend the evening with the gals on my pages. A sort of indepth character thing or something.

I ended up crocheting. Yep. And don’t think it’s procrastinating. Oh no! I really don’t like crocheting. I’ve knit so much that I can read or do almost anything I want to while I knit even something more challenging, but I’ve never crocheted a lot. But one of my characters crochets all the time. And most of the protagonist’s clothes. So I decided to give it a try with an easy pattern.

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Here’s the result in all it’s glory. Now my thumb and forefinger have started to get a bit tired and I am aware of the places of the calluses my character must have had. And also of what a mindbogglingly boring job it must have been for her to crochet all of those clothes. No wonder she’s a bit weird.

Yeah, so. There’s research and then there’s cute research.^

A bit bigger accomplishment

Serenity. No, not the film. I feel a sense of calm right now. A false sense of calm. And yet not so.

On Friday at 4:30pm I finished the first draft of my first complete novel. (OK, I’m going to start crying because I wasn’t sure I could ever do this and now it’s done.) It’s such a relief. I think it’s just something you have to experience yourself.

I learned to write when I was about 5. My brother was two years ahead of me in school so when he started, I took to tagging along when he did his homework. I remember having my own small practise notebook on which I drew these strange symbols. My hands have always shaken a bit because of essential tremor, so writing, by hand, was never really easy for me. Of course the more I did it, the more practised I was, but still I sometimes can’t make out half the words I doodle if I’m tired, hungry or mostly asleep.

When I turned 7, the Spring before I started school, I got this beautiful diary as a birthday present. Its pages are pink and edged with gold and you can tie it shut with a pink ribbon. When I was 8, I wrote my first poems. I’ve been raised on a steady diet of Kirsi Kunnas and lots and lots of other children’s books that included poems, so the format wasn’t strange for me.

At school I always excelled in Finnish, I love grammar and everything to do with it. My teachers noted this and in my third year, I was lucky enough to get 3/4 of the school year with a teacher who had just graduated. We were her first ever class and even though I’d liked school before, she made me love it. Her ideas were far beyond the ideas of the other, older teachers in the school. I was inspired.

I remember crying that Spring when I knew the teacher would not return in the Autumn. But though the next teacher was not as innovative or as fresh from school, she loved grammar and the Finnish language probably as much as I do. An old school mate with whom I talked recently told me how he hated the way the teacher sometimes decided that since the weather was too horrible for PE, we’d have an extra Finnish lesson instead. I remember the opposite. I was so relieved.

I wrote essays for school and when we changed to upper form in year 7, I took the voluntary creative writing class and enjoyed that too. Writing was the one class, besides other languages, which made me feel I was really good at something. I really don’t know if I was, but I was proficient in grammar and my teachers were really encouraging, so thank you, Finnish school system, well done on that!

My dad writes. He even rented a small room in a student ridden old house to get to do it in peace. My mum reads. A lot. More than me, which is saying something. I’ve always felt there was nothing wrong with my desire to make up stories and put them on paper, arranging the words in the most effective way possible.

Yesterday, suffering from a bout of hangover over the finishing of the draft… and other stuff… I did not open the computer at all. But I did browse the net on my phone and found an old LiveJournal blog of mine (see, I’m not ashamed to link it here). It’s theme is, surprise, writing and I found that the idea for the story I finished on Friday came to me in December 2008. A lot of stuff has happened since then. I’ve had years of not touching the story. But it’s finished now.

Even if it never gets published, I’m really proud of finishing it. I feel like I accomplished something that I had been working towards since I learned to write. That’s a huge amount of time and a really big accomplishment. Well done, me!

This post has turned into a “random rambling” for which I have a separate folder on my computer and also on Novlr.

My brain rebooted last night. I slept about 10 hours and lay in bed for 12. I kept visiting consciousness during the night with ideas on how to edit and hone the text and I’m really looking forward to doing that. Now I’m going to press “publish”, however incoherent this post has been and then open Novlr and start editing!

Small accomplishments

This morning, writing in my diary, I realised something. I’m really bad at celebrating small accomplishments.

Why should I anyway?

