Maiju’s Teacup 22.7.2018 – Chill

The weather has been absurd for the past few weeks. The temperature has kept close to 27-30 degrees Celsius and I do not care for it at all. On the first day of the heatwave I had an anxiety attack when walking to work. Heat and anxiety attacks and the beginning of my depression are a closely knit tangle in my mind. The last proper heatwave was in 2015 and my brain still connects those dots.

I started commuting to work from One Stone Island last week because even though I got a little more used to the heat, the poor cat shouldn’t have to endure it if not necessary. It’s only a short row and a 12 km drive to town, but compared to the three blocks I normally have from home, it’s a long way.

I’ve had evening shifts for most of the week, so what I’ve done is wake up in my own time, get up, make tea (despite the heat), write in my diary, read a bit, edit one chapter of my manuscript, go for a swim or a float in the cool sea water and then leave for work.

Yesterday the heat was supposed to break for a few days and it did rain a bit. Today has been cloudy and windy and the current 15-17C feels chilly now though it’s well within our normal summer temperatures. I’ve outdone myself today and edited three chapters of text. I now only have one chapter left, but I’m probably leaving that for tomorrow.

I’m enjoying the cool air and a pot of mint infusion on the terrace over the water. The cat is lying on the chair next to me and I’m pretty pleased with life at the moment. The edit is soon finished (it needs a few more touches besides the last chapter) and I’m pleased how it has turned out. It’s always as strange to read my own text and enjoy it so much. There are days when I’m convinced it’s the worst tripe ever typed, but tonight is not one of those moments. Tonight I feel hopeful and eager to share my characters with other people.

I had a revelation lately. I was at work at the gardening section and the gardener with whom I’ve become friends was telling me about the fruit trees on sale. One of the decorative apple trees is called the same as one of my characters (and a blueberry bush is actually called the same as my protagonist!). The name is actually his vocation and a very generic Finnish word, but still it felt like someone was talking about one of my very dearest friends. I’d had a lousy few days because of the heat and thinking my text was awful and there was so much to do and I’d never finish and I’d never get published and so on. But at that moment, with the apple tree, I realised that I could never leave my characters hanging. I love them and I want other people to know and love them too. It’s like finding new friends that you are certain will get along with your old friends and you can’t wait to introduce them.

The book I mentioned in my last post has given me the tools to combat my Resistance. Maiju is still a pretty tough boss, but the employee Maiju is progressing well, so she can be allowed such luxuries as a new crochet project and the possibility of a weekend free of writing after this version is done. But if I’m looking for some external force, some Spirit of Creativity, a Muse or some such thing, I have created it in my own characters.

I’m now going to wrap my fingers around a warm cup and enjoy the chilly breeze. Tomorrow’s supposed to be 29C again…



Maiju’s Teacup 10.7.2018 – Nearly empty

I have been reading an amazing book. It’s called The War of Art and it is written by Steven Pressfield. The amazing part is how far along I already was to the realisations the book gives.

This summer, blogging has given way to my paying job and editing. And I was doing so well on the latter until Mid-Summer which was my latest deadline. The trouble with that deadline was, that it was by no means realistic. After I didn’t make the deadline, I still tried, but my brain was going: oh well, it’s summer, so give me a break.

The book has one basic message to me: NO EXCUSES. Because that’s what always gets me into trouble. The most useful tool I got is the idea to look at myself as my own employee. Maiju the boss has an underling Maiju who does the writing. Jobs have both restrictions and benefits. When you do a job, you get days off. When you are working, that’s what you concentrate on. And when you switch from underling to boss, it’s easier to see the writing for what it is and could be.

A friend of mine who’s a researcher at a University has always had a correct attitude to her writing. She’s mostly an academic writer and only lately has ventured to fiction writing. When we meet, it’s all we talk about.

When we were in Uni, I had so much going on. We had a band. I was doing ALL the classes, just because I found them interesting. I was writing, I was doing small translation and copy-editing jobs and I had varying part-time jobs as well. At an office, or cleaning, or minding the bookshop till. In the meanwhile, my friend arranged to have a separate office for her school work where she’d go and work on her thesis or other class work.

Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed Uni. But this attitude of doing the writing “on the side” stuck. So even if I’ve now arranged my life so that I could concentrate most of my creative energy on writing, I’m just not doing it. Properly.

The book gave me the tools for that. It also gave me back my trust in my abilities. If it is this Resistance that I need to beat, and the Resistance is basically just fear, fear comes from inside of me and I can get over that. And it’s just so true that when you throw creative energy into the world, it comes back tenfold. Whether it’s just the subconscious concentrating on it or some kind of divine Muse, it works.


Maiju’s Teacup 21.4.2018 – Nostalgy

Last night a very old friend came to my counter. I last saw him at high school graduation 16 years ago.

High school was rough for me but not in the way American teen series depict it. I was bullied in primary and secondary schools but when I started high school, I felt I was finally safe.

In Finland we have compulsory education until we’re 16. After that kids go to either high school or a vocational school.

All of my friends from secondary school went to vocational school to become practical nurses. Each and every one of them. I was the only one who went to high school. There were four of them in the town: a Finnish one for people who wanted to do a double certificate (high school and vocational), a Finnish one that required higher grades from compulsory education, a Swedish one and an International Baccalaureate high school.

I went to the second mentioned. And I suddenly had all new friends. I mean, there were a few prior acquaintances and friends from confirmation school (which almost all Finns take at 15 during the summer) but they weren’t in my group.

I made friends immediately. Friends who loved music and reading and studying. Such friends as I’d never had before. I loved them with the fervour one loves as a teenager, thinking we’d be friends forever. We’d re-write lyrics, make up songs, write letters and enjoy literature together until we were old and grey. And they thought so too.

During the second year of high school everything changed again. These friends found their first boy/girlfriends and all but disappeared. I didn’t get it. And I felt abandoned. The girls who started dating bonded together and I was left out. The guys who started dating couldn’t hang out with me anymore (who knows why…). This was also a time when a lot of my friends took the exams for the music school graduation so even if they didn’t start dating, they weren’t there. And yet others started frequenting bars and night clubs after we were 18. Which I wasn’t really into.

I had read a lot up till then. But that year I slid into the world of books and escaped the hurt I felt. I borrowed a book from the town library after school or during lunch, I then read it during the afternoon classes and in the evening. And then I slept a while(4-6hrs) and finished the book in the morning or during forenoon classes. And then I did it again. And again.

I started from the crappy end of romance (sorry Harlequin and Barbara Cartland), proceeded to Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught and such and then dove into Jane Austen and the Brontës. I reread Alcott and Montgomery and just about anything. And this was during work week. In the weekends I was living in Narnia and Earthsea and Osten Ard and just about anywhere else than the real world. I reread The Lord of the Rings.

The only person still sticking with me was this friend. The one I met again yesterday. I didn’t realise it at the time, nor did he, but he kept me somewhat tethered to reality. He called me out on my shit and I’d probably have failed all my classes had I not paid attention to them because he was there, pulling me out of whichever world I was in.

So I associate this person both with some of my favourite literature (I could rave about it to him endlessly and he didn’t mind) and being there when no one else was. No wonder I got emotional and nostalgic last night after I got off work. Never mind he was probably around because the girls he had crushes on never wanted to date him. He was there.

After graduation we went our separate ways. This was 16 years ago and he wasn’t into cell phones the last I saw him😂 I guess I always thought I’d meet him around town at some point. I never did. Our friendship never got the chance of dying a natural death in the way many others do. It was just cut.

During my deepest depression I went through past events and people of influence in my life and finally realised what a friend I’d had. And I decided I’d tell him and thank him the next we met. Which of course I couldn’t do at the shop counter.

So yeah. Some people are irreplaceable and you realise it only afterwards. I hope I’ll bump into him again sooner than in 16 years.

Maiju’s Teacup 7.3.2018 – Goals

I was unable to do the final edits on the trip because I got car sick and then the wifi refused to work on the ferry. So I set it aside. I had a great weekend in Tallinn (bought lots of new tea), started working at the shop again on Monday, went to get the cat on Tuesday and now I have another day off and I already finished the edits an hour ago.

