Tag Archives: writer

Feng shui for writers

Feng shui is the art of placement and keeping the energy flowing in a home for optimum living. I was a skeptic, as with everything, when something made me change my mind. I was at a massive crisis point in my life where my job was stale, my marriage on the rocks and my health seriously compromised. At that time, my stress was so high that my GP suggested that I go see a shiatsu masseuse. She was also a yoga teacher. Fabulous woman.

The masseuse was an ex zen nun who had lived in a monastery in Japan. She was training in Feng Shui with a Vietnamese master. She was so enthusiastic about it that I became curious. I hired the guy for a consultation. I was so desperate that I was willing to try anything. By the way that is when you usually make fabulous discoveries and open your mind. Most of my clients as a clinical hypnotherapist and reiki therapist had exhausted all other options and came to me out of despair. They later said they wished they had started with me. It takes a desperate situation to open one’s strong mind sometimes.

My masseuse’s teacher came to my home a few weeks later and didn’t even let me open my mouth. He was such a character. Thick Vietnamese accent (we have a lot of Vietnamese refugees in France), bright button eyes and the traditional goaty that he kept on rubbing with an understood look as he marched through the rooms of my three bedroom Paris flat. As he marched, he would drop little rhetorical questions that hit home every time. “Does your husband spend hours at the office pretending to have lots of work? ” Then as he walked down the corridor “Have you reached a plateau at work and feel there is no possibility for improvement?” And the last one when he entered our bedroom “have you been suffering from poor health? ” As you can imagine, I was gobsmacked and believed he might turn into Merlin in a puff of smoke anytime. How could he have known?

He offered remedies that were equally as mind boggling. But again, I had paid his fees and had nothing to lose. When I placed a little glass fish in a tank above our drinks cabinet and started changing the water every day, my husband rolled on the floor laughing. I was also asked to place a chime hanging between two doors and mirrors inside a cupboard. And then I waited. Within three weeks I had a fabulous job offer, which enabled me to move across the channel and leave hubby not-so-laughing on the floor. My health improved, although I suspect it had more to do with leaving a toxic relationship. The fact that he pretended to have lots of work in the office was no longer my concern.

I became a big fan of feng shui. I am a pragmatic girl. If it works I will do it again. When I arrived at my fabulous London flat overlooking Harley Street with two young children in tow, I faxed my Vietnamese master a plan of the flat so he could check it out. When I called, he only had one thing to say “House of Happiness, Miss de Lumiere.” He laughed softly “Good house to live in” he added in his thick Vietnamese accent.

There are several schools of Feng Shui but my preferred one is intuitive. You use a bagua map which divides your home into nine sections and map out the different areas that match different areas of your life. The idea is that you keep your house organised to allow free flow of energy and health in your life. I would encourage you to focus on the areas around career and creativity. You find bagua maps easily on google. To help you find the energy to de clutter your house, I highly recommend a small book by Karen Kingston called “Clear your clutter with feng shui”. Maybe you could just start with your desk. The golden rule with decluttering is to only focus on a small area at a time and only commit to twenty minutes at a time. You would probably never dream that tidying up one drawer on your house can shift things in your life but why don’t you humour me? For one thing, I know that every time to declutter, my energy levels increase. Clutter is an energy drainer. It will make you feel tired and dull.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere

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Writing is a lonely business sometimes

I just had an experience that I want to share as it seems to be quite typical of the writer’s journey. I wrote a post that I thought was really good, got all excited about it, expected some lovely feedback and…. Nothing. I fell flat on my face. Well, my ego did. In comedies, when the main character falls flat in his or her face it’s funny. In real life, it hurts.

Writing can be a lonely business sometimes. People don’t realise. It’s not like those office jobs where you have colleagues, a coffee machine, a boss, a structure, a plan, an annual review and a pay check. For a writer none of this exists. You have to self motivate yourself. You have to build your own plan. And very often it’s wiser to have a day job or at least a part time job so that you don’t find yourself in a state of desperately needing money as it usually repels opportunities when you approach them in that emotional state. Believe me, I learnt the lesson first hand.

