Maiju’s Teacup 18.8.2018 – Leaving

This impending Autumn has been making me melancholy and sad. A feeling I don’t quite understand as my summer was extremely exhausting both because of work and emotional things in my private life.

I usually look forward to Autumn as the beginning of new things, a sort of reboot and the promise of things to come. But this year it has felt like everyone’s just leaving me behind. Not because they mean to or choose to, but because that’s what life is like. Moving to new environs and new experiences and areas in life will change them. And those are places I cannot follow, or don’t want to. In some cases I’ve already been there and know no matter how much you want to keep things as they are, life is not like that.

I guess, work having been exhausting this summer has not left me time to process it all.

So I have to look forward. And I do have things lined up for the coming year that will fill my life. And even usher me out the door before my friends.

Today I started writing again. And I actually haven’t even touched a pen to paper yet. But theres a story in me and I’m going where no one can follow me. I mean, you can read the end result after a few edits. But when I go into my stories, onto the paths that I wander through, looking for the right way to wherever I need to end up (often with no clue where that is until I get there), that’s when I leave everyone behind.

And I love it. But I’m teetering on the edge of waiting to put actual words onto paper until the end of the summer because I want to enjoy the last moments with the friends who are leaving.

I don’t think I have an option, though. The characters in my mind are gaining strength by the minute and will soon be almost as real as my friends.

What a strange affliction to have, this writing. It’ll both cure me and kill me in the end, I suppose.

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Maiju’s Teacup 29.1.2019 – Unlikely stories

I’ve been thinking about stories a lot lately. Ha ha! You’re a writer, of course you think of stories, you (do not) say. I mean stories as a concept.

I sent my first manuscript to the publishers in the Autumn. This is not monumental to anyone but myself. In Finland there are no literary agents who need to be applied to first. For such a small country and language we have an enormous amount of publishers. The process still goes that a writer writes a manuscript, scribbles a cover letter and sends it directly to the publishing houses. Where it will gather dust (or in my case, as I sent it in as a file, some sort of equivalent of data dust – micro mites? I’ve no idea) until one of the editors gives it a cursory glance, checks the email address on the top and sends you a rejection email (I received one today so please allow my negativity). Or if you’re very very lucky, or have had something published earlier, they might read it through and give it a chance.

So stories as a concept is something I need to consider when I write my cover letter. Preferrably earlier. What genre do I write for, who is my intended reader? Will anyone else but me want to read what I write? These are not things I think of while I write, but there’s so much more writing adjacent process involved in writing a novel that the thoughts cross my mind more and more often.

Two of my friends and my dad read my manuscript last Autumn and gave me feedback. I was taking part in an Instagram challenge about my writing at the moment and when asked which genre I wrote to, it was really hard to answer. My friends confirmed my fears. My stories are hard to put in a certain genre. I write that with regret and trepidation, not with glee. Because it’ll make getting a publisher that much harder.

I’ve also thought a lot about the fact that there are so many things in our lives that won’t happen because we have never heard the story before. Stories follow rules and ruts and I remember reading something by Terry Pratchett that described stories as something that follow deep grooves ploughed into the terrain of our lives. Or a river into which all water flows. And I get it. Stories are the things that make us human, how we can learn from other people’s stories and move knowledge on to someone else about our own life. But what about those stories that don’t get told? The stories that exist, but are not common enough to carve a permanent channel?

In media there’s a lot of talk about the narrative and how diversity in narrative is what spreads understanding and acceptance. I totally agree. But in our commercial world that is not how things ultimately work.

Oh well, I don’t know if I’m making any sense. I don’t even think what I write is so different. It may be that it is just on the verge of not being different enough. But I’m going to keep writing the stories that come to my mind. Maybe one day someone will enjoy reading them.

Last night in a random tweet I defined my stories as ‘unlikely’. I guess that’s exactly what they are. I proclaim I want to found a new genre: Unlikely Stories.

Mint tea from a Thermos at the study desks in the library.

Maiju’s Teacup 23.1.2019 – Liminal space

I’m not a religious person. I’m rather skeptical about most things. But I do believe in the subconscious (I didn’t even know it was a thing that people didn’t believe in until a few weeks ago, but hey, some people believe the Earth is flat). I believe that when there’s some lack in our emotional life, our subconscious combs through the oodles of information we receive daily and picks out the bits and pieces that might fill that empty space.

I’ve been feeling lost and at a loss for quite some time now. If you’ve read my previous few posts, it’s been a theme of the winter. Yesterday I was listening to a podcast that mentioned liminal space and my mind latched to it like something sent to save me from my own morose thoughts.

I read The Buried Soul by Timothy Taylor a few years ago in which the term liminal was used of the time between death and being buried or cremated or what have you. It made me think of death as the end of the person’s journey, liminal time as the society’s way of dealing with death, and then relinquishing the person to whatever gods or chasms the society believes in.

But the way I understood liminal space this time was that it is a threshold between states of relevant stasis. And it is a time full of possibility. It’s filled with creative energy, like friction between two objects that are moving. The past is what has already been, though not necessarily understood, and the future is an unknown yet somewhat predictable from what comes before. What decides what we understand from the past and where we move into in the future, is this liminal space. A time or place in which we feel uncomfortable and off-kilter.

And I realise that I’ve written about it before. At least three years ago, when I craved the change. And ended up moving back to my home town and writing a novel. I held the cards that time. I made the decisions. But the way was clearer then. Or maybe I just had fewer options.

I’m going to try to quit complaining about inhabiting a liminal space of time in my life and rather try to tap into its energy. It really helps, naming your enemies. And finding out they can be turned into allies.

Maiju’s Teacup 14.1.2019 – Aches

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What is that random photo, you ask. Well, it was just a nice photo I snapped at my mum’s when I stayed there over New Year’s. As random as this year feels.

The beginning of the year is normally given the power of a new start and I feel like I’m not at all on the same page with it. I wouldn’t even call it a milestone from where to gaze into two directions.

I’ve been having dreams about moving house and apparently that means I either want change or I am experiencing it. Last night I returned into this dream flat I had supposedly moved out of and even cleaned out the fridge and I found it still full of so much furniture and bits and pieces that they wouln’t fit in the car I that used to go check the flat was empty. There was even chocolate in the fridge! (Who puts chocolate in the fridge?)

So I guess there are still some unresolved matters that need my attention before I can move forward. Isn’t that the case always? And nudging progress has not made any difference, it seems.

I checked my last year’s diary and I noted that there are two goals I had set myself and actually kept to them. I finished and sent my novel to publishers and I saw more of my friends. The latter might surprise my friends, but I guess I saw more of my friends as a collective, but maybe less of individual friends. The first goal will have affected the latter because I was buried in my novel for months and the credit for seeing more of my friends goes to said friends who came to see me, as opposed to that I would have had to leave the house to see them. Which did not happen much.

So. The only promise for this year I will make is that I will try to move forward. I will pack those bags and read piles of books that help to deal with the burdens of past lives (not in the religious sense but as to who I was a decade or five years ago).

It will be three years in the end of March since I left my cosy (read: horrible) job and besides increased credit card interests it brings me close to a point where I need another change. Not as radical as quitting my job, moving to another town and getting on with writing a novel. But a change. I can feel my cells ache for change. And I don’t even know what kind.

I guess we come back to this perpetual waiting to hear anything from any of the publishers. It’s as if my fate was in someone else’s hands. I guess that might be why I want to make change happen. I want my life to be in my own hands again.

Maiju’s Teacup 3.12.2018 – Limbo

I’m not alone in being fed up with Mondays, right? Even though I normally only work during the weekend, Monday is still something that smacks me in the face. And it’s not the distance to the next weekend, or the return to work, but the idea of the beginning of a new week.

I can’t remember when I stopped believing in starting things on a Monday or on the first day of a month or a year. It’s been a decade at least. I just know myself. If I won’t commit to something immediately after I get the idea, I will come up with a million excuses to not do it before the exact day of starting. Last year I started NaNoWriMo two weeks ahead of time because I decided I would NaNo and I had a strong WIP.

And however used I get to following my own schedules, weeks and months and years are so deeply ingrained into the culture around me that Mondays still get me down.

I guess it’s the imminent disappointment. Something new starts, which could be however good we make it, but eventually it will just be the same as the previous week and the week before that and the year before that.

I feel this especially strongly because I live in limbo now. I don’t have an active WIP. And my first novel’s manuscript is rotting in the inboxes of various publishing houses. And it will take at least several months before I hear back from them. And if someone wants to publish the text, I need to get back to it. And if no one wants to publish it, I need to get back to it then too.

I guess there are people writing about writing who write about this part of the process. But I have not come across it. And sure, I got back to writing during November, but I didn’t come up with anything that I’d want to spend the next few years on. I do have an idea, but I feel like I need to wait until I can properly get into the whole story.

And yeah, there’s the third reason I haven’t jumped into this new story. I’m afraid. And because of Steven Pressfield, I recognice the reluctance as fear and that’s something inside my mind. I’m afraid that I can’t do it again. The moment when I stood in the fog, trying to peer onto the path of the story with the finished manuscript is so far away in the past that it seems impossible it was like this before. But it was. It was worse. Because I had never finished a manuscript before.

Doesn’t really make it easier to start now. Well, probably it does, but I’m now aware of the change from my current point of view.

And it’s not just the writing either. I feel like I’m always waiting for something. I guess that’s one of the reasons I start everything immediately. Because at least I have power over my own decisions.

I feel like this is not how life should be. Always waiting for something else. Is this how other people feel? Constantly in a limbo. Actually, I was really happy all this year while I was writing. When I am writing, I don’t feel like I’m waiting to become someone else. It’s the one thing that makes sense. I guess it was something I saw myself as doing and it makes me feel fulfilled when I actually get some work done.

I don’t need other people’s validation for my writing – I’m a writer whatever anyone says – but at the moment other people have all the power. I left my job almost three years ago (I’d have left it anyway soon, because it was horrible and not for me) and decided that I’d give my all to writing.

Now I’m working a menial job and building my life around writing.

Oh, I guess this has been some kind of therapy session, because I realise now that I feel powerless because I actually am. At least partly. I’m at the point when I’m just waiting for some stranger to make a decision that affects my whole life.

Ugh. Sorry to be a downer.

I guess my only option to stop feeling like this is to start writing that new text.

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I’m drinking a cup of Pukka Three Mint Tea because I got one of those tea advent calendars.

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.

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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