It’s a peculiar feeling when your dreams come true. Last week I remembered that I once dreamed of owning one of those beautiful editions of Shakespeare’s sonnets. I remembered it while taking a photo of said book for an Instagram photo challenge.


I’ve had the book now for several years, and I’ve actually never spent much time with it, because I have a tiny edition of As You Like It with selected sonnets printed in it. I carry that one around everywhere. It’s the size of a matchbox.

Another dream of mine was to have a whole bookshelf-ful of books of poetry. I obtained that goal years ago too, but made no mark of that either.

I want to take note of my wins as a writer. I recently read a twitter thread on how easy it is to just completely pass out on those, as it seems as if the next goal is always the more important one. I only finished a draft, which needs to be edited many times, needs to be sent to the publishers, needs to be accepted by a publisher. If I waited until my first publishing party, I might never get to celebrate anything.

I am now going to take some time off. Like, actually I’m going to be working as a cashier, but I’m not going to touch the manuscript until April. I try to not to think about it too much. I’m going to read, write a little on the blogs, a little in my journal, maybe a short story or two about the ideas I got in Tallinn.

I deserve it.

Maiju’s Teacup 28.2.2018 – Smug

Yesterday I wrote the ending to my novel. And then I gathered my things, sent the cat to my mum’s and went early to bed. The coach to Helsinki left at 6 a.m. and I’m halfway there.

I couldn’t sleep even though it was still dark when we left Vaasa. I watched how the sky turned from black to blue, then green and finally yellow.  It’s probably (hopefully) the coldest day of the winter. It’s -28C out (approximately 18F for those unable or too lazy to convert). Even the driver keeps cracking jokes about it in his announcements. He’s a chatty chap…

Now the sun is higher already but the air is hazy and there was a frosty fog over the fields and between the clumps of trees at sunrise. I would describe it to you in more detail, but unfortunately the English language lacks expressions to describe the Finnish winter scenery. We have way more words for snow and frost than English does.

That’s not what I’m smug about, though. (Though actually I am pleased about it.)

Yesterday was such a pivotal moment for me.  And don’t get me wrong, I know there’s so much work ahead. Rewriting and rethinking and reorganising. Adding bits and removing others. After I finish bloggin, I’m going to start doing that. But the story of Aino is now an entirety.

Last year when I wrote the first half of the book and actually imagined I could stop there, I felt a similar joy. But this time I know I’ve tied all the knots. There are some openings there for the story to continue, if I ever want to do that. Last year I was aware that I would have to write a sequel. But now that it’s jst the first part of this novel, it works so much better.

I keep thinking about all these years I’ve worked on the story. Straying occasionally towards dead ends, discarding tens of thousands of words. Sometimes writing something else completely. Sometimes not writing at all. And I feel this moment of happiness is deserved.

Happy. That’s what I probably am, not smug. I don’t think anyone else could have written this book, but just because no one else would have wanted to. I think the story ended up being much better than I ever dreamed. I kept tripping on piles of planks at the end there and I finished the book with a laugh and a cry.

I don’t know what happens next. I actually don’t. I’m going to visit my brother and his fiancee in Tallinn now for 5 days, but I’m not sure even how I’m going to get from the coach to the docks. I have checked out one teashop in Tallinn, but that’s the grand total of my preparation for this trip. I meant to dod more, but… book… writing…

On Monday I’m supposed to start again at the store where I was a cashier at Yuletide. But they aren’t answering my messages now and there’s some kind of strike going on there, which might affect the whole thing. If I won’t get the job, I’m planning to visit my dad who left for our cabin in Lapland this morning. And then I have to figure out something, because I have enough money for rent in April, but then I’m out.

But I don’t mind. At this very moment I can’t be bothered to stress about it. I’ve always preferred teetering on the edge to settling in the middle. It’s more interesting.



**no tea photo today bc I  did take a thermos of tea and drank it but trying to take a photo would probably have made me spill most of it

Maiju’s Teacup 23.2.2018 – Peculiar Feeling

It’s such a peculiar feeling, when you’re finishing a story.

I now know how I want to end my novel. And that means a lot of letting go. I haven’t even fully considered it. My mind has been occupied in plotting the best story possible.

