Responsibility with words.
Writing for Therapy and Creative Writing can merge into one another. As a tutor you have a responsibility towards your students on both fronts.
Writing for Therapy or Creative Writing cannot ignore the fact that when a freedom with the written word is taking place many truths come out. There is a responsibility as a tutor towards the rest of a group and towards the individual.
Reading out and sharing what you have written can be productive, but there are times when sharing with just one person is better. In a group situation, no pressure should be put on anyone to read out only an opportunity.
A child wrote about her sexual abuse in the home in a Creative Writing class. The subject matter could not be ignored, but judgement as to the truth of it or looking at the possible outcomes of exposure doesn’t lie with a Creative Writing teacher. In this case it was a question of discussing the possible outcomes with someone with more authority and getting another experienced teacher involved. It isn’t the writing teacher’s place to mention names unless advised to do so and the situation of the author protected. Did the child want it mentioned to anyone else and was anyone ready for possible outcomes? This particular case was in a foreign country where I believed the child, but was unaware of the help available. A medical specialist on the subject was found, she took over and addressed the children in the class on the subject, then made herself available should anyone want to go and see her or importantly – write her a note.
The words people write need careful handling, especially on sensitive subjects.
A student in my adult Writing for Therapy class wrote of very severe abuse as a child – she also wrote about a wonderful childhood. After three weeks I realised that she had a dual personality and was under the mental health care unit.Tutors aren’t told everything when a group starts. I did nothing as I knew she was getting all the help she needed and as to the truth of what she wrote I had no idea. This particular lady enjoyed coming to class and socializing. I moved her onto writing creatively for pleasure and her obvious language skills were a pleasure to listen to. In a creative writing class her abilities were appreciated and there weren’t many places she could feel accepted. A class promoting imagination suited her.
I was moved by a poem of a 15 year old who wrote about prostitution. Clearly this was not her situation, but she was looking sympathetically at the woman’s situation who could not feed her children. Writing for Therapy or Creative Writing can bring about understanding. It can scratch beneath a surface.
Writing for therapy is a stepping stone that leads somewhere else, and it can be a process of bettering a situation.
Eat cream cakes and chocolate to stay thin might sell a lot of books. Perfect your life with Writing for Therapy, might also sell books – neither would be true. Cheering yourself up with a doughnut or chocolate can do your mood good and put weight on, would be real life. Write for therapy or pleasure and experience of the power of words – now that would be accurate.
One last case history. I was asked to teach Creative Writing in a faith school where self expression and uncontrolled personal thoughts were not encouraged. Several students came to me confused between what they felt and the inhibitions on what they could write, set on them by this secluded sect. I ploughed on teaching the students Creative Writing for their exam in the only way I knew. In the end, I was not asked back and the cook was asked to teach them instead. I don’t know if they ever passed their English exams. Before leaving I read them Michael Rosen’s poem about chocolate, only to be asked by the students not to read poems about chocolate again as they weren’t allowed to eat it. Problems emerged when, in the poetry class they started to write what they felt and began asking me about their thoughts and feelings. I told them there were books available and they must ask about them. What the sect made of their poems I don’t know.
In my own family when the children went through hard times, as they all do, I encouraged them to turn to creativity, art, sewing etc., and of course writing stories. They have grown up to write all the time and find it a great outlet and can make money from it as well.
Keep on writing
You might like reading Romantic Comedy – A good read can cheer you up.
Writing for pleasure, this is my book, and a wonderful means to express myself and way of life for me. – Marriage, a Journey and a Dog http://tinyurl.com/jve22js paperback and ebook, internationally available on Amazon and other platforms.