I read this on the internet and it reminded me of the time I spent working with Mental Health patients an experience I think it might be worth blogging about:
How often do you sit at home and wish someone would ring you and suggest, well anything rather than these 4 walls? How many of you have had a night out planned, or arranged coffee with friends and suddenly “these 4 walls” seem the only safe haven because it’s the only place you don’t have to pretend you are ok, so you cancel. Or when you are invited out you tell them how terribly sorry you are but you’re already booked up that weekend, when you are actually just really busy holding it together in your safe box. And so the first problem starts, all by itself , people stop asking you and the isolation that at first wasn’t true becomes your only truth.
Mental Health Awareness!! ❤❤❤
20 years ago Easleigh mental health unit got in touch and asked if I would run a writing class there. Happy to take on a challenge and with nothing to lose I started classes that continued for three years.
Moving, clever, sad and funny, the students turned up every week. I lacked understanding of mental illness so I went in with ideas and the group set the pace .
The results ranged from an apparent cure for agoraphobia to the sad loss of two students through suicide. Somewhere in the middle was a great sense of achievement and a lot of laughter. These wonderful, brave, people gave a performance, reading their work at a local theatre,
Writing is more recognised as a therapeutic tool than it used to be, but there is lots more that can and is being done. If you have the opportunity to help someone by suggesting they write and share, is there anything to lose?
I greatly believe that life’s problems that affect us all can benefit from writing things down. Please read my earlier six blogs on Writing for Therapy.
I’ll write blogs about the other groups I worked with – in prison and with the homeless.
Writing two novels the second to come out in June, has provided a means of escaping into characters’ lives. Poetry is a means of expressing myself and the main goal with my writing is to entertain myself and other people. Perhaps you can do the same. If you teach Creative Writing in mental health areas, please do link up to this blog and share your experiences.
I loved writing this. It gave me so much pleasure to share it with so many people around the world.
I hope you enjoy this blog about a U.K. citizen teaching Creative Writing in Sri Lanka.
If you read my bio you will see that I have worked as a Creative Writing tutor for adults in the UK. My husband and I retired and came to Sri Lanka for 6 months 7 years ago, now for 3/4 months every year. His voluntary work is in medical research and he has studied snake bite reactions as part of a team improving the care of patients.He is based at Peradeniya University in Kandy – the hill country.
I didn’t want to sit around and I when asked to work at a private school of 3000 girls as a volunteer I was delighted. Feeling ill equipped with a young age group I started with the under 5’s but quickly developed a rapport with the upper school. The little children were so lovable and well behaved. I have always kept in touch. The teachers are hard working, dedicated and underpaid.
Faced with a large class of 9-10 year olds to teach English, Creative Writing came to my rescue. Group work was the answer. English is a vital part of education here. The main languages spoken are Sinhala, Tamil and English. The English language is used everywhere, on road signs and by the poorest of workers. It’s a common language. An English qualification is a way into a job and helps you find a marriage partner.
I progressed to teaching GCSE classes and A level English literature. There is a gap of three months between the exams and the next course, I was given a free hand to teach this group of students. I taught what I knew and we worked on writing projects. At the end of my time the school reported a marked improvement in the English of the students. The result was repeat invitations to work in this school over many years. I am happy to have a good relationship with them every time I visit.
My next task was to teach teachers, this was fun and an experiment. Rote is the preferred method of teaching and it works well. The thing about teaching Creative Writing is that it engages the students to a greater degree. They love doing projects and sharing. If they can’t do everything in English I allow them to use their own language but to keep going and keep trying. At the end of a session we look collectively at vocabulary and grammar relevant to their project. This requires new skills from the teachers, they may be caught out on things they don’t know.
Creative Writing is a method of improving the English of some of the teachers as well as students. Writing creatively is a skill that cannot be totally used without guidance.
I always respect the culture and never try to change anything. For a country still recovering from civil war, facilities and resources have been in short supply but are improving. Sri Lanka was also a country badly hit by the tsunami. Both events increased the need for orphanages. Children still write about both. They write about the roll of women and poems about their lives and emotions – this area is where we discuss boundaries and if there should be any. The teachers know their culture and children best and I don’t try and influence in any way, but I make them aware that with new freedoms comes responsibilities for the teacher.
