Didn’t your mother teach you not to talk shit about food?

In the past year I’ve been immersing myself more and more in writer culture. In addition to my usual venues and social circles I’m on Twitter now, following and interacting with other writers and people who work with writers and writing, and…it’s been an interesting experience.

I’ve never really thought much about writer culture until this year. Writers write and that’s that, right?

Nah.

Somebody once told me that I shouldn’t use negative language about myself. I shouldn’t focus on how ugly so and so bodypart is, I should focus on the parts I liked. I shouldn’t say “I can’t”, I should say “I can”, and I should say “I will”. Positive reinforcement.

I try to live by it, even when it’s hard. I try not to think “but there’s so much left to write” and instead think “I’ve written so much already”. It worked for me years back when I decided to go by bicycle around Iceland. Lots of mountains to climb, lots of kilometres to put behind me. I made a point to stop every once in awhile to look back just to see how far I’d come. Maybe it wasn’t much farther than the last time I looked. It didn’t matter. I’d still progressed.

(And I made it halfway around the country before my knees got busted.)

This is part of the reason why what I’m seeing of writer culture is so utterly baffling.

It goes something like this: how to write a book: dig a hole. crawl into the hole. stay in the hole.

Or perhaps like this: how to write a book: flail at the keyboard while screaming uncontrollably.

Or maybe it goes like this: open document. type one word. spend several hours going off tangents on the Internet. return to document and discover no words have been added. cry.

Here’s the thing: I wouldn’t be writing if I didn’t enjoy it.

Wild, right? Enjoy writing? What kind of writer am I? Why am I not guzzling down buckets of coffee while alternating between hammering on my keyboard and posting increasingly quirkier hyperbolic statements about how hard and painful writing is?

Yeah, writing is hard sometimes. The words don’t always come easy. Sometimes other factors in life impede my writing in shitty ways. Sometimes writing is just a drag and a chore and I wonder a little bit why I’m making myself churn out words when I could be doing other, easier things, such as binge watching Netflix or reading other people’s books.

But I enjoy writing. Even when it’s difficult, I enjoy it. Not as much as when it’s easy, and I love it a little less than on the days when it feels like words are all the sustenance I need to live. Who cares about dinner when I’m on a roll? But here’s the other thing: I enjoy it because it’s hard, too.

And then there’s this: Regardless of whether I’m having a good writing day or a bad writing day, I write.

I sit down, and I write. I get distracted by the internet just like everybody else. I chat with friends in a different tab while writing in another. I have been known to get up and do the dishes in the middle of a scene. I have put off writing for hours while I run errands or work out or clean the flat.

But at the end of the day, what it comes down to for me, is to just get the job done. To improve my craft. To finish a story I love. To be excited. To write. I like being able to look back and say yesterday I was there, today I am here.

I’ve been watching the Danish version of the Great British Bake Off for a few years. This season there’s a young lad on the show who has a peculiar way of talking about his bakes. It’s ongoing, still in the first half of the season, as it airs later in the year than GBBO, so I’ve not seen much of him, but…

This lad will say things like “this is disgusting, actually”. He will say “it’s gross.”

I’m sure he’s a fine fellow, but this language is driving me up the wall. Has his mother never taught him that it’s impolite to talk about food like that? Even if it’s his own food? Has nobody taught this kid it didn’t quite turn out the way I expected or it’s not my cup of tea? as a valid way to discuss the outcome of his work?

Has nobody told this kid that assigning negative value to your own work is a damaging thing to do to yourself?

Why is writer culture centred around this idea that writing is a terrible, painful task that only masochists willingly take upon themselves? Why is it that writer culture is obsessed with events like nanowrimo, which is ostensibly about improving the creative output in quantifiable ways, but which is widely regarded by writers as a form of self-inflicted torture? Why is writer culture steeped in negatively loaded hyperbole that is neither motivating nor helpful? Why is it that writer culture seems more interested in having a giant pity party than promoting healthy work ethics?

