Writerly Update 3: January 2020

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The first month of the first year was the perfect start for my third year of writing.

I can’t really say what it was that made me feel very motivated and inspired, but nevertheless, I managed to write 1,000+ words on eight consecutive days – something that has most likely never happened before (except during NaNoWriMo but my last one was in 2016 and it’s a writing challenge so it doesn’t really count). 

Towards the end of the month, however, as our plans for the next move were starting to take shape, I got distracted from my writing routines and even had to force myself to get at least some writing done.

So, the month started out well but lost some of its charm towards the end of January.

Maybe this January is a good example of how important routines are for a writer, especially when you are in that active writing phase. There’s a place and time for experiencing as well, as I realized when we were in Australia, but when it comes to writing, routines are a writer’s best friend.

In the beginning of the month, I was really into a good rhythm with routines that made me sit me down almost daily to write. Now, as we’ve been preparing both mentally and, in a way, physically for the next step, my routines haven’t had a chance to exist – and that can be seen in my writing.

It really is a roller coaster journey, this life. And it’s full of contradictions too – it’s good to have routines, but it’s also good to be spontaneous. It’s good to plan for your future, but it’s also good not to dwell too much on the past or what’s coming. Somewhere there, in-between routines and spontaneous decisions, one is supposed to find balance. Phew.

Anyway, let’s get to the statistics, shall we?

The Great Statistics

January 2020

Days journaling: 24 days out of 31
Days writing: 20 days out of 31
Word count in total (excluding journaling): 26,980 words

Texts published: 4 blog posts + one fan fiction one-shot
Comments on other people’s texts: 29

Not a bad month, right? I journaled 77,4% of the month and wrote fact and fiction for 64,5% of January. My lowest word count for the day was 1,000 words and highest 2,500. On average, I wrote 1,349 words per writing day (if dividing for the whole month, it equals 870 words per day).

Surprisingly enough, this month was pretty similar to December when it comes to word count (22,480 to 26,980) and average word count per writing day (1,300 to 1,349). I hadn’t really expected that because I thought I had done much better – but I’m still happy I’ve managed to keep up with my journaling and I had more writing days than in December (17 compared to 20 days), so that’s good.

What I Wrote This Month

I spend most of this month writing my long fan fiction story.  Of those twenty writing days in January, 11 was spent on writing that fan fiction story. It felt really good to get the story half-way (although it’s rather murky now).

One of the most rewarding things with it is to realize how much the story is me – I’m using my own characters (and the main character is a minor one in the fandom so I’ve had the chance to re-invent her past and present which makes her feel mine) and I get to invent new knowledge and information about the magical world in almost every chapter. It’s almost like writing something of my own, an original piece.

In addition to the longer fan fiction story, I wrote a short fan fiction one-shot for a Valentine’s Day challenge on the writing forum I’m active on and finished the original short story I started in December. And a week ago, we went to see the movie 1917 (so frigging good!) where I got an idea for another short story. It’s almost done, two-thirds of the way. To balance out all the fiction, I also wrote and published four blog posts on this blog.

Oh, and some days of January were spent writing job applications and updating my CV (which is a total writing mood killer but necessary).

Summing Up January

In my December Update, my goals for January were following:

“I wish to complete the short story I’m working on for the writing competition and let it rest until February (the deadline is in March). I also hope to write at least as much as I did in November, hopefully even more, aiming for 1,000+ words every day that I write. My journaling routine is good at the moment, and I hope to continue like that. In addition to the short story, I aim to keep writing my fan fiction long story, hopefully getting to 20k this month, and if possible, I’d like to get back to writing Yellow Tails again (Remember that? It’s still in the works!).”

Judging from the statistics for this month, I managed to reach almost all my goals for January!

I finished that short story for the competition (and I’m about to open that file for re-reading and editing, yikes!), I wrote 1,000+ words every writing day, kept up with my journaling routines and the longer fan fiction story has now more than 26,000 words in it.

