Category Archives: Writer’s block

How to deal with your inner critic or the dangers of positive thinking

I used to be a very positive person. With time, I realised that It wasn’t such a good thing. In fact, I believe it stopped my emotional progress. If you try to be positive when you are facing challenges or negative thoughts, you will as a consequence be in denial of your negative emotions. You will be thinking, as I did, “I am a positive person” and as a consequence you will deny your negative thoughts and feelings. The first danger is that you will become passive aggressive and project your negative feelings onto others. This is what happens to people who have issues with anger and who are by “coincidence” surrounded by angry people: their boss, father, boyfriend, husband, or their friends. But no, not them. They never have issues with anger. As a writer, you want to know about this process which is called mirroring. It will bring great depth to your characters.

Positive thinking is only helpful if practiced AFTER you have dealt properly with your emotions. There is no shortcut: Negative emotions have to be processed, experienced and embraced. Truly positive people tend to do that as quickly as possible. Negative people will dwell in the process and often enjoy the attention they get from complaining. They moght even manipulate you into doing what they want through making you feel bad about them. Very different. They make beautiful characters.

But being too positive also stopped my progress as a writer. Let me explain. If you deny your negative thoughts, you won’t hear them when they pop in your head. It doesn’t mean however that they won’t exist. It will just mean that they will live at the level of your subconscious and what they will do there is feed your inner critic who will be given a golden opportunity to get in the driver’s seat and create havoc in your life.

The best way to manage your inner critic (you know that little voice that is constantly nagging at you and putting you down) is not to ignore it, nor to silence it. The best strategy is to listen to it and become aware of its voice. Why? Because then it surfaces into your awareness, which drags it out of the driver’s seat of your life. For those who don’t know it yet, the subconscious is driving your car, always. And it always overrides your consciousness. It always sits in your blind spot. Believe me, you don’t want your inner critic there.

So what is the best way to deal with your inner critic? My suggestion is to engage with it after you acknowledge it for what it really is: a phantom that feeds on your fears and every single negative comment or remark anyone has ever made to you. Fears are only thoughts. Beliefs are only thoughts that you think are true. Recognise that you are not your thoughts. Recognise that your mind is full of junk and good thoughts, but probably a lot of junk. You are not your mind either. Talk to your inner critic. It is the part of you that is scared and that believed everything everyone said, but mostly the negative.

So when your inner critic tells you that you can’t write: realise that it is only trying to help you not make a fool of yourself. It is there to protect you (it really believes it does anyway). Only it has the emotional maturity of a toddler. So engage with it as if it was a toddler. Listen to it with compassion when it is having a tantrum. Hold it. Comfort it. And set boundaries: your inner critic needs to be given a time frame to complain or criticise. I would suggest ten minutes per day. After that, thank it for its voice and get on with your writing.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere

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Can I really make you write?

I want to share with you a story about something that happened to me this morning as I came back from doing my grocery shopping. I had on my shopping list to buy  jam but didn’t buy it from the supermarket on purpose as I wanted to buy home made jam. So I headed for a lady in my village who used to leave her jams and preserves outside her door in a little wooden hut with a honesty jar for people to pay their due. I wanted to buy jar from her but noticed the whole hut had vanished. I knocked on her door.

I asked her what happened and she explained why she had taken it away. We got chatting, as one does, and she asked me what I was up to these days. We hadn’t seen each other in a while. I told her I was now running writer’s workshops for people who want to write books.

I said to her that not all books had a lot of words in them and had she considered writing a book of her recipes for her jams. I told her it could be good for her business. She told me  that she might one day write a book before she died but not before. It was clearly not on her list of things to do. She immediately added that she hated writing with a passion. I told her I wasn’t that good myself and even had a fail as a predictive mark for my GCSEs in English (well it was in France so it was French, but you get the idea) and it was through sheer hard work that I managed to get a C. So not exactly that good at writing myself in school. But could it have had to do with the way it was taught? I didn’t particularly enjoy having to study French literature. And it wasn’t really geared towards nurturing my creative writing skills. If anything it would have stifled them.

I then went on to say that  she could write her book of recipes one recipe at a time, on sticky notes, as she was making her jams. And then all she needed to do was stick them in a notepad and wait until she had enough to make a book. I asked her how many recipes she had. She said at least a hundred. All in her head. I said, get them out even for your own sake. You could get one book printed only for you. I can help you with that. If you write one recipe per day as you make your jams, in five to six months you will have them all down on paper.

She said “Funny you should say that, just before Christmas I said to myself I would like to write down my recipes.” There you go. She left saying that she was definitely going to give it a try and she had completely forgotten how much she hated writing and how she would only write a book on her death bed. I, on the other hand, was thinking that without much effort she would have her book ready by the summer, without even realising it. And then she added “I might just do it to annoy (so and so) and show them I wrote a book”. Why not? After all, you just have to find the motivation.

This is how dangerous it is to talk to me about your vague idea about writing a book or even about the fact that you will never write a book. I know I can make almost anyone write.

My jam lady was the least likely candidate to write a book… and when I left her she smiled and said “I am going to give it a try”. So do you think “I can make you write” now?

To your creativity

Ange

Bird by bird

I hope Anne Lamott will forgive me for using the title of her book but this quote happens to be one of the most powerful message that I retained from it and the subject of today’s blog.

