today i moved to finland.
today i had my last day at work at job#1. yesterday i had my last day at work at job#2. tomorrow i am officially unemployed.
in the month and a half that has passed since i handed in my thesis, i have taken on extra shifts at job#1, applied for new jobs (i haven’t secured anything yet), hung out with friends and coworkers, and consumed a lot of art (by which i mean, i watched the entire first season of jane the virgin in less than two weeks. it is truly a work of art. i’ve also started a rewatch of six feet under, which is amazing – it’s every bit as good as i remember it being, when i watched it at a much more formative point in my life).
i’m writing again, which is very exciting! i have three stories i’m working on. two are just short low-stress stories, and one is the first book in a fantasy trilogy i’ve been planning for a while now. fantasy trilogies are all the rage, i know, but i don’t care – i don’t know that i want it published, i just want to write it because i can and because it’s a story i want to tell.
i’m oddly happy with being unemployed, to be honest. i’m going to miss my coworkers, who are all absolutely fabulous and gave me the best going away gift ever – a mug with the text “proceed as if success is inevitable” and a fantasy book series with dragons in them – but i’m also somewhat relieved. i’ve been at university for seven years and for the last four of those seven years, i’ve also worked there. a big part of my life has been tied up into that one place, to such a point that i often felt like i was living in a very small bubble. being unemployed forces me out of that bubble. i get to do things that have nothing to do with university at all. it’s a new chapter in my life – and i’m starting it with absolutely no strings attached. it’s wonderful.
i’ll leave you with this close up of a mug i painted the other week. it makes me happy in my heart.
the thesis is done and has been handed in. final tally:
85 complete pages
25-30 pages of cut material
4,6kg of chocolate
347 hours of soundrown ambient noise
in other news, all of the loose ends i’ve left dangling these past months (year) while i’ve been working, have now been sorted or are in the process of being sorted. i’ve had plumbers stomping up and down stairs looking for the off switch for the water main, bank counsellors repeatedly ask me for documents, furniture deliveries, and cleaning marathons.
i’m applying for jobs and have had one interview so far (no dice). i’ve a month and a half before i’ve got to worry about unemployment benefits, which is a luxury and a privilege i’m well aware of.
i’m slowly starting to create things again. things not related to academia. i’m drawing, writing, editing. i’m baking and cooking. i’m reading books i did not have the time to read previously.
i’ve not yet had the chance to go outside and photograph the spring, so i’ll leave you with a march photo taken from my south-west window.
the end is near. the thesis is coming to a close and i’m doing more editing than writing. over a year and a half has gone into this damned thing. i’ll not be sad to see it go.
i’m dreaming up characters and plots. i’m not writing. i can’t afford to expend the energy into writing fiction when i need all my energy to stay afloat and finish my thesis. i have two jobs now, instead of just the one. the second job is only a temporary part time contract that ends in june, but my free hours are depressingly few.
i love my jobs. each day is a new challenge. i have amazing coworkers. come june, once my thesis is handed in and i’m wrapping up my time at my first job, another coworker (who’s also quitting) and i will host a barbecue. i’ll have been in the job four years, my other coworker three. we want to end things on a good note.
by july 1st i’ll be unemployed and graduated. it’s strange to think of. what i used to describe as a terrifying abyss now seems more like a comfortable spot in the sun. change is coming, but change shouldn’t always be terrifying. having no tethers is liberating.
i want to talk about my writing, but it’s hard when there’s no writing to be talked about.
in other news, spring seems to have finally arrived. the sun is warm on my face and green things are poking out of the earth. i’ve planted tomatoes, coriander, chili peppers, basil, chives, and rocket in my kitchen window. i have a bag of dirt and empty pots on standby for when my little seedling green things need splitting and replanting. my flat will turn partway into a greenhouse this summer.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my writing process re: thesis and re: fiction, lately, because…well, the processes almost couldn’t be more different, what with one being an 80 page academic paper, and the other being, well, fiction.
Every time I meet my supervisor to talk about my thesis, I’ve sent her what I’ve had in advance, and she always, without exception, looks nervous about pointing out the flaws and “need more work” and so on. Last time we met, she could barely look me in the eye when she said that “this one section looks more like school level analysis than an academic analysis”, as if she was afraid I would be horribly offended or hurt – and I realised that years and years of writing fiction and having it beta read and criticised has pretty much rendered me…immune?
Or maybe not immune, per se, but I don’t get hurt or offended by any of her criticisms, because I’m approaching the thesis very much like I approach fiction – I need the criticism, so I can see where I need to change, and what to do better. It’s a learning process, every single time. There’s no end to the learning. There will never come a point where I’ve “got it”. I don’t know what she’s used to from other students that makes her that nervous, but I’ve accepted every single one of her criticisms, and I follow up with questions, and I change things, and then show her the revisions and then I ask her if it’s better or if it still needs work. I ask her about strategies and ways to tackle specific problems. I figure out what needs to be done to make my problems scientific ones. And I’ve never been hurt. Even when she said “school analysis”, which in retrospect I probably would’ve been upset about ten years ago. Thesis writing is really not that much different from writing fiction, when it comes down to it.
