Tuesday, January 25, 2011


If you’re a Finn, you know the word sisu.  According to Wikipedia (which is NEVER a reliable source), sisu loosely translates to “strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.”  It also means “not a momentary courage but an ability to sustain an action against the odds.”

Growing up, I heard the word a lot, usually from my mom (a Finn if ever there was one) and her mom (straight from the old country – or in her case, the cold country because she came from way up where Santa lives with his reindeer).  Kids would pick on me in school and mom would say, “Quit your crying.  Where’s your sisu?”  My sister’s husband divorced her, and she got, “Where’s your sisu?”  After cleaning up the millionth puddle from an old dog’s leaky bladder, I’d hear, “Where’s your sisu?” followed closely by “Hey, here are some paper towels.” 

Well, I’ve started thinking about that word a lot lately, mostly when faced with the half dozen students who sleep (or text) through class, but also as it applies to pursuing a writing career.  There are very few jobs that contain more constant adversity than writing.  It’s an uphill battle all the time.  There are no easy roads, no quick fixes, no Oprah-is-my-half-sister surprises that make life easy for a writer.  It is butt-in-the-chair, nose-to-the-grindstone, flex-that-mental-muscle work that may not ever pan out, no matter how hard you try. 

But I still can’t imagine doing anything else. 

Writing is wonderful and exciting and even fun sometimes.  So for anyone struggling to get those stories on paper and out into the world, don’t give up.  It will happen. 

That’s what I’m telling you, and that’s what I’m telling myself.  Don’t give up.  Don’t get discouraged.  

I’ve got enough sisu for the both of us.  :)


  1. Instead of Tiger Mother; it's Reindeer Mother!!!

    I love it. Let's plan a trip to Finland and we can go to the Moomin theme park!!!

  2. I'm in! But we have to go in July because otherwise it's too dang cold there.

  3. Sisu Sisters! Now thats a great name for a collective of women writers if there ever was one (not to be confused with Scissor Sisters which is something altogether different. ;}