The teacher training I was a part of was videoed and shown over to teachers. I was invited to run a work shop at a conference weekend for all Sri Lankan teachers in Colombo.
This is about the teaching, there is more to my voluntary work than this. The teachers are wonderful people, I have made such good friends.
I visited a poor state school and threw myself into renovating a library to give the school a heart. The government is now able to put more money into schools and state schools are improving.
Our life here has been dependent on renting a house every time we come. The first one was on the top of a hill with the jungle above. We were closer than I liked to snakes and insects. I have what I call my Sri Lankan hat on when I come here and forget my UK standards of living. That said I love the experience of living alongside the Sri Lankans. The rains came the first year and deluged down our hill for months. There was no doubt we were living in danger of a land slip. When the house was hit by a large boulder. The challenge was on. The hole made way for the jungle life to enter the house. My husband was determined to stay and finish his work, the compromise was that we went to a hotel while the house was fixed. On our return I reacted to every sound. When I heard a thud on the roof I went to investigate and found myself face to face with two 7 foot snakes. I learned afterwards they were not dangerous. I have seen vipers and cobras here but not many. The mosquitos are a bigger threat. Dengue is not uncommon but Malaria has mostly been eradicated. Rabies exists and it is best not to engage with wild animals including the street dogs and cats. Bats and monkeys can also be carriers. I console myself with the thought that there are a lot of Sri Lankan people still alive, on balance we should be. This is not a way of life I would choose if I had the responsiblity of a young family, although families do come here to work.
The food is good, we eat mostly fruit, veg and rice. The numbers of modern restaurants and the variety of food is increasing. We prefer Sri Lankan food, it’s what we are used to here.
Going home to the U.K to friends and family is a real pleasure, I look forward to it for weeks. I see my own culture through different eyes. The consumerism, and the way families and extended families don’t function in the same way are here are obvious. In Sri Lanka the elderly and sick are always cared for in the family homes. This is great when it works but there are old people mistreated as well as those well cared for. Women have to work and cannot always be at home. Family money is shared. Our house maid washes cleans and cooks for us. Her wages keeps five members of her family. When families can’t manage they borrow from the loan people who come around to your door. They pay back at 2% interest. Sickness and disability can wreck a family’s limited finances.
Our tuk tuk driver introduced me to a village where people live in shacks. Here I met a young family with three children. I decided to teach them English and stay in touch at all times. Parents and children are speaking English and the children growing up well. Twice their shack has been washed away in storms, it is now built of breeze blocks but not in a safe position.
Free health care is available to the poor. They can queue up at hospital and see a doctor. Drugs have to be bought, unless you go to the hospital for them. People buy one or two tablets at a time and give up before a course is finished. If you have an accident you may or may not get repairs to your broken body depending on the cost. When it doesn’t happen then people languish in beds.
I am getting past teaching now and would like to be involved in sponsorship of patients that need false limbs they can’t afford. There are many young and otherwise fit men, who lost limbs in the war. There is some support for them.
Although I plan to get away from teaching and spend my time here writing, this is a country of surprises. I have been asked to teach the young monks at a temple but have preferred to teach someone how to teach them. The internet is great for devising programmes for learning and passing them on. Internet and phone connections are excellent.
I have been talking to an agriculturist about rural education, an area that interests me. The challenge is teaching farmers, especially rice growers, English, to enable them to use the internet and communicate with the wider world.
We visit swimming pools, I belong to a book club and film club and go on tour – just in case you think our time is all about volunteering.
At the end of my teaching time at a school I gave them a Creative Writing Cup to be presented to the student with the best ideas – not the best grammar. This encouraged a different set of students. Every year book prizes are awarded in my name. What an honour.
If you have enjoyed this brief blog about the past seven visits of our life in Sri Lanka, you can read my husband’s blogs on Chandlers Ford today. http://tinyurl.com/ze92jfq This is about the library I renovated in a state school but search around his blogs and you will find more about Sri Lanka.
