Category Archives: Audience

Writing as healing

Every single writer starts writing to heal some part of themselves whether they are aware of it or not. Writing is a healing practice. Some start with journaling. I think the benefits of journaling for healing are now well established.

But what is healing is not so much the words we use, or the way we do it, but more the fact that we tell our stories. This is how I got started myself. I was experiencing a very difficult time in my life as one of my closest friends got into heroin and dragged me along with her in her inferno for nearly ten years. I started to write the story of our friendship at that point because it became just too overwhelming to deal with it on my own. And so a writer was born. I could have journal but I decided to write it as a novel.

It has come to me recently that talking therapy is actually therapeutic and a deeply healing process mostly because it creates a safe space for the client to tell their story. I know many aspiring writers who want to share their story with the world to inspire others, which is a very noble thing to do. But they should remember first that they should be their first priority in the healing process, the possible impact on the reader and inspiration comes second. At least in the first stages of writing.

The healing power of telling your story as it is (your version) has actually been researched by several teams. A study published in The Oncologist showed that expressive writing could help cancer patients not only think of their disease in a different way but also improve their quality of life. We are talking help with medical conditions. Another study was done with physical injuries. Scientific America reports that a study made in New Zealand shows that writing as little as twenty minutes three consecutive days could impact healing of a wound. However, there is no magic bullet. If events have been extremely traumatic, writing about them can trigger PTSD symptoms, so please exercise caution when embarking on a writing journey.

I personally find great joy in using material from my personal life and realising that life is a big play. We are all on a hero’s journey, as Joseph Campbell so aptly reminded us with his exquisite work. What we experience has probably been experienced by many other people. The beauty of it, though, it we can use for our transformation and the transformation of others. We can transcend our condition and make an impact on the world. For this, I encourage you to define a purpose for your writing so that you sharpen your writing even further.

For example, only yesterday, I realised that the purpose of my book “Journey of the Slim Soul” was to help people step off the hamster wheel of diets and self hate. I wrote it out of frustration with the diet and fitness industry that sent so many false and confusing messages to slimmers. I was myself struggling with weight and body image issues but so were my clients. Writing the book was indeed therapeutic for me. And if I can achieve that goal of helping others step off the hamster wheel of dieting and self hate, I will be one happy author indeed.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere

The blank page

Where do you start writing your book? You have a blank page in front of you and you are full of ideas and perhaps fears too. How are you going to birth that baby?

You start with an idea. And then you need to ask yourself three questions:

  • What is your book about?
  • What is its purpose?
  • Who is your reader?

I suggest you take a long time reflecting on those three questions. Take notes of the different kinds of answers that come up. It could take some time. Don’t rush. Because if you rush, you will be like an explorer going out on an adventure without a map and without a destination. You might want to explore the ancient art of meditation to quiet your mind to gain clarity. Otherwise your mind might be too busy and cluttered.

Let’s say I want to write a book about death. It’s a non fiction book. I am clear about that but books about death can also be fiction. There are so many different angles to that topic. It could be a book about the different cultures relating to death with a more anthropological point of view.

What is the purpose of my book? I want my book to help people get over their fear of death. I also want death not to be such a big taboo in the part of the world where I live. Once I know the purpose of my book, some chapter ideas start to spring to life. I can see chapters about other cultures that embrace death and the difference that it makes: as it is not a taboo, people are not isolated in death houses (some people call them hospitals) at the time of death and usually die at home surrounded by their loved ones.

Last who is my reader? In this case, I want my readership to be as wide as possible. From Jo Blog to someone who might work in a hospital. But I could have opted to write a book specifically geared for nurses and doctors to help them support their clients and themselves through a process that can be gradually numb you and make you insensitive, if you don’t manage it right.

You can see that by asking these three questions I have a much clearer vision of what my book is going to be about. Once I have done that, and taken the time to reflect enough to clarify my vision I can write a “mission statement” for my book. I need to be able to describe in 25 words (no more) what my book is about. Let’s see.

MY BOOK IS AN INSPIRATIONAL BOOK ABOUT DEATH WHICH OFFERS STRATEGIES AND STORIES TO IMPROVE THE STANDARD OF DYING AND LIFT THE TABOO AROUND IT.

I was lucky, I hit precisely 25 words on my first try. This is called an elevator pitch. The idea is that you sum up your book so clearly that if you were to bump into the commissioning editor of YOUR first choice of publisher in a lift and only had a few seconds to pitch to him or her, your choice of words would be so powerful that they would hire you on the spot, provided of course this was something that they specialise in.

Once you have a clear pitch you are happy with, I suggest you print and frame it and keep it by your desk. This will keep you from the temptation of digressing. And believe me it’s a very real temptation. It will come and distract you again and again, making you include in your book things that will dilute it or take away it’s drive. Regularly refer back to this pitch and ask yourself the question: “Is what I just wrote serving the purpose of my book?” I have scrapped entire chapters of books after asking this question and it made my books better and more dynamic.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere

The story triangle

Every writer should learn from ancient techniques such a story telling, even if they don’t write novels or stories. Why? Because you always write for an audience even if that audience is one single person. And this is the reason why I am writing today about the story triangle.

The story triangle is a relationship between you, your story and your audience.

You have a special relationship with your story. It is dear to you. This might be one of the reasons why you want to share it with the world, be it in the form of a poem, a novel, a film or a non fiction book. You want to be heard. You want your story to be heard. That is wonderful. And in today’s modern age it has become easier than ever before as anyone can publish an e-book or kindle book nearly for free. But this also means that to stand out, you need to be the best version of yourself that you can.

A mistake a lot of writers make, however, is to neglect their audience. They have a relationship with their story but forget about who is likely to read it. And one of the first question I ask any aspiring writer is “Who is your reader?” You might think it does not matter but I invite you to revise your opinion. Any artist has to have a relationship with its audience, even if they think they have none. And if you neglect a relationship, it can become dysfunctional. Once your story is released into the world (or your work of art, if you are a visual artist) you no longer control how people are going to react to it. But if you think a little about how important it is to know your audience you will understand how important it is for you to identify that person.

Let me give you an example: You don’t tell a story the same way to someone who is in a hurry than to someone who takes life on a slow pace. This is probably the biggest difference between a best seller thriller and a lazy summer read. One has to constantly grab the attention of the reader, the other has more space (don’t let that be an excuse to digress too much though because you can lose your reader very fast) to explore and digress. As your story is so important to you, take a little time to think who you want to write for. What kind of impact you want your story to have. And once you gain some clarity, start crafting it by respecting the genre of the story that your audience likes to read.

Some of you might get indignant and tell me they write for the sake of literature and why should they care? Perhaps we shouldn’t, but it also depends on why you write. If you want to share your story with the world, you will have to have a connection with others, as per the golden story triangle mentioned above. That relationship is just as important as your relationship to your story or the relationship of your audience to your story. The triangle must be balanced.

I encourage you to talk to your “typical reader” and tell them your story in a few sentences to test whether they might be interested in it. You might find a friend of a friend of a friend who will kindly do that for you. Or maybe you want to tell your story to everyone you come across to test how wide an audience you can reach. The more you practice clarifying your story (even before you write it) the easier it is going to be to write it and sell it to a publisher. So practice telling your story to a variety of audience and pay attention to their reaction to your story. This might help to shape it and could be precious feedback along the way.

To your creativity