Why is it that it’s “cooler” to say things like having kittens for fingers would be easier than writing a novel and not today I finished writing an important scene?

Why am I expected to groan and complain about the writing process to be accepted into the club? Why am I expected to sign up for nanowrimo and churn out fifty thousand words in a month while also making sure everyone in the vicinity has heard what tremendous personal sacrifice it is to do it?

Why am I expected to identify with the particular brand of WriterTM that seems to be chronically underslept and harried, by their own writing habits no less, to the point that they resemble an undead human being incapable of functioning in society?

I don’t identify with that brand.

I don’t identify with this way of thinking.

I just can’t see myself in it. I don’t want to be associated with it. I don’t want to let this, frankly, toxic mindset influence me to such a point that I won’t be able to recognise myself anymore.

I want to keep enjoying what I’m doing. I want to love writing. I want to surround myself with writers who gleefully roll up their sleeves and say let’s do this.

So. I’m sorry, guys.

But I don’t want to be in your club.

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four moods

1. You share a cigarette with a girl you like. You’re curious. You take the cigarette from her, let the smoke fill your mouth. She’s looking at your lips. The smoke doesn’t really taste like anything. You exhale, look at the cigarette. She’s still looking at your mouth. You give the cigarette back and now you can taste it, ash tray, stale smoke, and something that reminds you of the bitterness of coffee.
It’s months before you realise she was attracted to you.
It’s years before you realise you were attracted to her.

2. You wake up one morning exhausted and in the approximately two and a half minute it takes for you to get out of bed and into the shower, you forget that your body is not your body. For those two and a half minute your knowledge of your body rings true. You have two and a half minute of exhausted, innocent bliss.
You wake up in the shower.
You can’t breathe.
You don’t understand.
You think about that story with the dream and the butterfly.
People around you ask if you’re ill. Stressed. Tired.
You don’t know how to tell them that you want to crawl out of your own skin (not your skin!) and into your body (your real body!). You don’t know how to tell them that you’re scared. You don’t know how to tell them that you’re not what they think you are.

3. Boys are stupid, they say, and you clamp shut. I’m a boy, you want to scream. You laugh nervously, agreeing that boys are stupid, and you feel like you’re betraying yourself.
Later, you hear yourself say I’m not a girl, and you wonder if you’re betraying girls everywhere as you say it. You think about your five year old self and wonder if you’re betraying her.
There’s a thin line between boy and girl and it cuts your feet when you try to walk it.

4. Your friends are playing that game, the one with the lists. Who would you fuck, on a scale from one to ten. They love the game. They’re all laughing.
It’s your turn and your tongue is dry.
Nobody, you say.
Surely there’s someone you think is hot, they say. Come on. Give us a name. Just one.
There are so many beautiful people in the world. Sometimes a beautiful person smiles and you want to look at them for days. Sometimes you might even want to kiss them.
You don’t want to kiss strangers.
You don’t want to make a list of fuckable strangers.
I don’t want to play this game, you say, and your friends call you boring.

deer rain

I’m co-writing a story with a friend. I’ve never done that before, and I’m finding it’s like watching magic happen. When it’s my turn to write, the writing fairy has added words and paragraphs and whole scenes. All I have to do is continue the work.

Summer has been wet and rainy. Jobs have been sparse. In a moment of self-indulgence and frivolity I purchased a lordship for myself. Of course it’s not a title that’s legally recognised in my country so it won’t appear on my passport anytime soon, but the lordship is mine for the rest of my life and if I so wish I can absolutely call myself lord. Lord K. I like the sound of that.

It came with a small piece (five square feet) of land in a national park populated with deer. It’s possibly the most delightful part of the entire thing. Well, that and the fact the crest has a stag on it.

Worldcon 75 in Helsinki has officially started, and I’m not there. I really, really wanted to be. The programme is amazing.