This is a limited view of what we do, I could write a book, but not yet. If you have any questions, please ask.
In quiet moments I write for myself. My first novel Marriage, a Journey and a Dog is a romantic comedy best described as women’s fiction . Writing is what I enjoy doing in my quiet moments. It’s great to know people in Sri Lanka have read and enjoyed my book, mainly expats. http://tinyurl.com/zexovoo
I have been able to advise expats about self publishing a book and about how the traditional publishing industry works. This puts me in contact with amazing and interesting people.
I would like to extend my reply to a young would be writer I chatted with on face book. You will see from my bio that I taught Creative Writing in adult education for 18 years. After retirement I am still teaching the subject to a more diverse cross section of students, but for the pleasure of doing so. Creative Writing has become my way of life for which I rarely get paid but love to do.
In the last sentence is the truth of the life for most writers so why teach the subject to young people when they are going to need a paid job?
Scientists need imagination to ask, what if? Computer studies can take on real purpose when a writer understands how everything you learn to do with a computer will help support a writing career. In fact, you can’t be a writer these days without access to the net and the ability to compute. Making a web site, taking photos and editing them, making videos as well as excel for spread sheets etc., If you want to be a writer go to every computer class you can and learn at home.
A child said to me, “I don’t need maths to write.” That was wishful thinking. Marketing needs maths to record incoming and outgoings (your outgoings will be bigger than your incomings to begin with). You need to be able to make reliable financial projections and analyse your business responses to tweets, blogs, Facebook etc.
History can give a depth to your stories and you can learn history by making up your own stories around historical events choosing to be historical characters. The man who thought up Horrible Histories was on to a winner.
Improving your college C.V. can come from running or contributing to the school magazine. Working to dead lines and seeing your name in print are useful skills. Getting involved in the school play is a huge writers’ learning curve and fun.
Sociology and cultural studies teaches about other people, they could be your potential readers. If you are going to be a writer you need readers. Who are they? Communication and media studies are often criticised as soft options for ‘a’ level subjects and for a degree. I would disagree. They are only poor subjects if the students believe these courses will make them rich and famous. These subjects can be stepping stones into a wider job market. i.e. A film studies student and artist became a make-up artist for carnival and minor films. She makes her money from weddings. You can learn a list of subjects by studying film and whatever you choose to do in life is will not be based on one subject.
The broad picture! Science teaches the writer useful facts and teaches the scientist how to use fiction to imagine new outcomes.
Our brains are wired to learn from multi sources other than plain facts on a page. Add pictures and stories and the facts are easier to learn – that’s a known fact.
Learning languages, in my case teaching English as a foreign language, Creative Writing is a great confidence builder. We now know that students encouraged to use a language creatively and allowed to make mistakes and mix a native language with a new language have better learning outcomes at the end of 5 years than those who learn solely from a book. In Sri Lanka children can use three languages in one sentence. It was thought this would discourage them from learning English but the opposite has proven to be true. Interesting.
Art and music, for inspiration
and story writing. Poetry to music for the school play. Music for your videos and knowing which music to mention in a story.
I guess there is a book here but I’m busy writing fiction. In the meantime I thought I would share these random thoughts.
If you have ideas to contribute or examples, please add them to the comments box or send me a link to your blog.
2. Creative Writing for Adults
I want to share what I have learned for free. You might like to check out my other blogs.
Please forgive the link to my book on Amazon. My Romantic Comedy only 99p and it gets 5* reviews around the world. http://tinyurl.com/jd6bn9 Has a target audience of women 35+ I know men read it too.
I recently wrote a reply to an Indie author bemoaning on Facebook they weren’t making sales on line. I think my reply is worth sharing.
There are 1.5 million Indie books published in the US alone, every year. I wondered how many of these authors buy Indie books?
