Category Archives: Meditation

How important is it to listen

The human experience is so rich that we writers could write stories until the end of time about what makes us human tick or grate. On this Valentine week-end, I am pondering on how important relationships are to humans and how difficult they are. Seemingly perfect relationship are rarely what they seemed. The reality of every day life is: it’s hard to live with someone for a long time without facing some kind of conflict or friction. As writers, it’s important we educate ourselves about psychology to be able to build realistic characters and situations that readers can relate to.

When I trained as a hypnotherapist, I bumped into a fellow student who was an achieved screenplay writer. I wondered what he was doing there. I knew who he was because a few years before I had done his creative writing summer class, so you could imagine my surprise to find him at the hypnotherapy school. Seven years down the line, I understand much better how clever he was. Exploring the depth of human nature is gold for writers and what better way than to be paid to listen to people’s stories.

So if you are a therapist of some kind, it looks like your skills are precious for your writing. Keep up the good work. For other writers, I would highly recommend doing a listening skills course. Listening skills – deep listening – is so valuable for writers. I thought I was a good listener until I did a one year long training course focused only on listening skills. It made me realise how we human beings always interrupt others when they speak to chip in. Most of our conversations are not true conversations, they are parallel monologues. I found through this experience that if you really listen to people and refrain from asking questions, you will alway hear everything you need to know.

Similarly, I believe that if you learn to get into a meditative state and visualise your characters, and listen deeply, you will learn all you need to know about them. They will tell you their story. And when you put two of them together in your mental room, all you need to do is eavesdrop on their conversation. It will make your work so much easier as a writer. Yet, most of us are incapable of doing this because our minds are over active and full of thoughts. Most of us don’t realise how packed solid our mind is with thoughts. There is a voice in there that yaks yaks yaks. And it is only when we become aware of it that we can start to master it.

I liken the mind to a beautiful horse. Mine is pure white. I know very little about horses but I know this: if we let the horse into our lives with no training, it will wreck it. In order to keep our sanity as writers, we need to master the mind. There are many ways to do this but meditation and the practice of quieting our minds are paramount. I use to teach meditation and there are a lot of myths around it. You don’t have to isolate yourself in a room, sit in a lotus position and chant mantras whilst burning incense. Meditation comes from mindfulness and mindfulness can be found in every day tasks. Personally I find cooking, washing the dishes, ironing, hovering and painting (artistically) very good to practice mindfulness. All you need to do is to be totally in the moment and refrain from thinking about other things. You will, inevitably. The work is to bring yourself back to the task. It can take a lot of practice to even begin to be able to do these things mindfully without wanting to run away. That’s normal. We humans love to distract ourselves from what is essential. And when you quiet the mind, you start hearing that little voice that tells you what you really need. Most people are scared to hear that little voice. Yet, if they did, they would never have to ask advice from other people.

To your creativity

Ange de. Lumiere

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How to write the best valentine card ever

I made this valentine card in mosaics

I made this valentine card in mosaics

It might be a bit too late to write a book for your sweetheart this Valentine. If you would like to, why not sign up for my next writers workshop so that gives you plenty of time for next year. These things have to be thought of well in advance. Personally I love the idea. You could use my friend Liz Harwood’s books to capture the moments.

In the meantime, here are some tips for writing the best valentine message this year. You still have time to personalise a card. This is always 300 times better than buying a card from a shop and so much more fun. Here we go step by step:

  • get into the creative zone and write a message (more on this below)
  • select a beautiful photo from your old shots or take one with your phone (there are lots of hearts to capture in window shops at the moment, flowers in flower shops… And rainbows)
  • in something like PowerPoint, import the photo and write your words
  • save it as a JPEG on a memory stick
  • run to your local photo shop (unless you have a photo printer at hand – you lucky thing)
  • get a print and
  • stick it on a piece of card.

The question remains: how to get inspiration? To get inspiration, you need to get in the zone. Here is how you do it: Sit in a comfortable seat and start to day dream. Maybe you want to think about the first time you met your significant other. Or perhaps something they did recently that really moved you. If so, try to capture those images in your heart and write down what they were. Don’t worry about the words at this point. Just write down what you see. Take a deep breath and let it all out. It could be that another memory comes in your mind. Take your time. Don’t rush. You are in your creative space. Allow the images to evolve if necessary.

Once you have a first “draft” of what you want to write. Go for a walk and get some fresh air. Relax some more and read it again. Leave at least an hour before you do so. This time, you want to tighten up your text a little. Maybe there are some repetitions. Maybe some unfortunate use of words. That’s ok. That’s what second drafts are for. See it as the pruning of an overgrown tree. Give it another hour or more (if you can) before you work on your third draft.

The third time you work on your message, you are fine tuning. You might want yo get your thesaurus out at this point so you can use clever words. Personally I like to keep it simple. This is the precision work. That’s when you can unleash the word nerd that you are. You are working on your finish product.

One more thing before you print it: read it out loud.

If it’s really good, you might want to sell it to card companies… They are always looking for good texts for valentine cards.

And if you are “single” and happy to be, why not write a loving message to yourself? The only way to truly encounter meaningful love is to love yourself first, genuinely and wholeheartedly. Don’t expect someone to do the dirty work. A meaningful relationship complements the self love that you already have. It does not work if it comes as a crutch. So start loving yourself today. Totally. Radically. Write that love note to you. You won’t regret it.

And if you really love that message to self: why not sell it to a card company. To my knowledge, no one had designed a valentine card to self yet, but it think it’s a great idea.

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

Finding your purpose

Today, one of my followers on Facebook asked me if I could help her write. I get a lot of questions similar to this in my inbox with a page title which claims I can make people write. I asked her what seemed to be the problem. She said that everyone told her she was talented. She writes stories. But she can’t be bothered to finish them.

So here was my advice to her: stop writing immediately. And do not write again until you find your passion. I added that it might take a month or six months but she should not write anything during that time. She asked me how would she find her passion. I asked her what she hoped to leave as a legacy as a writer. How did she want her readers to feel? What did she want her offering to be to them? She wasn’t too sure except she wanted them to feel like her when she read a good book. I told her it was a good start. And I invited her to reflect on what she liked in a good book, particularly how it made her feel and what it brought to her life.

Next I asked her if she ever meditated. She said she never had. I said when you meditate you can find answers to questions within you so I encouraged her to explore various meditation modalities. What I didn’t tell her, but that will be part of my workshop, is that meditation can help you write and find inspiration. I think she might come to my workshop anyway. Writers are not always aware how important it is to silence their monkey minds and inner critics. You know that constant chatter that speaks in your head. And meditation can help with that.

The best to your creativity,

Ange de Lumiere