Maiju’s Teacup 24/4/2017

Ginseng oolong in the pot earlier today.

I’m actually already lying in bed and thinking about Hogwarts houses and how there’s a word missing from language. 

I escaped Twitter because there’s some sort of tweevent going on at the Pottermore Twitter in which the Forbidden Forest plays a big part and also big hairy spiders. I’m phobic about big hairy spiders. I don’t mind little hairy ones (unless I see them in a photo where they look huge) or even big hairless ones. When I worked in a bookshop, there was a children’s book about animals that had a tarantula on one edge of the cover. I startled many a customer by screaming and throwing the book across the shop. I do it instinctively, before my brain kicks in.
At the Warner Brothers Harry Potter studio there was Aragog in the ceiling and my friends warned me about it but it was next to a hippogriff so I went and peeked  and ran to Diagon Alley in panic. It seemed like the staff at Diagon Alley were used to calming hysterical arachnophobes.

I digress. As I was still dodging Pottermore tweets I had a short conversation with a friend just about to which Hogwarts house we belonged to. I’m a Hufflepuff. I love being a Hufflepuff. I’m very proud of it. When Pottermore changed I took the Sorting Hat quiz again and it put me in Slytherin. Luckily I remembered my old username for the old version of the site so I could claim back my Hufflepuffity (Huffelpuffance?). About a year later I took another quiz which claimed to be the ultimate foolproof Sorting Hat quiz. It would have put me in Ravenclaw.

I am a big fan of Oh Witch Please podcast. It’s a podcast that looks at the world of Harry Potter  (books, films, irl Quidditch, games etc) from the point of view of narrative theory and feminism. It’s so good and so much fun. If you haven’t listened to it, do yourself a favour and do it now. Or rather after reading this post. 

On the podcast the hosts (or whaddoyoucallem) discuss the different Hogwarts houses and point out that if you sent your own kids to school, you’d only want them to be in Hufflepuff. Because, let’s be real, who wants their kids to learn that you only get into the in-crowd if you have a certain personality trait defined by a conjuror a thousand years ago. Like really. 

So yeah. I’ve been thinking about this and though Hufflepuff doesn’t discriminate anyone, I feel like that’s the feature that sets it apart from the rest of the houses.

‘Suvaitsevaisuus’ is a Finnish word that could be translated into ‘tolerance’. But tolerance has that nasty tang of there being something to tolerate, someone who decides, someone who is the authority and who says: you’re different but I will tolerate that and that somehow raised me above you.

I wish there was a word that suited it better. I guess ‘acceptance’ is another with more neutral connotations.

I’m not explaining this very well. Anyway. Accepting and appreciating people as they are has always been the most important thing for me. The only kind of people I do not appreciate are those who are not ‘tolerant’.

So. To conclude. I guess what I’m getting at that this is why I’m a Hufflepuff. Forever.

I’m going to go to sleep now.

Maiju’s Teacup 1/4/2017

Today’s pot of red Oolong is Feng Huang Dan Cong. In its second steep. It says on the package to last 4-5 steeped but the second one was already a bit weak. Maybe I’ll increase water temperature….

I had a terrible case of the NOs today. Apparently it’s PMS… Camp NaNoWriMo started too and after a shaky start, I made it to today’s word target.

After I’d written I made pizza and found out Finnish national tv had Planet Earth 2 on their service. It’s just beautiful!!!  We should show it to  Vogons before they destroy the planet to make way for the intergalactic freeway…

Now I’m off to bed to read some Middlemarch even though the vet pronounced that the cat is healthy now. I’m just associating the book with the sick cat…

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

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!

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.

Hangover avoided

Yes, I know there was this big day of celebration for the year 2016 to be over and the day after when one should be lying in bed, dozing off the champagne and all the booze. And the day after that, the horrifying realisation that 2016 was only the day before yesterday and nothing’s changed and nothing will change before one actually does something oneself. But it is not this hangover I’m talking about.

My troubles with writing are various and flock around me whenever I’m writing. I don’t believe in myself enough, I don’t trust myself enough, I start to trust myself too much and then it all winds down like a balloon filled with helium that only stays up a few days. 

However,one of the contributing factors  to this through my writing history has been that when I get writing,  I forget all else. I just sit at my desk or wherever and write and write and write until I finally return to full consciousness exhausted and hungry and cold and needing to pee.  What I’ve realised is that after these intense sessions which leave me drained, sometimes for days, I don’t feel so much like writing. The joy of creating is there, but the physical feeling follows me further.

Yesterday I downloaded an app to time my breaks. I even came across one which makes concentrating a game. Every time I concentrate, the app grows a tree, so I’m growing a virtual forest as I work. This appeals to me, might even make it more likely for me to work (one gains achievements for consecutive days).

 But the main thing is that after working for several hours with tiny breaks here and there, I was not exhausted for the rest of the day, I enjoyed the evening and even read late into the night. Though my mind was a bit over excited compared to normal, I was able to sleep and got up refreshed this morning without any reluctance to sit down again and work today.

Maybe  taking breaks is something that every rational creator understand but it took me a while to get here. I think it might be the fear of losing ‘the flow’ while hydrating or warming oneself. It might also be the image I’ve had of my creative work as a sort of intense burst of energy. An irrational image to which I’ve clung because of past behaviour. 

Well, I’m going to try and grow my little forest today and see where it takes me.