I buy 2 a month as that fills my reading time. Mostly I find them lively and interesting, the occasional one, not so. No different from a traditionally published highly advertised book, they are not always great even if the grammar is pretty much guaranteed. To be a successful Indie author you have to be better than the best, even then you might not make it. It’s like agents who have turned down amazing works of literature many times over but they have gone on to be best selling novels, the reading public are doing the same thing, turning away from amazing possibilities. Don’t miss out on discovering a book that might be brilliant; buy loads of Indie books. How many agents turned down Beatrix Potter and J. K .Rowling etc. As an Indie author your experience may be like theirs and you have to keep marketing – and waiting, and hoping readers will cotton on to your amazing book.
In the meantime why not buy a few Indie books and enjoy the whole reading writing scene?
As a Creative Writing tutor I have read across genre, often reading genres I would not have freely chosen. Sometimes they have surprised me at how much I have enjoyed reading them, sometimes I have found them awkward and uninteresting. I am never sorry to have read them. The bad ones teach me how not to write a book and I think about the author who has embarked on a learning curve and , on day, they might become a great writer. Everyone starts somewhere.
From a writer’s perspective reaching the top rung of success can be an unrealistic goal. If you play tennis are you going to be a Wimbledon champion? Would you give up singing if you weren’t the winner of X Factor? You can enjoy playing tennis and singing at any level – you can enjoy writing at any level.
Make friends and meet people on line and through organisations; enjoy working on language skills, going to literary festivals etc. There is so much more to do when you are interested in writing than become famous. Even listening to related programmes on radio or analysing something you are watching on T.V. I would recommend a writer’s life to anyone.
Why do people ask, ‘Do you write? What have you published?’ Would we ask, ‘Do you play tennis? What tournaments have you won? If a writer is successful they will tell you without being asked!
It’s all about money for some potential authors. If that’s you and you’re starting out, make sure you have a good day job.
I have made a living out of writing. I started out earlier than most and this was a big advantage. From selling articles and poems to major magazines my writing career developed. I went into education and taught other people to write, I wrote Creative Writing examinations and marked them. This gave people a qualification that was recognised in a subject they enjoyed and I loved teaching. Splitting the subject into communications and media studies at level 3 meant that adult students could use it for university entrance.
The aspect of my career I enjoyed the most was Creative Writing for rehab of mental health patients, for prisoners, and as a stepping stone for homeless people back into education.
Over the past few years I have been teaching Creative Writing in Sri Lanka (for free), a work/vacation. I’m lucky that writing has added so much to life, and I believe in can for others. Don’t be a lone writer, get out there and join in things.
What I really have written this blog for, is to say to indie authors – buy indie books. If we all did this we could start an indie revolution.
As I sit looking at my cup of coffee I realise that for half the price of that coffee I can download an Indie book. For the whole cup – thats 2 books (I’m sure you worked that out). So what if I don’t enjoy them all? I will certainly enjoy most. Of all my reading this year one indie book stood out and I will always remember it. I bought it because I met the author at one of these social writing events and bought the paperback. Indie books can be better than the best.
My husband has met people at these indie events when he has tagged along with me. Occasionally he smiles at the daft book, but it made him smile and other times he has raved on about how good a book is. Because it’s indie he has been able to read their blog, join their twitter etc. and he has spoken to the author and might meet them again.
I write reviews when I’ve read a book, but if it is not my usual genre I say so, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a good review . If it really is bad then I don’t say anything. I’m sure a poor writer is capable of giving back what they get. When I do write a poor review it is for a highly publicised book and the story genuinely isn’t good. I hate reading a traditional published book with the might of the media behind it and it could – no should be better. You can forgive indie books but not professional writers. Readers have often agreed with my review and said so. If I love it I do always say so, or if it’s good but not my type of book it may be worth 5*.
Christmas is coming and I’ve order my presents – I want paperback Indie books and they will cost under £10 They will give me several hours of pleasure when Christmas is over. ‘Which indie book,’ I’m asked. My reply, ‘Surprise me. You know me.’
I belong to BGS. If you are looking for an indie book join this site or something similar.
See what other people are reading. Goodreads has indie books with reviews.