When you embark on a journey to write a book, it can be daunting. The idea of writing between 40,000 and 100,00 words can be enough to put off anyone. Except someone like me because I am a nerd. I hope you will forgive me.

How do you get over that daunting feeling? By tackling it in small bites. If you consider that an average page contains 300 words and you aim at writing a book with an average word count of 60,000, this means 200 pages. If you write one page per day, you will take approximately six months to get your first draft done. If you had more times on your hands, however, you could write two pages a day and you would have a book in a little over three months. I am being very approximative here but hey, writing is not an automated process. Although some writers claim to be able to do that but that’s another story all together.

This is where planning (structuring) your book can be a boon. Imagine if you took a few weeks to let the story develop in your head. You first focus on your main character and what it is exactly that he (or she) wants. You start defining his character, his life experience, where he lives, what he does for a living, whether he is single, straight, employed, etc. In fact most of your first week should be to delve into this person’s life to such extent that if you were interviewed about him for one hour, you would be able to answer any questions the interviewer shot at you as if it was your own life.

Then you need to bring to life a “villain”. Fiction is always about conflict. A villain is someone or something that will come in the way of your hero’s goal or aspiration. Supposed your main character was a woman of fifty years of age who had just been left by her husband for a younger woman and who aspired to be in a loving relationship again. Brave woman. Her villain might be the fact that she has seven children at home. It can make it a little more challenging to find a partner when you have that many children. But if you will forgive me a small digression, I listened to a phone in three years ago on BBC Bristol on Valentine Day, and heard the most beautiful love story ever of precisely that: a man who bumped his trolley into the trolley of a woman (who fitted this profile exactly) and who immediately fell in love with her and swore to look after her and her tribe until the day he died. They were happily married fifteen years later. Now that is a good story for a book. Don’t you think?

If, however, they met right away and eloped, that wouldn’t make a good book. There has to be a journey. Where would you start the book? Probably at the time she found out about her husband infidelity. Then you would plan the story’s outline and define thirty or more scenes with who is in it, what is the action for each scene (each scene has to contain its own little conflict). Perhaps initially our heroine would give her husband a second chance and he would mess it up.

You can see that by planning and slicing up your story in small chunks, it can make it a lot easier to write it because you then only commit to writing a few pages at a time. And this is where Anne Lamott’s title comes into it. It is an anecdote from her book when she tells her father that she can’t possibly learn all that there is to learn and feels overwhelmed. I have to admit I can’t remember precisely what her anecdote is about. And her father, who is a writer, tells her “bird by bird”, meaning take one bird at a time.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere

Why hypnotherapy helped me as a writer?

I have been writing (seriously) since 1996. My first novel was in French, my native language. Then I tried to have it published and burned out in the process. After that, I wasn’t able to write for nearly ten years. I was traumatised. So instead I used art as an outlet for all my creative juices. Not bad.

I didn’t even know if I would ever write again. My first novel was born out of the pain of witnessing my best friend’s struggle with hard drugs for over ten years with me on the other end of the phone at weird hours and watching her in her descent into hell. Did I really want to do this again?

Fast forward ten years: I have moved countries, given birth to babies and trained both as a trance medium and clinical hypnotherapist. This means I know about relaxation and how the brain works. This also means I know how to deal with the inner critic. A year later, I am able to write a 400 page encyclopaedia on modern spirituality. I know how to get in the zone and let it flow. I am not talking about channeling although I can’t deny being divinely inspired. I am talking about knowing how creativity works and how important meditation (which I taught for years as a reiki master) is for almost effortless writing.

This is all part of the offering I am now able to share with the world. I am so excited about it. My workshop is coming up on the 1st February 2014 and it will be packed with tips and practice. You can book your place at a 25% discounted price if you pay by the 22nd of January here. I would love to meet you in person.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere

Why do writers get blocked?

There are many reasons that can stop someone from getting into writing or that can block a successful author even if they have written an excellent book (in fact the more successful the bigger the risk of experiencing a block).

Here are some of them:

  • lack of confidence
  • lack of belief in yourself
  • pressure put on yourself about writing
  • anxiety around writing
  • fear of failure
  • running out of inspiration
  • too high expectations
  • expecting to write the great English/American/French (or any other nationality or language of your choice) novel in one go
  • setting yourself goals such as writing a NY Times best seller book
  • depression
  • life’s challenges taking over and clouding creativity
  • taking oneself too seriously
  • paying too much attention to what other people think
  • going through personal hardships
  • pressure to produce work
  • deadlines
  • constraints
  • burn out
  • being afraid of not being able to repeat a performance
  • writing about something personal that is still too painful
  • perfectionism
  • mixed feelings about: writing, being published, being successful, not being successful, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being judged, fear of being criticised, etc
  • unresolved painful experiences of rejection
  • unrealistic expectations
  • misunderstanding of the creative process
  • ignorance as to how the mind works
  • fear of taking risks
  • believing someone else’s opinion on whether you are good at writing or not

Luckily, I can help you with all of these, through my first hand experience as a writer with decades of practice and through my experience as a therapist. I have managed to unblock people in one session and sometimes even in ten minutes. There is no need to dig painful memories. This is the great advantage of solution based therapies. 

I offer help in one to one session or in workshops. Feel free to book either. Workshop places are only confirmed when full payment has been made on my website (in the online shop). Message me directly on this page if you have any questions.

To your creativity,Ange de Lumiere