Summer is continuing to be wet and rainy. Hopefully it’ll bring jobs with it this time.

snail
after the rain. july 2017.

how it feels to have a beating heart

being unemployed is a strange beast.

i have so much time. even though jobhunting is demanding, i still have all these hours in my day that aren’t filled out with things to do. i don’t know what to do with all this time.

i’ve been working on my health. i have been thinking about a lot of things. i have given up knitting for the time being. i am not writing as much as i’d like to. i’m having a lot of really vivid dreams. i wake up at four am with the sun.

i’m having difficulties recognising myself while at the same time feeling like i’ve always been like this. i can’t define what this is.

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dandelions on the beach. may 2017.

mieleni minun tekevi, aivoni ajattelevi…

today is kalevala day, or finnish culture day. the quote above are the first two lines in the kalevala, and can be translated roughly to “i want to do a thing”, which is why i’m quoting it here.

i also want to do a thing.

i have chalk embedded into my skin pretty permanently these days. it’s my own fault. we do have modern technology – computers and overhead projectors and whatnot; just this morning i gave a presentation using prezi – but when it comes to good old fashioned classroom teaching, i prefer blackboards and chalk.

the complete radio silence these past two months have been in part because i’ve been so busy teaching finnish grammar that i don’t have much brain space left for other things, and in part because i have not had much to talk about. unless it’s finnish grammar, in which case i have plenty to talk about.

days are now more than 10 hours long. it’s already light outside when my alarm rings in the morning. it’s still light out when i sit at dinner. i’m feeling lighter.

things i want to do:
– advance my academic career
– complete just one of my current wips
– get a permanent job (not necessarily in academia)
– expel the exhaustion that has taken up residence in my bones
– care.

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winter sunrise. feb 2017.

2016 in review

In 2016 I have:

  • held two jobs while writing my thesis
  • actually completed my thesis and turned it in
  • graduated from university
  • experienced the dubious joy of being unemployed
  • written exactly 89,472 words of fiction
  • lost weight
  • moved to finland for an internship
  • read almost 70 books
  • knitted three and a half pair of woollen socks
  • seen my family grow
  • hung out with friends both old and new
  • made art
  • had a big think about my writing and my writing career
  • purchased more than three woollen sweaters

It has been an odd year. It feels three times longer than it really should be, no doubt owed to the fact that it can be neatly partitioned into three parts: thesis frenzy, unemployment swamp and finland excitement. I feel like I’ve aged faster than usual.

I saw the year off in England, surrounded by good friends. I started the new year by travelling across Europe to – get home. To Finland. I’ve been thinking a lot about home, lately, as I also went home – to Denmark – for Christmas. I’ve called a lot of places home, even the most temporary ones. I’m renting out my apartment while I’m in Finland and so I don’t call it home. Yet it’s the place I own, where my bed is, where my bookshelves are, where I’ve got all my things in storage while I’m here. I suppose it’ll be home again eventually.

Seeing as I’ve read almost 70 books this year, I’m only going to list the top ten I’ve read in 2016. Some I might write proper reviews of later for this blog.

Anya Ow – The Firebird’s Tale – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Katherine Marlowe – The Blue Ribbon – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Kate Elliott – Cold Magic (Spiritwalker #1) – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Rachel Hartman – Seraphina (duology) – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Maggie Stiefvater – The Raven Cycle (quartet) – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
C.S. Pacat – The Captive Prince (trilogy) – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Leigh Bardugo – Six of Crows (duology) – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
N.K. Jemisin – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance #1) – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Naomi Novik – League of Dragons (Temeraire #9) – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Natasha Pulley – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Diana Wynne Jones – Howl’s Moving Castle – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Yes, I know I cheated like whoa and that’s more than ten, but there you go. My favourites from this year.

Five favourite photos:

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hazy winter sunset. december 2016.
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frozen river. december 2016.
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christianshavn. march 2016.
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the towers of copenhagen. march 2016.
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swans and january frost. january 2016.