Be bold and make an Indie book a regular addition to a book club reading list. My Romantic Comedy is only 99p 5* reviews around the world. http://tinyurl.com/jd6bn9a
Writing is a journey to which there is no end. Writing for pleasure, for therapy or for profit, there is always a reason to write.
Here are some ideas for you:
Write a story for ‘pleasure’ it can be about anything, It needs a beginning, a middle and an end. For ‘therapy ‘put yourself into the story as a character, for ‘profit’, be prepared to learn about writing for a market, and keep on writing when success eludes you. For ‘profit’ you must also have access to a computer and knowledge of computing skills. Know if you want to write 500 words or 100,000+.
Write poetry for ‘pleasure’ – enjoy writing with rhythm, for expression of emotion to capture a moment. For ‘therapy’, write out your thoughts and put them into words. Try a stream of consciousness, – (any thoughts as they come into your mind) then write how you feel. For ‘profit ‘- learn poetic structure, read poetry, be prepared to read to an audience and don’t be put off by writing wonderful poetry that doesn’t sell – be satisfied with the achievement of writing to a high standard.
Write articles for newsletters and local magazines. For therapy – share with readers the good, the bad, and the interesting. If you want to write for profit -learn about article writing and marketing articles. It’s a fun thing to do.
Read widely and take on reading challenges, it will help your writing and if you find the right book it can help your situation.
Meet with other writers – at local clubs and meetings – ask at your library for details or look online. Join online groups, (don’t be fooled into spending money unnecessarily). Be an artist and capture in words beautiful places and things or emotions.
When you are writing for therapy don’t get stuck in a groove, push yourself into new experiences with words.
This is the last introductory Writing for therapy Blog.
I’m told that this introduction to Writing for Therapy sounds like I’m chatting more than instructing. I take that as a compliment.
I wrote for pleasure and profit, but of course, therapy is in there too. This book has drawn on some of my life experiences and expresses my sense of humor that has always helped me through. No one is going to escape the challenges of being alive, some challenges are far greater than others. At all times escape into your imagination and create as much positivity as you can.
Click writing for therapy tag to see 5 more blogs or scroll through my blogs.
Writing for pleasure – my book – a wonderful means of expression and a way of life.
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.
Sharing words that you feel (or maybe didn’t know you felt), is a heightened experience when expressed through poetic language – without the restraints of sentence structure and with freedom of expression.
Faced with four students who were in prison for murder, torture, and knife crime, writing poetry sounded an impossible class to take. They were men with their own ideas and, with a little guidance, managed to translate raw emotion into words.
One young 3 times murderer sat in class and said, ‘I can’t write anything it hurts too much.’ – Such is the power of words. His childhood had been depraved beyond belief. Expression of thoughts can lead to rehabilitation. I repeat – counselling is a specialised field. Through Writing for Therapy students can listen to themselves and if they choose, they can help each other and seek out helpful resources.
Words can be used to underline perverted behaviour as well as relieving problems, this is a journey to a destination that is not one a tutor would personally want or want a student to go down. As with all therapies, there can be a downside.
Sharing written words with the homeless, and mental health patients is a means of expressing raw emotion and a recognition of amazing insights.
A lady who was agoraphobic was able to write meaningful poetry and, eventually read her poetry in public. I taught the poetry – not the mental health rehabilitation – that was the job of other professionals. Writing for Therapy was a stepping stone for her.
A popular topic these days might be weight loss or financial issues. A marriage breaking down was happening to a student with arguments all the time. They were able to work out that the problem was not each other, but the stresses they both had and together they should shift their attention to working together on issues.
This is an outcome that was right for them. All students and situations are different. This anecdote happens to show what would be considered a positive outcome. Another outcome maybe helping someone to help themselves through a divorce. That could be positive in a different way.
How do we convert a creative word association to poetry if you have never written it poetry before?
Take a sheet of writing paper. Draw a margin down the left and right hand side.
Take ‘one’ word from your word association and start writing.
Keep your poem to the topic you have chosen.
Try to use more than one of your words.
Don’t write complete sentences – write your thoughts in short phrases.
