Sofie Debruyne has done something that many of us dream about: she quit her job to take up writing (and reading) full-time. For the former logistics manager, daily life now consists of writing, studying, a bit of housework, the occasional renovation side-project, and, of course, enjoying time with her family. She lives with her wife, three stepsons (a 13-year old and 10-year-old twins), and dogs Cosmo and Chester, in Izegem, Belgium.
For as long as she can remember, Sofie has been writing poetry and stories, and her notebook has been her constant companion. She took the next step in autumn 2020 and signed up for an online Level I course with the Collective and is joining again this winter.
What does your process look like?
Now luckily I have the time for writing, but when I was still working, I could write for hours in the living room. The kids would read or play and my wife would watch television. I can easily zone out. It also has a downside because if I have an idea and I am talking to someone I zone out as well. As a holiday gift, I got a proper office that is cosy and inspiring. I tend to write in the afternoons, and in the evenings I revise. I first have to make up a scenario in my head, then I write it down in my booklet and after I have seen it in my head I start to write. Once I have started I can continue for hours, but the getting started is hard. I struggle with writing things that have no relation to something I know; it can be something far away, but I need something I can see happening. I like dark and twisted scenarios in books, so I like to come up with my own doom and gloom.
What’s been the most surprising thing about your writing course experience?
How fast you learn new things. I had never revised any work or understood any of the “lingo” that goes with it, but you learn to use it very quickly not only in your own work but also in reading that of others. You learn to see what you write in a completely different way. I thought I would learn how to write by the teachers saying, ‘this is wrong, use this instead’. But really you learn more why something does not work and how to create something that does.
What was your biggest fear about writing when you signed up for your first course and how do you feel now?
I was afraid that people would laugh at me or that somebody would just say, ‘there is nothing there, no talent, just give up’. But now, after the course, I don’t mind saying to people I want to write, because I was accepted into a group of like-minded people. And if anyone was to say I have no talent, so be it. I write because I love it, and I can only study and try to become the best writer I can be.
What’s on your list of favourite books? And your most hated list?
Favourite novels are always tricky for me. They change all the time. I am secretly a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, but also of Margaret Atwood. I thoroughly enjoy historic novels with a bit of mystery about them: Ken Follet “Edge of Eternity” or Erik Larson “Thunderstruck”. As a feminist, I also love books that emphasize what women did throughout history like “The Lady from the Black Lagoon”. My most hated list is the kind of “self-help” books written by just about everybody now or the celebrities that publish a book even though they don’t really have anything to say. I love a good biography, but if your biggest achievement is that you were born and managed to become famous through some trashy tv show, I don’t want to read about it. Same with the self-help books: I am not going to wake up and say five positive things about the morning sunshine, or about what I could do to better my day tomorrow. It is just not my cup of tea. I did read the Glennon Doyle book and thought it was pretty good, but that is also because it was funny at times. So maybe one day I will start reading them, but for now, I am just exploring other genres.
What’s a strange fact about you that your classmates would be surprised to hear?
As my friends would describe, I like old stuff: old movies, cartoons, music. Anything between the ’20s and ’40s is my jam. Except for the clothes; I shall never wear a flowered dress.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year?
I am taking another Level 1 class with the Collective and I am also starting my masters in creative writing at the University of Hull. I just want to further grow, learn how to build compelling dialogues, how to revise without destroying the good parts. I don’t really have goals; I just want to keep going forward with my writing and see where it takes me. See if there is any way to make a career out of it.