Maiju’s Teacup 1.10.2018 – The Best Book I Ever Read

So. That statement in the heading is pretty wild. But everything in life is subjective to time and situation. Everything is relative. And the book was very relative to the moment of time and the situation in which I read it.

Last year my writer friend Amber recommended me Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. I low-key looked for it when I happened into bookshops, but it was never to be found. Finally I took it upon me to get it online. Even then it took me a while to get reading.

When I finally did, it was at the most opportune moment of all. I was already well on my way into resisting the Resistance which is what Pressfield calls the force that stands between creator and creating. I had finished my manuscript in the Spring and was workig on the edits daily.

I wish I had read the book a year or two earlier, but I don’t think it would have had the same effect on me as it did this summer.

It named my enemy. That’s the thing, isn’t it. In many fantasy books, the hero isn’t allowed to know her enemy’s name, because it would give her too much power. And names have power. I think the authors of those novels have been able to name their own enemy. Because in the end, it’s most often Fear. For both the hero and the writer.

You can fear both success and failure. Most often at the same time. The everyday work of a writer shows that each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence can contain both success and failure. A story is something you have to chip away at with the patience of a saint. Or a writer. It is there somewhere. There’s a bit of it next to that awful sentence structure. Another piece is hiding under that clumsy word. It is all there, you just doubt and fear that it’s not. Believe me. Just do. For no other reason than that I tell you to.

Oh, how reluctant we are to learn of other people’s mistakes! Or even our own.

Pressfield’s book also gave me the weapons how to beat this fear, this Resistance. I absolutely love the idea of being both the employer and the employee. I have had Monday meetings with myself ever since I read the chapter where Pressfield mentions them. And I’ve never been much of an organised, list-making sort of person. Until I began to edit in earnest, that is, when it proved to be the best tact.

The first two parts of the book worked for me. The third part was only interesting, because it shows how Pressfield himself experiences his work and himself as a writer. It was more about why he writes and how he sees himself now that he’s beaten the Resistance. It’s written in the same authorative instructive voice of the first two parts. I found that a bit much, but luckily I’m a writer so I don’t believe everything I read.

war-of-artI finished my penultimate edit the week before last. I’m now waiting for the comments of a few betareaders. I have a busy week in my day job now and next week I’m at school, but after that I’ll go back to that story.

But in the meanwhile I’m using the resources of preptober and all of the writerly social media to plot and plan my next novel. I might even try to write the first draft in November for NaNoWriMo.

So this is going to be a writing filled month. I just had my Monday meeting in which Boss-me was very pleased about it and Writer-me was excited for the new project.

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Maiju’s Teacup 30.9.2018 – Walking

I’ve been taking morning walks and leaving my phone at home. Yes, it sounds radical. I know. When did I become so attached to a piece of plastic and wiring?

Today was the third day I made my morning walk and the first day on which I felt finally released from “phone-thinking”. Or “social media thinking”. Someone wise has probably got a name for this and has written about it very cleverly, but here’s my take.

I don’t use social media while I’m out walking. I’m not one of those people who walks around with their head in their phone. But I am one of those people who has got so used to having a phone camera nearby and reaching for it every chance they get.

That perfect lighting, that pearly cover or dew on the thistle down. The moment when the wind goes perfectly still and the bay reflects the sky and the yellowing, red trees. The waterfowls staring cheekily across the path at passers-by. Somehow all of this has become public property. It has a perfect sheen of an Instagram filter. Some of us may even get as real as #nofilter.

And this isn’t an accusation. I enjoy sharing my bit of the world with my friends far away. I have friends in countries who never get Autumn, or snow or see an annoying swan. I myself enjoy seeing nature I’ve never actually seen and might never do. Seeing other people’s craft projects and following their travels or the growth of their families.

It’s rather an observation that I had moved into a mental assumption that restricted my observation of the world. Photos always have a focus. They are not often moments captured but moments selected. But what about your peripheral vision? The one that activates your imagination as it takes in colours and shapes and mucks the waters under your unconscious.

I’m going to keep practicing on this. A whole hour per day spent entirely in my own company. It sounds scary, but also very productive.

Ironically, it was social media that made me leave my phone at home. An app that suggests me positive activities daily, suggested that I simplify one action. And that’s how I chose to leave my phone at home.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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