So how do you keep that motivation? How do you build self belief? Very often, friends and family, as well meaning as they are, have no clue what it is like to fend for yourself. They have jobs. They don’t take risk. And writing is a very risky business. You risk making a fool of yourself. You risk spending years “trying” with no obvious result. Writers circles can be good, as long as you come across one that is supportive. I admit not having ever been to one myself so I can’t comment. I would love for you to share your experience I’m your circle if you go to one.

I have however, shared my work with friends and family and although I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I don’t recommend it. For me, what has worked best, is make friends with like minded writers. I learnt over the years that just because you do the same thing does not mean you will be on the same page. We all have our insecurities, especially us creatives. In fact, I would hazard a guess that most of us walk through life feeling like frauds and hoping no one is going to expose us. I do. Our inner critics are vicious. We struggle to gather enough self belief to get started. The last thing we want is to share a piece of work with someone who has ulterior motives. Someone who has unresolved issues and who is going to trash our piece because it’s good and they are jealous. Someone who is going to only pretend to help us but does nothing to really improve our work because they believe in competition and it’s them or us. And believe me there are a LOT of those birds flying around.

If you are put in the position of Irving feedback on a fellow writer’s work, remember the compliment sandwich. Praise-feedback-praise. No one should ever give feedback in any other way.

Be extremely picky who you share work and make friends with. I know this does not sound very nice but at the first sign of a lash out, take your leave. Don’t put up with nasty behaviour. You want to be around people who genuinely want you to do well. They are rare, I know, but well worth the wait. And let’s be honest, it is hard for us too. If your best friend got a book deal before you, it would be hard to celebrate it, especially if you believed that your work is better than his or hers. This is human nature. But we can all rise above the fear, envy, jealousy, anger, resentment and all those dark feelings that we all experiment when we forget there is space for everyone. The best way to do this is to be honest. It is better to say to this friend “I find it really hard to be happy for you when I feel left behind, so please accept my apologies, let me sleep on it and hopefully I will be able to be genuinely happy for you tomorrow morning.” Rather than pretend you are happy but give her a fake smile.

We all have our insecurities, but if we are not willing to stick out for others and support each other, then there is no point. No one else can do it for us, because no one else understands the loneliness of the writer’s life. So in a way, I see this as a necessity.

I don’t believe in competition. I don’t believe competition is doing any of us any good. I much prefer collaboration. So what! the world as we know is competitive? Maybe we can invent a new world for writers where encouragement, support and space for everyone could be created.

At “I can make you write” I want to create such a space.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere

Forget the writer’s sandwich

You know the writer’s sandwich: a story had to have a beginning, a middle and an end? Well, forget about it.

Here is another way: you play with the characters, the place for your story, the relationship between your characters until you have a story that holds the ground and has enough tensive quality (some call it conflict, but to me it’s too strong a word) that you know it’s going to make a great story. Let me illustrate this with the story I wrote for a film script.

I had this idea about the story of a woman who has a phobia of churches and who goes to a hypnotherapist to get cured. She is desperate to get over it because she is getting married in the summer. That was the first idea. Initially the starting scene was taking place in my house. What I mean is that I visioned the girl coming to my practice which was easy to imagine because I am a clinical hypnotherapist and this is routine work for me. So in my mind, I played with the idea for a while. This girl was a lawyer and really not the usual client for a hypnotherapist but she had been dragged in by her best friend, who swore by hypnotherapy. Great start. I thought. I still do. But as the story progressed, the venue wasn’t so right anymore, so I transported everyone to London (I live in a little village north of Bristol) because this lawyer was quite a high flying chick and that didn’t fit with my semi-rural England setting. London did. And I knew about living in London. I revised my first draft and played with the story some more.

Then, I realised that there was not enough tension in her relationship to her friend. It was too “nice”. Her best friend had quit smoking with a lady hypnotherapist, so she was dragging her best friend there. There was no potential conflict between them. No good. As I was playing with my story, I suddenly had an insight into their friendship. Her best friend was actually her Fiancé’s ex and she hadn’t really got over him. Only she was denying it so she would act out. Hey hey, I said to myself. Much better.

