One afternoon, while typing an important scene for my novel, I ran out of ink. I had to drop everything, get into the car, and drive through heavy snowfall, to reach the closest store that had a compatible ink ribbon for the typewriter. It was a one-hour drive to get there and another hour to come back.
In the meantime, I had the chance to reflect on the scene that I was writing a bit more. Particularly, I had the chance to think about it in a different environment—there is something inspiring about driving through snowfall during the late afternoon, with the sky becoming progressively darker.
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.
The title of this article might sound like an advertisement for a (para-)psychological experiment, but fear not. I don’t plan to demonstrate a way to summon the spirits of old authors to ask them for writing advice!
Instead, I’ll talk about six sensory exercises that can help you improve your writing in a simple, easy-to-follow way.
One essential ingredient for your writing life is knowing how to wake up your writing spirit, which is that subconscious push to write. Writing droughts exist, but there are ways to avoid getting caught in them.
Writing can be fun with its expressive nature and can also be challenging through the fight to string words together to reach a sensible point. However, it can feel burdensome when you reach a dead end or fail to get inspired to write.