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.

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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?

Maiju’s Teacup 3.2.2018 – Good Night Aunt Mary

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Ok, so today’s task from the 365 writer’s journal was to incorporate in a passage some of these words, the coining of which is claimed by Shakespeare.

advertising, moonbeam, undress, assassination, blanket, amazement, lackluster, madcap, critic, puking

So I started with a few practice sentences but then it run into this. And I really love it.

***

In my story night is something you can put in a nightsafe. You know, one of those that you see at streetcorners. Just a metallic slot in a wall. That’s why they need the security, because night is something so famous that wherever it goes, it needs to be kept safe from the commoners. The moonbeams and the unicorns and the wet blankets and the madcap critics that roam the streets at night. And the people who don’t know what a celebrity night is just want to keep it away. It doesn’t matter what kind of light there is, as long as there’s some light. A lamppost, a digital clock, the tiny speck of light that says the power’s still partially on in the television. Because night is dark. And because the darkness of night is something that they’ve been taught to fear. The absolute absence of light. That’s what it is. Right?

In the countryside it’s different. People are used to night. They wish it good. They look into the dark and they consider it a part of life. Like death after life after death. And they know what lurks in the dark, because they know exactly what’s out there. A building, a field, a holy grove, a cemetery, a church, the man who murdered Aunt Mary. But a building’s not a threat, nor a field either. The spirits in the holy grove are peaceful and the restless ones at the cemetery are fenced in by the subtle placing of rowans among the hedgerows. The church is inhabited only by a mouse family, that holds vigil over the plaque for Aunt Mary. The man who murdered her… Well, he’s not going to cross the stream. Everyone knows that. And he can’t kill anyone else. Then he wouldn’t be the man who murdered Aunt Mary anymore. And he won’t cross the stream. Will he?

Aunt Mary is not buried in the cemetery. She’s not buried in the holy grove either. She’s where no one thought to look for her. She likes it that way. She planted the rowans. She stirred up the spirits. She hallowed the grove. And she walks the night. She’s the one you should look out for.

Maiju’s Teacup 30.1.2018 – ‘Saudade’

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Today my 365 journal urges me to look up the Portuguese/Galician word ‘saudade‘. I did and found out it stands for a specific kind of profound nostalgia and longing.

Sometimes when I’m sad or when I feel like I’m on this precarious ledge at the edge of society, crossing into some unknown territory where not many dare to venture, I long for the people I used to be.

I have been so many things. I have been a musician, I have been a student, I have been someone with a conventional job. I have been a traveler and I have been an adventurer. I have been a depressed and anxious person. I have been a reckless and daring person.

I guess I can long for those times and the mindsets I had and the faith in the kindness of people I had. The faith that these people who were in my life would be with me for the rest of my life.

But when I think of all of these, I realise that at the same time I was a writer. That’s the one thing that never went away, the one thing that couldn’t be supplanted by anything else.

If writing has taught me one thing about life, it is that life is not a narrative. And life shouldn’t be, and we should relish in the fact that not every choice leads to a life-altering moment, the moments that are the least noteworthy if you are writing a story are often the ones that combine into a happy existence.

Who on earth would want to live in a novel? Who would want that pressure on their shoulders? Especially when you write stories, and know that for things to keep interesting there needs to be more conflict than harmony.

So all those times and people I’d include in my ‘saudade‘. All those tunes and streets and pebble beaches. They’re all my material. They’re still here. Sometimes I wish I could step back into my granny’s studio with the sunlight on the wet oilpaintings and read again that book that took my breath away, play again that tune at that session with that great guitar player who heard the music in his head the same way I do, write lyrics with my high school friend in her loft during the blizzard eating the sweetest of chocolates, smell that exact mix of salty Atlantic and peat fires and hot tarry asphalt with the backdrop of the Twelve Bens.

I sometimes wish it, but it’s still there. All of it. And every day, when I write, I use those impressions and smells and touches and tastes and feelings. It’s what my writing is made of.

Maiju’s Teacup 20.1.2018 – First Snow

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So, today’s assingnment from the writing journal was to write about the first snowfall somewhere. It specifically said it didn’t have to be a place where snow normally fell. Here’s what I came up with:

    *

It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. I knew the pipes in the flat were old and rusty and the heating was iffy at best. I stepped out of the steamy bathroom clad in a thick robe, woollen socks, slippers and a towel wrapped around my head. It had been getting colder and colder outside and the flat was getting chillier by the minute. The reason I had braved the shower was that my hair felt grimy and disgusting, and I had also gone skating earlier in the day. There was a small cupboard of a sauna next to the shower so I turned that on beforehand to get some warmth into the frosty bathroom floors. I was feeling warm and cozy and clean and comfortable, until the chilly air of the hall hit my bare legs. I had only a moment to shiver before I noticed a huge snowflake slowly descending from the ceiling in fron to of my eyes. Surely it must be a strip of dry paint or some kind of hallucination. Soon it was followed by a second snowflake, and then another. I caught one on the sleeve of my bathrobe and stepped under the lamp. In the pale LED-light the perfect ice crystal held it’s shape until it caught the warm breath of my gasp and melted into a drop of water again. In a few seconds it was replaced by another snowflake. I stared down the hall towards my kitchen. The cat was sitting at the livingroom door, watching this strange phenomenon a bit uneasily. A few flakes had landed near her paws and she stood up and started sniffing at the white stuff. It melted quickly when it met her warm nose. The cat arched her back, bristled her neck and tail and bolted towars the sofa in the living room. I didn’t blame her.

I took a few steps towards the kitchen, expecting to see a lamp-post loom any moment from the white walls. I really regretted my choice of attire if I ended up in Narnia. But I got to the kitchen without mishap. I could see the snow outside, and when I turned, the hall floor was still covered with snowflakes, but I could still see the patterns of the plastic carpet through the frosty flakes. I ran to the bedroom to grab my phone. The snow would be gone in a moment and I really needed some proof of this. If for nothing else than to show it to my landlady. When I returned to the hallway door, the snow was gone. The heat from the sauna had finally descended low enough to warm the floor. The only proof was the spooked cat and some droplets of water on the hallway floor.

*

Mind you. My flat is pretty chilly. Like, really chilly. It’s been under -10C out for about a week now and the indoors temperature keeps to 15-17C when it’s cold out. The subject matter hit very close to home.