I am not going to reveal anymore of my plot here but you can see that I deepened my story not because of the classic writing sandwich: a middle stuck between a beginning and an end. My story got depth by me playing with the characters, the venue and the setting (modern England). I am sorry if the writer’s sandwich has worked for you up to now. And if that is the case, by all means continue to use it. But if you got stuck or if the sandwich hasn’t worked for you, try this more creative approach. Get to know your characters. See how the venue introduces a cultural element to the story that informs it. Change the venue and see how it changes the story.

to your creativity,

Ange de Lumiere

Your writer’s name

What name are you going to use as a writer?

I found that personally, this question was holding me back. I needed to find a good nom de plume. Some of you might be absolutely fine using their birth name to write. Some of you might decided to use one because they love the idea but for some of us, it is a necessity. I, for example, didn’t want my family to know what I was writing. I knew that some of it might be hurtful for them. But the main criteria was that I felt that if I wrote under my birth name, i would censor most of what I would write. In other words, the thought that my family (my mother in particular) could read what I wrote paralysed me. Is that strange? For a while, I thought I would wait until her and my Dad went back to the creator but I just couldn’t. I had to write. So I moved countries and started writing in a language that wasn’t my native language. And the English language has given me the freedom that I needed.

How did I chose my nom de plume?

First I changed my first name slightly. The reason was that my name in the English language is nothing like my name in French and I hated how the English pronounced it. No matter how many times I tried to explain to them how to pronounce it, they always butchered it. So I used an anagram which also happened to be a nick name of mine anyway, so it feels familiar. It happens to mean angel, and a lot of people have called me that. I find that sweet.

My surname came from my love of the cinema. The Freres Lumiere were the founder of the cinema. Most film students know that. And there is a very strong and vivid love of the cinema in France, even today. Paris is the city that has the highest ratio of cinemas per capita in the world. France is the third biggest market for films and it is the country that has the smallest percentage of US films screening. In short, we love a good film. So de Lumiere was a way for me to honour that love that my native country and myself have for the cinema. During the best part of my life, I could only cry in the darkness of cinema theatres. And when I did I cried fountains. Bambi is one of my best tear jerker. That says a lot.

Lumiere also means “light” and as a visual artist, the light is very important to me. It is also important to me because I am an energy worker. I believe that we have a force in us, that other traditions call chi or ki, that makes us alive. We are not only bones and flesh. We have a soul. I believe in subtle energies and in the invisible. I experience telepathy, clairvoyance, intuition, mediumship and other “paranormal” phenomenal every day. At the same time, I am a very practical girl whose best subjects in school were science and maths and who had a fifteen year successful career as a lawyer. I need proof. I love contrasts.

Someone once told me my name was ridiculous because it means Angel of Light in French. They advised me to change it as soon as possible. Technically the “de” in French is what is called a “particular” and when used in a surname it is an indication of nobility. I like that it gives me nom de plume un “Je ne sais quoi”: a special touch. So I said to that person (I was not offended in the least) that my name was like marmite, you love it or you hate it. It’s not really my issue.

How are you going to chose your nom de plume? I know authors who have chosen their mother’s maiden name. Or chosen randomly from a phone book. I have one British ancestor called Armstrong and I once considered using that name. I liked the strength of it. There are wonderful first name and second name dictionaries that can help you with that choice.

You can use more than one nom de plume. I have a second one for part of my work that I need privacy for. My agent told me that he has a client who has ten noms de plume. Wow. Does she use a different name for each book she writes? And if she does, why? That certainly triggered my imagination.

The best 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

“Hello (…) friends. This is a plug but not for me. This lady had taught me loads. Not only is she a great writer, she is also a fab mentor/guide/teacher so for anyone out there who writes, or has always wanted to write or simply needs a new focus this year then I highly recommend what she has to offer.” – Ali Todd, author