It can be difficult enough to find ample time to write between work, chores, exercise, and a million other little things that take up my day. Studying a second language on top of all these things only makes it more difficult.
For a little background, I moved from the U.K. to Finland in 2014 so my husband could study for a master’s degree in his home country. Since then, I have been studying the Finnish language on a near-daily basis in hopes of eventually gaining citizenship.
My only previous experience with foreign languages is obligatory French classes in school over 10 years ago, so it has been a real challenge to take on one of the more difficult European languages. I once heard somebody describe Finnish as “drunken elvish,” which is an accurate description. For instance, the Finnish phrase for “goodnight” is “hyvää yö,” which is pronounced as “hoover ooh-oh,” and difficult for me to get out.
Being a professional writer has only made it harder, since the English language is such an important part of my job. It can be incredibly jarring to go from writing in English to learning how an entirely different language works.
Although my studies have reduced the amount of time I would ideally like to spend writing each day, and it is a challenge to try and perfect two entirely different languages at the same time, in some ways it has been a surprising benefit to my writing. I’ve also noticed that many of the rules of language learning can also be applied to writing.
There are some days when I open up an older rough draft of a story I worked on several months ago, assuming it will be terrible, only to see that it isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
When I was studying creative writing, some days I would take what I thought was a perfectly written piece to a workshop session, only for it to be torn apart by my tutor and fellow students. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether my inner critic is right or wrong.
The “inner critic” is the nagging voice inside our heads that judges our own work. If it becomes too loud, it can drown out all other thoughts and drain a writer’s self-confidence. In the worst cases it discourages people from ever writing again or trying to get their work published.Continue reading
It’s writer’s block: the moment you run into a mental wall while writing and can’t think of a good idea or a way to continue your story, paragraph, or even a single sentence. All creatives run into this problem at some point. Most run into it rather frequently. Sometimes it gets so bad that people give up on their creative pursuits entirely.
Thankfully, there’s a solution to the problem. It’s well-known in computer programming circles, but writers can use it, too: Talk to a rubber duck.
“So, how is your novel coming along?” someone asked.
“Uhhhh…” I replied, and quickly tried to change the subject.
That was a conversation I had after several years of only writing on and off with no set deadline for completing my novel. I realised that if I was ever going to get it done, I would need to set myself a deadline.
I bought a five-year diary and filled in the dates for when I would need to complete each draft, with the end of the year as the goal for completing my first. It worked. I wrote more in that year than I had in the previous three years combined and felt immensely proud of myself.
The following year I completed the second draft with a month to spare. I was feeling great. I assumed it would be no problem to complete the third and final draft by the end of 2017.
That’s where the problems began.