The Zen of Sisu

Thursday, August 3, 2017
Stephen Samuel

There are words from other languages that cannot be easily translated into our own beautiful bastardised English. One such word, that comes from the Finns, I think encapsulates everything that we, as emerging writers, need to have. The Finnish concept of sisu can be defined as an ‘extraordinary determination in the face of adversity’. The English words ‘grit’, ‘perseverance’ or ‘resilience’, according to Finnish speakers, do not come close to describing the inner strength encapsulated in their native term. I will happily argue that writing a novel-length manuscript, redrafting said manuscript, proofreading, sending it out for feedback, receiving positive or vague notes, redrafting once again, submitting it, being rejected and then continuing to write, is the ultimate test a human can endure. Obviously there are other pursuits such as mountaineering, free diving, flying to the moon etc. that claim the glory, but we writers submit ourselves to our own low oxygen environments that require sisu.

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