The only thing that didn’t happen was that I let Yellow Tails remain untouched. It was a conscious decision as I realized that balancing between to longer stories would get too messy – I feel it’s better to keep writing one story at a time and focus all energy and attention on that one rather than try dividing your time between two equally interesting projects.

Looking at my January writing accomplishments  is very rewarding and gives me a boost to keep up with the good work in February despite all the things happening in my life at the moment.

As I have no idea what this next month brings with it, I’m a bit hesitant about my writing goals for February. I think I’ll go lightly:

In February, I wish to complete, edit and maybe even send off my two short stories for the writing competition. I also want to keep on journaling on an almost daily basis to keep up with my thoughts and hopefully clear some thinking space for creative writing as well. I aim to publish four blog posts on this blog and keep on writing that longer fan fiction story, maybe coming closer to a total of 40,000 words during February. And hopefully, I’ll be able to write 1,000+ words every writing day.

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How was your writerly January and what are you planning for February? I’d love to hear what other people have been writing and how they feel about the first writing month of the year. Feel encouraged to share in the comments!

Back To Where I Came From

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Most of my recent blog posts have been about writing. Writing, reading and everything around it have been recurring themes on this blog because much of December and January has focused around writing – lucky for me! 

At the same time, though, life keeps on happening and therefore this post is more about the other things that are going on around my writing: thoughts about my future, both the near and far ones.

When we began our travels in the end of July six months ago, we had been saving money for a few years to do this trip. That money allowed us a completely different kind of freedom and the opportunity to see what the rest of the world is up to. We got to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia and then to New Zealand. It has been a rollercoaster ride.

But now it’s time to give up that freedom. The money that was saved has been used well – and as we’re starting to run short on it, it’s time to find ways to make money again.

To find out that solution is far from easy.

It isn’t only about finding work but it’s also about where to find it and what it is I want to do. What happens after our trip comes to an end? What happens when you give up the kind of freedom we’ve grown used to during this past year?

Finding Meaningful Work Isn’t Easy

In June, I wrote about my thoughts on graduating. I wrote that there’s a harsher reality waiting for me when I give up the freedom of being a student, but that I’m ready for that.

When writing it, I felt it to be true. I guess I still do, but nevertheless, taking on another new chapter feels daunting. I’m doing it, for real this time: trying to find a job, an apartment, not rely on study subsidies or student discounts anymore. It’s real. But at times, finding a job feels overwhelming and causes feelings of anxiety.

I haven’t had too many good work experiences. Either it’s because I’m picky or because the working world as such isn’t, well, working. I’ve had my share of shitty shifts, bad bosses, ugly work atmospheres and unrealistic or unnecessary work assignments.

Time after time, I thought I’d like to work as this or that, only to realize it wasn’t for me. And now I’m supposed to be on the job market again, finding myself work that hopefully will be better than my previous experiences. But what kind of job? Is there someone out there looking for a fiction writer to their company? I could be that person!

What? No? Okay. I guess I have to find something else.

It’s a strange feeling to go through different work ads and realize that you don’t want to “build your career” in any of those companies. I’m not passionate about selling and making profit – but our society runs on consumerism. I’m not eager to deal with customer care unless I’m really passionate about what I’m doing. I want to work with something that feels meaningful, that truly matters to me – but the current working world doesn’t seem to offer too many solutions.

It feels like so much weight is put on the employee and how one fits in the company but not so much on the company itself and it’s way of doing thing.

It’s essential to me to feel that the people working in a place are aware of what they are doing, how they are doing it and are willing to give their best – just as I will if I work there. More often than not, however, it seems like the boss who is supposed to be there for us employees and help us do our job well doesn’t know what he or she is doing or isn’t motivated to do his or her job well.

There is no such thing as a perfect work environment, that I know – but there are good opportunities to create a great work environment. It simply requires conscious effort.

So, maybe I’m picky, maybe I know what I want. Fine. But where to find that right kind of job?

The Language I Speak

For now, I have found two work ads that resonated with me and sounded like worth giving an opportunity to. I’m hoping to hear from them in a month or so. And this brings me to the next thing on my mind – both jobs are situated in Finland.

So, partly this post is about finding a job – but it’s also about where that seeking seems to take me.

We left Finland to find something better abroad, a different and maybe a more suitable culture. We both honestly thought we would be better off somewhere else.

But lately, as I’ve been thinking about working over and over, my mind leads me back to the land of forests and a thousand lakes. It’s because of my writing.

Not including this blog, I write mostly in Finnish. My journal entries, my fan fiction and my novels are all written in Finnish, a language spoken by approximately five million people living in this world.

The thing is, reading and writing are my greatest strengths, and these strengths have the best opportunity to succeed in Finland. Therefore, it would be in my interest to live in Finland to make a career out of writing. Right?

But I’m not homesick.  I don’t, per se, miss my social life or the Finnish food and culture so much that I would love to be back. I can see myself finding a nice yoga studio, the perfect writing environment, an active lifestyle somewhere else. In another Nordic country, perhaps.

I have no officially serious reason to go back. But because of my strengths in my own language, I’m drawn to my home country. I’m most likely to succeed on my career – if I get back to Finland and stay there.

It bugs me because it feels like my freedom to choose is being cut. At the same time, I’m curious to see what can come out of it. I have these ideas about my own small company, focused on writing and reading, and all my hopes for my author career – and I know the best place to make them happen is in Finland.

Our time on this trip has given form to these thoughts and it feels like the right time to try finding the paths to realising them.

But just to get back to where we got started – if I’m in a country I really don’t have a need to be in and I’m starting out with work that I might not even want to do and that might end up in another disappointment, where will that lead me? Will I still be able to hold on to all my ideas about writing?

So many questions, so few answers.

So, to sum up this blog post: I’m thinking about a lot of things, mostly about the future of work and where it will take me. I’m optimistic about the fact that things have a tendency to find their way. Things will work out. And hopefully something good will come of it – if I get to choose, that good will have to do with writing.

The Thing About Not Being Homesick

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In the process of less than a week, we sold our road trip car and booked our next flight tickets. Quick actions, one might think, but I believe we are doing the right thing. Australia has been a wonderful experience, a road trip even more so – but it’s time to move on.

The next destination is actually our main destination, the one we’ve been approaching slowly but surely for the last three months: New Zealand. A plan of ours that was born a few years back and the one we’ve been saving for since the plan was formed – to spend a year in this country, to see what it feels like to live on the other side of the world.

In other words, we are not going back to our home country – instead, we are doing the opposite by staying in the southern hemisphere with an eleven-hour time difference from Finland. One could think homesickness would be creeping in.

But I’m not homesick – and I don’t think I will be.

But why is that? Why am I not homesick. Shouldn’t I be?

No Home, No Longing

I believe one reason to why I’m not feeling homesick is that technically, we don’t have a home anymore. Last summer, we sold most of our belongings and gave away the apartment we had been living for the past eight months. This way, I don’t have a specific place for writing or a certain chair where I’d love to curl up to read a good book.

(Sure, my parents still live in the house I grew up in, but what used to be my room is used for something else and the house simply doesn’t feel like my home anymore. So it doesn’t count.)

I can’t feel homesick if I have no home – right?

Some things, of course, remind me of things back home and awaken the feeling of ah, I wish I could do that or have that again. More than once, a smell of something has made me think of my grandparents’ summer cottage. First time, it was the smell of metal chains (yes, that’s right) and the second time, the refreshing smell of pine trees. Both reminded me of those early mornings at the cottage when you wake up with the sun, take a morning swim and enjoy the quiet.

But other than that, I’ve been fine.

Some thoughts in my head say that it’s wrong not to feel homesick, that isn’t there anything I miss and would like to get back to?

But my home, it feels, isn’t in Finland, not anymore. It is somewhere else – because other than those early mornings at the summer cottage, I haven’t really missed anything. I don’t need to go back.

Searching for Safe Space

However, even though I can write more or less anywhere (just give me a chair and table or just a lap and I’ll write), it doesn’t mean I am in no need for a home base. Quite the opposite, really: for weeks, I’ve been longing for a proper writing desk, a space where I can properly write, draw, plan and execute those plans.

But where to find that home base if not in Finland?

Quite randomly, as I was wondering about homesickness and the absence of it, I happened to stumble upon a quote by a Finnish poet, Eeva Kilpi, who said that the meaning of life is ‘to come home’.

This quote became the answer to my questions about homesickness and why I haven’t been feeling it.

For me, ‘to come home’ means finding a place that feels like a safe space. The moment you walk in, you feel safe and comfortable, like you can be and do anything you want in that place. Home also consists of the people around you, the ones you meet and who become your friends. It consists of familiar walking trails, cycle routes.

A home is somewhere you can think clearly, where you feel free to find a way to be yourself without compromising too much.

For me and my partner, it didn’t feel like we could find that in Finland. It just didn’t work out because of many things – the weather, the darkness, the language, the culture. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been feeling homesick?

After reading the quote from Eeva Kilpi, it made me realize that one of the reasons we embarked on this journey is to do precisely that – find a place where it feels like we’ve ‘come home’.

If we find it in New Zealand, only time will tell.

The Great Thing About Traveling Slowly

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We’ve been on the road for almost two weeks now. It isn’t a very long time, for sure, but it feels like we are now getting into the groove of traveling. We are finding our routines, figuring out how we want to spend our days on the road.

In the mornings, I write. It’s been relatively easy to get going with my morning routine of writing although I’m no fan of writing before I’ve had breakfast and a cup of coffee. However, nothing beats the feel-good after a rewarding writing session.

(Lately, I’ve been practicing writing adventure/action scenes – it’s tough because I’m more for the relaxed or deep-talk-kind-of scenes.)

After I’m done writing, the rest of the day is free for whatever activities we feel like doing. For the most part, we do what tourists do: walk around, say “no thanks!” to tuk-tuk drivers and when the heat of the midday gets unbearable, we step into one of the many 7/11 –shops with the greatest air conditioning, pick an ice cream flavor we haven’t tried before and eat it outside the shop before walking on. We visit temples, try new fruits like mangosteen and sometimes exchange a few words with other backpackers.

A New Perspective on Traveling

However, as we have travel plans into October which means we’ll be on the road for a few months more, the perspective on traveling changes. The days aren’t about wake up as early as possible to see as much as possible like they usually are on short city holidays because we have time. We have days upon days! We’ve been in Thailand for two weeks now and we still have 1,5 week to go before we hop on another plane. That means we can stay a few nights longer in every city we visit and take the time we need to get to know places.

In other words, we are in no hurry. And because we don’t have to count every hour of the day, we really get to see what we want to see.

What made me think of this was an evening a few days ago when we were still in Chiang Mai. We decided to visit one of the many temples of the city, a temple called Wat Chedi Luang. We went to the area, paid 40 Baht as a supporting fee to the temple and started walking around the area.

First we visited one of the viharns, assembly halls, which are usually the golden, colorful, pompous even, buildings – but which I rarely find fascinating. The reason to this is that the viharns are very often built in the 20th century which makes them very new and fresh and I am more for the old buildings and ruins.

Therefore, as visiting the viharn with all the other tourists was a small disappointment, I was beyond excited (I might even say I was momentarily breathless) when I saw the real thing. The Wat Chedi Luang.

Taking In The Quiet, The Calm

It was already in the evening and the sun was about to start setting when we came to the old temple. The ancient layers of stone, the carvings, the details put into the chedi were all beautiful – partly because it was well done, partly because the evening sun gave it a wonderful color and partly because I was awestruck by the fact that this temple was built in the 14th or 15th century.

Many of the tourists who also found their way to the chedi, were happy to just walk around it once, take a photo of it and then leave. We, however, decided to sit down and enjoy the peace and quiet of the temple area – we had the time.

An hour flew by as we sat on the white bench, watching other tourists walk by, take a selfie with the chedi and then leave. We also saw a young man sit down with his sketchpad to draw Wat Chedi Luang (he also took almost an hour to draw the temple), some stray dogs and many of the monks go on about their daily business.

We took in the quiet, the setting sun and the beautiful warm color of the chedi as the sun shined on it. As we sat there, it felt as if I could feel the temple, the serenity of it.

There were so few who took the time to actually sit down and look at the building, to take in every detail of it, I really wonder what they can remember of it. Of course, they have the photo to remind them of the temple – but can they feel it as I do even after days of seeing it? I wonder how many historical buildings, artefacts and paintings I’ve looked at (probably numerous) without really seeing them.

It’s time to change that.

As there is slow-food, there is also slow-traveling. It’s about getting into the groove, about feeling things rather than only looking – it’s almost like mindfulness, finding yourself in the moment of now.

 

What My Grandfather Taught Me

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Tomorrow is my grandfather’s funeral. He died peacefully at the respectful age of 95 on a beautiful Friday morning two weeks ago. I visited the care home that morning to see him one last time and I was happy to see the peaceful look on his face – it felt important to see him one last time.

After he passed away, I’ve been going through some old photos I found at my grandparent’s apartment before the place was emptied as they had moved to a care home.

Most of the photos I found have been taken by my grandfather, some of them have been taken by someone else as my grandfather is in the photo. The photos have made me wonder who he was, what he believed in and what of his values has he passed on to me.

He was a silent and a thoughtful man who did smile but not very easily. I remember how he was always reading the newspaper or sleeping. He liked sweets and baked goods. He was always organizing papers and staying updated about what was happening in the country – they subscribed to four different daily newspapers.

Those are some of the memories I have of him. But for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about his legacy – what he taught me through his way of being and how he lived his life. This is what I’ve realized:

Routines

My grandfather was a man who followed his daily routines. He would wake up at 4 AM to read the newspaper and then take a nap (it was usually my job to go and wake him very carefully and kindly for breakfast). Then he would read or organize his papers, maybe work for a while at his work apartment in the house next door. In the afternoons, he went for his walk. Every single day. Even at old age when Alzheimer was taking over his brain, he could remember all the streets he walked through during that afternoon walk.

I don’t know why he had his routines – I never asked. But he must have known they were good because they give so much more time and space for some proper thinking and for understanding things. Maybe I’ve simply taken after him?

Knowledge

When I was little and did some homework after school at my grandparents, I sometimes needed help finding out about a fact. Most often, I turned to my grandfather who was known for knowing great many details about what seemed to be everything.

However, when I asked my question, may that have been about history or geography or grammar, I never got a straight answer from him although he probably knew it. Instead, he would go to the great bookshelf and pick up one, two or three books about the subject. He then helped me find the right page where I could find the information I was looking for.

I believe he knew that if I would find the information myself I would remember it better – and I believe he was right.

Literature

As you might have realized by now, my grandfather was a man who respected information. He was a history guide and a tour guide on trips in Europe – and together with his team he won several years in a row a competition where the team is supposed to drive from one place to another and answer some detailed questions about the city.

He knew a lot without getting any help from Google, Siri or Sierra.

In addition to love for information, my grandfather respected books. My grandfather was the one responsible for buying us all a book for Christmas. He didn’t mind that they were fiction but I think it meant a lot to him to know that all his grandchildren were fond of reading (I wonder what he would think about Yellow Tails).

Although I wouldn’t maybe hold on to as many books as he did while he lived, I still like to think his love for literature and information has passed on to me.

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In addition to these things, I remember him for his good humor, wisdom and excellent board game skills. One time, me and my grandfather were a team while playing Star of Africa and we won the game by finding the diamond in time and returning home rich as any. He was a clever man.

There’s so many things I would like to ask him now – real grown-up things that I wonder about and would like to hear his thoughts on. I hope he would’ve written a diary of some sort to know what he thought and believed in. But I can’t do that, not ask questions or read his thoughts. It’s too late for that.

But I have his photos, I have my memories – rest of it I’ll just have to build up on my own.