The purpose of RITUAL: Invocation

  • Invocation
  • Drawing the circle
  • Taking the path
  • Numen/Connection
  • Breaking the circle
  • Benediction

What does this outline of some religious service have to do with writing your scifi/fantasy novel?

There are those who would say that creation, the act of Making the Thing That Is Not, is a spiritual act and hence sitting down to block out the world and write the chase scene through the Great Green Glass Mountains of Zeblion III is analogous to Sunday morning at First Presbyterian.  I shan't disagree with them.

Both are rituals, and ritual has a shape.  Ritual also has a purpose, and that purpose is to change the person who engages in it.  For us as artists, that change is moving from the chaos of the universe to a bit of the universe that is perhaps a little less than chaotic.

Let's get down to concrete examples.


Invocation comes from the Latin meaning to "call upon," and at First Pres it means literally calling God in to be a part of the gathering.  J.S. Bach did exactly the same thing when he scrawled JJ at the top of every new manuscript: Jesu JuvaJesus, help me! 

In literature, especially back in the days of The Odyssey and The Iliad, when our literature was still a direct reflection of the oral tradition, you can see it as well: O Muse! the poet pleads.  Help me tell this story!

For us mere mortals, though, it's more a matter of calling upon, of focusing, our attention and energies.  Art doesn't happen just because.  It happens because we will it to happen.  We must decide to Make the Thing That Is Not, and that requires that we make some kind of call to our own brains to stop worrying about getting the herb garden planted or what to pack for the weekend.

Recognizing that we have to enter into the circle to do our work is the first step to overcoming our fear of failure.  You might very well create your own actual Invocation that you use to get started, but all that's really necessary is develop a sense that you have a switch that you need to flip from OFF to ON.

Once you've done that, then the rest of it is a piece of cake, right?  Sure, it could happen.

I will share with you a literal Invocation that I wrote and actually use when I'm starting a major project.  If it's a group project, I will read it out loud to the assembled group.  If it's just me in my study, I still invoke the spirit of the inimitable Ed Wood.  (You can read the background here.)


O Ed Wood,
We beseech thee,
O Edward D. Wood, Jr.:

Look over us now as we begin our new masterpiece.
Blind us to the possibility of failure.
Hide from us the improbability of our success.
Free us from our capabilities,
and strew our paths with bad ideas,
so many that we cannot help but stumble
upon a good one every now and then.

Give us the clarity of vision
to see as far as the next step before us,
but not so clear that we fail to see our own genius
rushing forth like a river and covering all about us
with an ever-rising and brilliant flood of success.

Grant us this, O Ed Wood,
now and in the hour of our rebirth.




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