I’m excited to welcome author Laura Bickle to blog! I had the opportunity to review her upcoming YA release, The Hallowed Ones, as one of the blogs participating in the book’s Bewitching Book Tour. As you know, I truly enjoyed The Hallowed Ones. It is a disturbing, at times frightening, dystopian tale set in the Amish community, with a strong young heroine. Read my review here.
Without further ado, please welcome Laura!
The Rituals of Writing
By Laura Bickle
Ritual is meant to open a dialogue with the unknown.
At least, this is what I tell myself.
In times in which gods were considered capricious and cruel, grand ceremonies and offerings were created to appease these volatile powers. A bull might be an acceptable sacrifice to inspire a harvest goddess to yield a good crop of corn. Or a human heart might bring a war god to one’s side and ensure victory.
In more modern times with gentler unseen forces, rituals persist. We speak the words and retrace the steps so many others have accomplished before us. I felt that when I was a child and left cookies for Santa. And there was, of course, a letter…I wanted him to know that I was thinking of him. And I reallyreally wanted a Wonder Woman doll – the one that flew and also turned into Diana Prince.
And I don’t think creative pursuits are much different.
I start, always, with a blank page that scares the living daylights out of me. I could well and truly manage to screw it up. Doubt is my default state at the beginning of a project. The page is empty, and I’ve got no idea where the work is going to come from. Maybe ether. Something out there that’s formless and totally invisible to my everyday life.
In reaching out to this squishy unknown, I find that I need some ritualized procedures. They comfort me. They assure my cranky subconscious that the work will come to fruition the way I’ve planned. I’ve used these steps before. I’ve gained good results. By repeating my tracks, I fall into a familiar rhythm that stills the fear of looking into uncharted territory.
When I begin a project, I start with an idea notebook. Usually, it’s a pretty journal that I hope inspires the work. I scribble notes and ideas in it. Outlines. Thoughts for what should happen in the next scene. Pictures and meanderings. I have several pages in this notebook before I even dare open a word processing document. I draw these pages around myself like a security blanket.
I sit down before the computer. Usually, I want the desk cleared. I light a candle. That signifies to me that I’m ‘seriously working’ and that it’s time for my subconscious to wake up and come to the party. Plus, it smells nice. I’m not above trying to bribe myself to work. Usually, if I get a monstrously big jar candle, I’ll be done with a book by the time it burns out. It measures progress in some primitive way.
I stare at the page until a hook comes to me, some kind of statement that will hopefully trap the reader’s interest. Once I have that, the words begin to trickle in. In my own routinized fashion, I record my daily word count on my calendar. I do well with habits. A writing habit gets things done, and a word count calendar helps me keep the momentum going. It also generates a good deal of guilt, which is a powerful motivator.
One would think that rituals poison creativity. I don’t think so. Rituals signify to me that it’s time to go to work, and to work reliably. The also serve to soothe me, to give me a well-worn path to the story. They give me the guts to march up to the door of the unknown and knock.
I think that’s the key. Starting over and over. And I do it with journals and pens and a candle that’s supposed to smell like sea glass. I’m not sure that sea glass has a smell, but I sure enjoy the candle.
Maybe ritual isn’t so much about communicating with the unknown as it is about soothing myself into starting.
What kinds of rituals to you have in your life? They can deal with anything – sports, work, art, cooking, getting up in the morning. Do they bring you comfort or signal a shift into another state?
Please check out Laura’s new YA novel, THE HALLOWED ONES. You won’t regret it.
GOODREADS SUMMARY: Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.
About the Author
Laura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams). Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and five mostly-reformed feral cats. The Hallowed Ones is her first young adult novel.
Visit Laura at her favorite spots: