• Grietje Y. M. François

Behind the Writings 4/9

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

The Ritual

Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash

Many blogs across the internet talk about writers' rituals. Some of them sum up the habits of famous writers. It’s good to expose yourself to them, but what about your own rituals? Reading and applying others’ isn’t necessarily the best thing for everyone. I needed to explore my own. What rituals would I need to apply to get the best out of my writing?

This question usually refers to rituals or habits that are directly related to the act of writing. Which is an interesting topic to investigate, especially because it reveals something personal about the writer, but I would like to look at it from a broader perspective. Because in my experience, the act of writing requires more profound rituals indirectly related to it. To me this means actions directly related to the acquisition of a mental state that will help me write more productively.

Some like to brag about being able to stay focussed when enduring short nights and long working hours. I’ve been laughed at when I say I need a regular good night sleep if I want to be efficient in my (creative) work. In the end it comes down to knowing yourself, what you can handle and what not. Not something which someone else can determine. Let me make this my first point: know your strengths and know your weaknesses, everyone has them, it takes time and self awareness to admit which is which. Once you know, you can act accordingly, it will help get the most out of your work.

For example: before I start writing with the intention to continue for the next few hours, I need a be able to meditate in a way. This can be through practicing sports or by being in a quiet place where I can breathe calmly so I can focus on my writing goal of the day. Reading what I wrote in the days before is often of great help as well. It depends on the day and the toughness of the upcoming plot points. The more my story is developed, the easier it is for me to get sucked into it.

I’m a visual thinker. Being able to visualise a scene or a setting boosts my writing.

Writing my first draft can be as simple as writing down what I see in my mind. A first draft is raw, unrefined and might not convey the writer’s intention perfectly, but it is a start. This rawness is the main reason why I prefer not to show my first drafts to anyone. When I edit, I dive back into the visual story and start skipping parts, rewinding, moving fast forward and backward, many times over until the words correspond to the images and leave just enough room for the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps. I do this until I have reached the best possible version of my manuscript.

I’ve briefly talked about inspiration in a previous post called “The Muse”. What I didn’t mention was the role of audio, how a sound can trigger images that grow into scenes or settings. Music plays a significant role in my creation of a fictional world and its main story events, even on the level of character design.

Listening to a particular playlist when working on a story is another way for me to meditate and keep my creative juices flowing.

During the fifteen weeks I worked on my manuscript, meditation became a daily practice. One that stopped once the draft manuscript was done. I know now that there is no reason why it should stop, on the contrary, I’m sure these meditational practices could have prevented me from feeling lost afterwards.

Focussing on my writing day in and day out became a natural thing to do after a while. So natural, it felt like I had lost purpose once the initial work of the draft manuscript was done. Still, there was much work to do, but I needed to make peace with myself that a basic phase was behind me. Another had already presented itself: editing, serious editing and rework based upon the feedback of both professional editors and a team of volunteer proofreaders. That’s the phase I’m in right now, the next step in the process of writing a novel.

author: Grietje Y. M. François

editor: Christopher Dunckley

There are nine episodes in the "Behind the Writing" series, the last one will be published on Thursday the 27th of August. The content of these posts is about my personal experiences as a writer, writing my first young adult novel "Naar de haaien." (Dutch).

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