Then on the other hand, writing this huge ass academic paper is teaching me things about structure and storytelling (yes, strangely enough) that I’d begun to forget re: fiction. When I look at my body of work, most of my best structured work is four-five years old. Everything I’ve written in at least the past two years feels (to me) boneless. Somewhere along the way, my writing style changed and became not only heavily dialogue-based, but also basically just giant pillows of plotless fluff. No structure, no tension, no climax, no careful build of…story. I did try to combat that a bit with my latest finished story, a novella I spent a couple of months on last summer. I tried to work some structure into it, some more description, less dialogue. A faint smidge of plot. I re-read old work to see what I’d done, trying to figure out how to get my writing back on track. I don’t know how well it worked out as I haven’t re-read it since I finished it in September, and anyway I don’t have time these days to focus on fiction writing because I have my thesis and two jobs (yes, two. That’s an update for another day.) to keep me busy. Still, I feel like I’m stumbling over some “Aha! That’s what I need to do!” stones all the time, so I’m just…quietly picking up the stones and filing away the information for later application.
I’m also getting into some really nice writing habits, in that I get up in the mornings, get dressed, go to uni to write my thesis, or (now that I no longer have a place in the thesis office and the tables in the library are the wrong height for me) stay at home to write. It’s taken me over a year to build up the habit and get the routine going, but now I have it, and I keep at it. All those writerly advice articles (that all look and sound the same) that flood the internet about how become a better writer? They all mention routine as a key element. I am here to tell you it’s true. And that it does take a frustratingly long time to settle into a routine, but when you’ve got it, it’s the most pleasant thing in the world.
tl;dr: Writing fiction is good for your ability to accept criticism and writing a thesis is good for your ability to structure your writing.
I have reached the halfway mark on my thesis. Small victories.
Writing fiction isn’t really happening – not because I don’t have things to write, but because my thesis is taking up all my brain power. My thesis and work both. I’m so close to finishing. I want to be able to call myself a master of arts before the summer rolls around.
I’m knitting. I finished a pair of warm mittens for myself, and am now knitting mittens for my friends. I’ve two sweaters in the works as well, so I should be well occupied for a while. Knitting in the evenings as a wind-down activity is possibly the best thing I could’ve done for myself. Nevermind the cost of yarn.
The weather is Novemberish again, but at least the days are now getting brighter instead of darker. Even through the fog. For a while there we had something resembling winter, but it didn’t last very long.
In 2015 I have:
- read 15 books
- (and an insurmountable amount of academic books, papers and articles)
- (and five graphic novels)
- changed my thesis topic twice
- travelled abroad four times
- taken up knitting
- written exactly 85.011 words of fiction
- (and 50 pages of academia)
- (and half of a comic book script)
- gone through a number of changes at work (for the better)
- gained weight
- gained confidence
- singlehandedly ripped out the interior of my kitchen and installed new
- made art
- made friends
- seen my family grow (in more than one way)
2015 has been a good year for me. It’s been an odd year, and some people might think that it hasn’t been all good (I certainly would’ve preferred to not have had a mouldy kitchen that needed immediate fixing!), but I’ve learned something from everything that has happened. I’ve been busy, and productive, and when I look back, I wonder that I didn’t come down with stress and depression. I almost did, mind, but I’ve been surrounded by amazing people, amazing art and amazing fiction, and somehow I’ve managed to stay afloat.
On Monday I’m picking up my thesis where I left it and I’m receiving my work schedule for the spring.
Today, I think I’ll open a blank document and put down the first words of 2016. Here’s to another good year.
These are the books I’ve read in 2015 (in order):
Patrick Rothfuss – The Slow Regard of Silent Things – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Naomi Novik – Black Powder War – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Naomi Novik – Empire of Ivory – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Naomi Novik – Victory of Eagles – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Naomi Novik – Tongues of Serpents – ★ ★ ★ ★
Naomi Novik – Crucible of Gold – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Naomi Novik – Blood of Tyrants – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus – ★ ★ ★ ★
Alice Hoffman – The Museum of Extraordinary Things – ★ ★ ★ ★
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter ja viisasten kivi – ★ ★ ★ ★
J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter ja salaisuuksien kammio – ★ ★ ★
Audrey Niffenegger – The Time-Traveler’s Wife – ★ ★ ★
Naomi Novik – Uprooted – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Rainbow Rowell – Fangirl – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Rainbow Rowell – Carry On – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Honourable mentions go to the graphic novels I’ve read in 2015:
Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie – The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie – The Wicked + The Divine: Fandemonium – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Noelle Stevenson – Nimona – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Matt Fraction & Christian Ward: ODY-C: Off to far Ithicaa – ★ ★ ★ ★
Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples: Saga 5 – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
My favourite knitting project of 2015:
Four travel photos: