Category Archives: Purpose

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

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To plot or not to plot

There is a big divide between authors who outline their novels and those who don’t and they both argue that theirs is the best way. In reality both camps have valid arguments for their method of approaching the art of story telling. Let’s say I am going to go beyond their arguments and suggest we talk about structure instead of outline.

Structure is essential for both fiction and non fiction work. This was illustrated by a recent client of mine who writes about healing. She had been posting on Facebook little snippets about her case studies and wanted to write a book to empower people to heal themselves without an intermediary and share with them her protocol. As soon as she talked about her project, I had a very clear idea of how to structure her book. It made sense to her and has made her writing her book easily as she now just slots her writing into a pre-existing structure. She says this tool had been invaluable.

A great way to find a structure for your non fiction book is to brainstorm all the ideas that you want to include. Jot them down on paper. Then, organise them. I find mind maps very useful. To see examples of mind maps, click here. If you have never used a mind map and want to get started, I suggest Tony Buzan’s book.

For fiction work, as mentioned above, the subject is more controversial. Some like to outline, some don’t. At first, from hearing about the outline camp, I thought I was not part of their tribe as they claim to work on their plots for two to three months before even starting to write their book. But after reflecting for a while, I realised the divide was an illusion. Every writer outlines their story even if it’s in their heads to some extent. Then some of them jot the ideas on a piece of paper whereas others formalise things more and go more in depth. For those who claim to properly outline their novels, who is to say that what they call an outline is not only one step away from someone else’s first draft.

In view of the above, I have come to the conclusion that a little bit of planning can go a long way. It would be foolish to go on an adventure without any map at all, as after all, writing a book is about going from A to B. And some authors claim that the digressions are part of the journey. And to an extend they do, as long as they don’t lead to a dead end, or bore your reader. The difference is whether you take an ordinance map with the finest details or a more general map to give you an idea.

What I write about books is also true for blogs. A successful blog has a purpose, a direction. Some call it a “stake” and you find out the stake of your blog or project by asking yourself how would you like it to change the world.

Most authors agree that whether or not you plot your book in advance, the biggest mistake is to rigidly stick to the map. The story or book (for non fiction) will evolve as you write because you will know the terrain. You will discover things that weren’t on the map. And mostly it will be people. Your characters, once they come to life, will want to interfere with your plan. As their personalities deepen, it impacts the story and creates twists that no writer could anticipate. and for non fiction authors, it might be a while angle that you had not anticipated ahead of writing. Stay flexible. Your work becomes an entity of its own nice you start writing it. Collaborate. Don’t resist.

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