Well, when I was a kid and in music school, my flute teacher told me that every time I make a mistake, I need to play the tune several times correctly before the mistake is erased from my muscle memory. So, I figure that brains are no more forgiving than muscles.

I was thinking about how weird it has been, when currently, when I’ve finished the writing for the day, I’ve felt like I’ve done enough. That I don’t need to feel guilty about not writing enough or not writing about the correct stuff or anything.

And I know that the main thin is really just to write, not what you write, but still.

I had a rough patch in my life a few couple of years. It really leaves a mark on you. Not just a memory, but some kind of muscle memory of not accomplishing enough. Life is much better now, but I think I need to relearn how to be aware of my successes. So I started a new journal 😀

Well, I am a word kind of person, so I’m figuring, writing things down will make them more concrete for me. And my dad brought me this nice cloth covered book from Thailand. It isn’t lined, which I hate when I’m writing longer texts, so it fits this purpose of positive note-taking on my life perfectly.wp-1486629811875.jpg

Piles of planks and other good stuff

wp-1486465910453.jpgI have been writing. And I mean actually making progress with my novel. It’s weird. My novel now has an ending. A concrete point to which I’m writing to. It always had an ending, but it was a bit vague and I wasn’t quite sure anyway if that was where it would end. But now I am. And I’ve written a version of that ending and now I’m filling out the bits in between. Which means all the important writing that actually makes it a novel and makes that the ending.

I was really lost last spring. I wrote a lot, but I just kept adding things to my story to make it complete. It took some backtracking to realise I already had all the elements this story needs to run its natural course. That’s being proved by all these piles of planks I keep finding around.

I have coined a term for myself. A ‘piles of planks’ is the stuff you write and a long time later realise that stuff was there for a reason, even though it seemed to be a heap of rubbish that was just lying there for extra stuffing. Because that’s what I did. I wrote a pile of planks into the corner of the yard of the house in which my protagonist lives. And now, years later, I found out why that pile of planks was there. And somehow I’ve come across a lot of these piles of planks lately.

I’ll let a cleverer writer than me do the telling:

The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising (“but of course that’s why he was doing that, and that means that…”) and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.

You don’t live there always when you write. Mostly it’s a long hard walk. Sometimes it’s a trudge through fog and you’re scared you’ve lost your way and can’t remember why you set out in the first place.

But sometimes you fly, and that pays for everything.

Neil Gaiman

Yeah, I know, I know, I’ve quoted this before. But I’ve had those words on my wall ever since I first read them on his blog. And they have kept me going all these years.

Now, I’m really cold, because it’s below -15C out and about +16C inside my flat. That’s what the photo is about. The scale of my mug of chai masala tea. Well, actually, I take a brewing bag (never thought I’d find a use for those) and put in half a teaspoon of cardamom and half a teaspoon of ginger, I rip open a Tetley teabag and pour that in and then add a… a lot of brown sugar. I steep it for a while and then add lots of milk.

Tearecipes and writing…

Back to the latter.

Sharing a little joy

I moved back to my hometown last April. Well, sort of, because I didn’t have a home until November and hadn’t decided to stay until October. I lived the Spring at my dad’s place while he was travelling, in the Summer I lived in my own cabin on our family’s island in the archipelago. In the Autumn I moved back to my dad’s and then to my mum’s for a month (a very long month…).

The flat I’m living in now was built in 1868 and the windows are most likely originals. It gets chilly inside while the temperature drops outside. And it’s been -15°C for a few days now.

While I roved about, most of my belongings were in boxes in a storehouse. Including my tea. When I packed up, I threw away a lot of tea. Most of it was disgusting stuff I’d got from a family member or other(at some point in my 20s they stopped buying me books and started buying me tea – now they’ve stopped that too), or something I’d forgotten at the back of my  two tea cupboards and had lost it’s flavour years ago.

The rest of it I unpacked here in my new flat and decided I wouldn’t buy new tea until I’d drunk this lot. I picked a black tea and poured it into a metal container and used it for my morning tea until it ran out. Then I picked another one.

This morning the container was empty once more and it was such joy to pour a fragrant red Keemun into it. I made a pot and am enjoying it against the chill.

A little bit of bliss.