I know that when I finish writing the story, there’s still loads to do. I will tinker and polish, rewrite and pull my hair. But I know where I’m going to leave my characters.

I might have to add some scenes but it’s more likely I have to cut some, so these heads into which I have been stepping, these characters whose lives are much more interesting and important to me than my own, I need to let them go eventually.

A few days ago I realised that I’m going to be able to keep to my schedule. Mid January I planned that I’d set a deadline for this draft at the end of February. And yet I somehow assumed something would come up. I’d discover a plothole that needed some serious roadworks to correct. I’d come to a place and realise I was going in the wrong direction. The story wouldn’t be naturally pulling to a conclusion.

None of these things happened. I know now how my writing works. I know how to come to a logical decision with my outlining that leads to the next point and from there on up until to the very end. I have all my metaphorical ducks in a metaphorical row.

This weekend I need to tumble over the last dominoes and write the climax and then that’s it. There are two chapters left.

When I realised this, I felt exhilarated. But now it’s close to midnight and all I feel is a creeping sensation of loss. Maybe that’s also because that’s what the main character is feeling. And because it’s so late and I’m so tired. And I’m listening to Dvorak’s Lieder. And because it feels like an ending.

Anyway. I need to wake the cat who’s sleeping on my legs and get to bed so I can get up in the morning and get to work.

Maiju’s Teacup 16.2.2018 – Looking for my Tribe

I have wonderful friends on and offline. I have a community for Austen/Brontë-gazing and -gaping, I have my LIW peeps, and I have a lot of friends who are generally just bookish, love books, would marry books if they could, like me. Recently I’ve started squinting around in the blaze of internet for a group of writerish friends. I mean, I do have several of those, but I feel like I could do with many more.

I wrote about that online peptalk I attended a while ago. Well, I guess I still have the notes I made and the blogposts, but what mostly stuck in my mind, was the whole concept of a group of people to inspire me and be inspired by me.

I recently reconnected with a friend who I’ve known for twenty years. She’s has a doctorate in Modern Finnish and has lately been branching out from her academic texts into fiction. She used to write fiction as a kid but only returned to it last Autumn.

We met a month ago and had a nice long talk about writing and I made her borrow my copy of Writing Down the Bones (by Natalie Goldberg) which I thought would be perfect for her at this point. It breaks a lot of preconseptions about creativity and writing and opens up new ideas and attitudes towards it.

As my friend is a researcher and writes academically for her work, she isn’t even thinking about making fiction writing anything but a hobby. But when I talked with her last weekend again (she loves the Goldberg book, by the way), I realised how much I want to have these kinds of discussions.

I talk a lot about writing here on the blog, and also I have a Finnish blog dedicated just for writing matters. I tweet and chat about writing with people on Instagram, but I’m now looking for some kind of community to connect to.

And yes, there’s the ready-made community of Story. It would be so easy to just jump right in, but ultimately I would like to talk about this stuff in the language I do most of my writing. In someone’s livingroom, with a glass of wine or a mug of tea in hand. There’s the whole time difference debaucle. And I can’t currently afford the membership for Story 😦

My doctor friend and I discussed writing groups I’ve attended during the years, because my friend is considering joining one in her home town. She lives in the capital, so I recommended for her to go for it. My general experience of writing groups has been good. But where I come from, groups like that don’t grow on trees. They hardly even exist.

To exemplify my hometown: When I was in college, we had an Irish trad band and two of our members arranged both Irish trad dance and historical dance courses. Those courses were full of exchange students — which is nice, but doesn’t really make for a lasting group when they go back home at the end of term. We also tried to arrange trad music sessions, for years. We were the only ones to show up. Even all of the bandmembers didn’t show up for those. Yet there were instances when friends from other towns drove hundreds of kilometers (one came 350km north for our session) to attend, but the whole thing dried up because no one local ever came. The mentality in my town has long been: oh, someone’s organizing something nice? Well, I’ll ask if a friend went and if they enjoyed it, I’ll go next time. But there won’t be a next time if no one shows up the first time!!!

You can probably read between the lines that I’ve been exhausted and downcast by this attitude for years. Anyway. I don’t feel like my option is to try to arrange a local writing group. So now I’m considering other options.

Thoughts? Experiences?