Sunday, June 2, 2024

mistakes I made


Writing a novel: Don’t make the mistakes I made!

Mathyn Ressang

One of the greatest novelists: Nikos Kazantzakis

If you are an aspiring novelist like myself, and have been frustrated with the constant distractions of everyday life, you might have thought to yourself ‘I wish I had the perfect circumstances to write.’

I created these circumstances for myself, and what an experience it’s been. Here’s what I learned and the results I booked:

The perfect place: First off, the perfect circumstances are for everyone different. So wherever you could create these circumstances also differs. For me, these required silence, solitude, nature, and social life when I felt like I was isolating too much.

The perfect place turned out to be Peniche. A tiny, incredibly ugly portuguese fishervillage facing the wild atlantic. I’m a fanatic surfer besides a writer, and it’s something that helps me stay let out the energy I cannot let out in writing. Writing and surfing are my yin yang. What’s your yin yang?

The perfect routine: I’m an early bird. I naturally get up around 7:00 and I grow tired around 22:00. Throughout my studying years I noticed I’m most productive from waking up until around 15:00 in the afternoon. Afterwards, I simply have a much harder time to write.

Your task as a writer is to know yourself well enough to understand which things you should do in order to be as productive as possible. My routine would be to:

Rules: What also helped me was that I maintained rules for myself that I was never allowed to break. 1. NO COFFEE: Coffee is actually so bad for your dopamine. Your dopamine levels can be stimulated with seeing the morning-light and taking cold showers. These are much better ways of waking up and staying focussed throughout the day. 2. NO PHONE: At least not until my breakfast. This way, I could stay really focussed on my writing.

wake up: 7:00

Yoga: 7:00–7:30

write, 7:30–10:00

Breakfast in the garden (Daylight is good for waking up): 10:00–10:30

Write more: 10:30–12:30

Lunch: 12:30–13:00

Write more: 13:00–15:00

Go surfing/hang out with friends/nature walk: 15:00 — whenever

Madatory reading for inspiration: 21:00–22:00

Go to bed: 22:00

Struggles and Successes

I followed this routine for about three months. My main objective was to finish a novel which I had been wanting to write but couldn’t get off the ground in Amsterdam. I’m happy to say, I finished the first draft, but not without a fight.

  1. I wasn’t ready to write a novel: Writing a novel is like running a marathon. Just like one can, in principle, run a marathon without much training, you can also write a 70.000 word novel. Without much practice, the result will probably not be very good. As I’m rewriting my novel, I’m seeing so many sloppy mistakes, loose ends and akward passages. I think it would’ve been better if I had practiced with short-stories before embarking on this bigger journey. Perhaps this is something for you to consider as well.
  2. Discipline: In the end, the book isn’t going to write itself. Even when there’s nothing to distract you, it’s up to you to actually sit down and do the work. If your routine is right, this should be doable, but there can be days it’s just really tough. I don’t believe in pushing yourself too hard, I usually gave myself a break when I really wasn’t feeling it, but it’s up to you too reflect on whether you’re just procrastinating or not.
  3. Motivation: Probably every beginning novel writer has doubted the purpose of their work. You will find yourself at some point along the writing process wondering whether it’s worth all this effort. For me, even though I will definetly try to publish it, I just didn’t think I about gaining recognition or not. Some of my greatest literary hero’s (such as Pessoa and Kafka) never even received recognition during their lives. I just focussed on writing authentically and what I believed to be worth writing.
  4. Don’t rush it: In our modern society, we are conditioned to want to see results fast. It might tempt you to prefer quantity over quality. Just remember that the greatest novels out there were written over the course of years or even decades. My plan to write one in three months was in that sense full of hubris. Ideas and inspiration take time to come to you and to grow. Your task as a writer is to let these ideas flourish so that they can become eternal in their prime state. Just remember that you’re in it for the long run. Books like On the Road, Magic Mountain, the Odyssee were written 70, 100, even 3000 years ago.


As implied, I did finish my novel and I think I says what I wanted to say. However, it doesn’t do so in the gracious, beautiful way that I want it to. I’m back in amsterdam now and I’m rewriting it when I have time. I’m letting the passages play in my mind and allow them to freely flow to where ever they need to go. At some point down the line, I hope to publish it, but for now I’m just trying to let my story grow as it needs to grow.

I noticed that as it grows, I grow as a writer too. And that is the main take of this experience. Even if this story turns out to go nowhere, I learned so much about myself and writing. I firmly believe writing this novel improved my skills as a writer overal and my next project will certainly be easier than this one.

I hope this article inspired you. Reach out to share your thoughts. If you end up writing a novel or story yourself, share it with me! I’m curious. :) x Mat.

Mathyn Ressang

writer and filmmaker from Amsterdam. Just trying to post stuff thats real and beautiful - hoping to find people here that do the same :)