You have a kind of poetry.
If you are Writing for Therapy it is about the subject you have chosen – not about writing perfect poetry. Creative Writing is about writing great poems. People who can write poetry so often use it as a therapeutic expression – it comes naturally to them.
I write poetry to entertain and make people laugh. That is a kind of therapy.
When teaching Writing for Therapy or Creative Writing, with the freedom of language and touching someones inner thoughts, comes responsibility. When the words are out, what do you do with any far reaching outcomes?
As a tutor you should be part of a team and know where to refer people if someone wants more help. This can be part of a plan as a result of analyzing word associations. Students should look for the resources they need to pursue a plan , and ask around. If you are writing for therapy on your own, look for resources, take action.
It’s like a shopping list of what you need to do. Resources are not always associated with the problem, but to a broader spectrum of answers.
For all of us poetry can be a meaningful tool. Reading and listening can be powerful. Make poetry a voyage of discovery. Listen to poems they can cheer you up, make you think and share empathy.
Some people only write poems when they are struggling. This is a shame – try writing positive, happy poems and reading them as well.
In most places there are poetry groups and poetry readings – an opportunity to make friends and meet people.
Poetry can be used in any rehabilitation situation or ongoing day to day living.
To write a poem you don’t need to be any sort of expert, it doesn’t even matter if you can’t spell. Launch into it. Think about lyrics for songs. Some don’t make sense but they work in their way. What is your way? Experiment if you are brave enough – share and don’t let anyone put you down. Usually they won’t.
The aim is to start – you don’t know where you might end up – it is a journey.
Try to progress from writing for therapy to writing for pleasure.
Sharing your thoughts with paper is sharing. Only if you want to, do you share your words with other people, written words can be an easy way of organising your thoughts before speaking to someone. If people shared more with someone they value or trust it would save a lot of angst. If you can’t share – seeing yourself on paper can take you further along a path.
When my group of homeless people at the day centre started to write and express themselves openly, for some of them it was the first step back into the world of education and work. They enjoyed the achievement of writing and sharing. For some that was never going to happen, but their stories have left permanent thoughts with me. We published a poetry book for them.It was a great idea but I felt we couldn’t sell it openly as some of the phrases and poems were so good I wasn’t sure if they were really theirs.
If you have a poem written for therapy or a poem you love that someone else wrote about their experiences, (with their permission), please share it in the comments.
Next week – A writing tool kit with exercises.
Writing for pleasure – my book – a wonderful means of expression and a way of life. –
What’s the difference between Creative Writing and Writing for therapy? It is one of the same in many ways.
Writing for Therapy is not directed at a market, or writing purely for pleasure, it is about using words to analyze and plan. Your words can be a basis for discussion with a friend or in a group.
Writing things down – fact or fiction can help.
Teaching Writing for Therapy is about individuals. In this introduction it is not possible to tailor it to individuals. I can’t slow down, go faster, or stop and listen. Please remember that this is an introduction.
This is about word association directly not like the creative word association in the first lesson.
Write a word you are contemplating regarding a problem then write as many words as you like, that you associate with it. It is better to write quickly rather than taking time to think. When you have your words take the word that you think is the most important one and the then the word you think is least important and do the exercise again based on these words.
You will see how you have broken a situation down into small parts. Now make at least one constructive plan based on your words. Try to write and add to a ‘can do’ something about, list of words. There are things none of us can do anything about, but look for the can do’s.
Seeing something written down and broken into small parts is all that is needed in a number of situations. A guide of a time schedule for doing things can be constructive, without being too rigid.
You can see how sharing your words should encourage others in a group or a friend or group member can add helpful comments for you. I could suggest a list of topics and situations where this exercise could be used, but that would take pages and pages. This is starting list – add more: Dieting, relationships, growing up and growing older, finances,being abused, time management etc……..
Next week it is about sharing and I will include some case histories without mentioning names.
Reading and writing fiction can take you out of yourself in the way that listening to music or doing anything creative can do. Having something written down can help focus on where to go from a starting point. Make noes can materialise into a plan over a period of time.
At the end of group Writing for Therapy sessions there is an opportunity to share and encourage, or sit in silence.
A family had financial problems. Every member wrote a creative word association then went on to write a direct association and discussed the possibilities. A plan was made. Everyone kept a diary and they were on a journey to get a grip on expenditure. Writing for Therapy was more constructive than arguing.
Writing things down can expand the picture.
Next Week – Sharing and poetry. More case histories.
There are many books written on writing for therapy, but in response to questions asked about my own experience as a Writing for Therapy Tutor I have decided to write 6 free blogs starting today and over the next 5 Wednesdays. .
Introduction followed by:
Week 1 What is the problem?
Week 2 What answers can I find through writing words?
Week 3 Sharing
Week 4 Writing tool kit, with exercises.
Week 5 Responsibility with words and creativity.
Week 6 Don’t give up writing.
Introduction of myself and the subject:
When I started writing seriously and then qualified to be a creative writing tutor, my journey into writing for therapy began.
Firstly, I realised that in teaching a creative subject much about peoples lives spilled out. It isn’t like teaching maths or history when you are dealing with presumed facts.
Secondly, there was scope for using writing alongside other resources for people looking for a hand up in life.
Thirdly, 25 years ago, it was a journey into the unknown. Now creativity in many fields is used to help people along the road of life, including Writing for Therapy.
I have worked in mental health units, at centres for homeless people, in prisons and in adult education centres.
I have been teaching: Creative Writing – communication studies and media.
Now I am retired from paid work, but I am involved in teaching Creative Writing in Sri Lanka. As a volunteer I have worked in schools for girls and teacher training. The idea is to use creative writing skills alongside English grammar and it has met with higher success rates in English as a second language, especially confidence in speaking another language. More on that another time.
Let’s get started:
Which one are you?
I can’t write as I am not creative,
I love writing, but I have not used it for therapy.
If you don’t think you can write it is not an exact subject. Give it a go and keep practicing. It is not about marks out of 10.
If you love writing, it’s a question of finding out how to add on exercises to what is already a way of life – writing for pleasure.
I’ll start with a simple exercise. But it is surprising how difficult some people find it – usually those with and a good academic brain.
1 word, add 19 more.
Lesson. Stop being exact to word numbers, but try and get imaginative.
Not a word association. Go all over the place – let creativity begin.
Write as fast as you can without thinking.
Easy for some takes longer for others.
Rainbow, blue, crisps, shops, coffee, warmth, cold, gloves, elegance, drama, T.V. stories, children, loaves of bread, cooking, mother, memories, photos, albums music .
This took approximately 20 seconds, but then I am used to doing it. Some words obviously connect for me, others not so sure why they came into my mind.
Now I have words to play with and I can go on forever taking out a word and repeating.
If your words associate too closely to the first word and you don’t go anywhere keep doing it. You might like to do the exercise with someone else, or in a group.
The purpose of the exercise – to loosen up your mind. A useful exercise before writing.
Don’t read too much into your list. We will return to it later, but not to analyse. You might find it interesting.
Please don’t think you need to be good at spelling or writing – be prepared to keep going. Share your writing or keep it to yourself – it doesn’t matter.
For writers who write – try something new to write about – check your writing has a work/life balance.
Writing for Therapy can work because it is a journey, because you can share.
No therapeutic resource is a one size fits all. I hope this introduction to writing for therapy free course, may be just one small stepping stone across the rivers of life.
Who is it for
What answers can I find through words?
I wrote a novel when early retirement from the day job gave me the chance. I write with a sense of humor because that’s what comes naturally to me. I love making up characters and stories.
Is it therapy? – Yes – it keeps me happy and interested in life. I’m not trying to overcome or deal with anything. Writing can be pure escapism. A place where you make friends and meet people – real and imagined.
Is it magical? – No – but I get a lot out of it.
My debut novel
Brenda H Sedgwick,
Author. Marriage, a Journey and a Dog. Unusual romance and comedy. Can be read on the beach with ice cream and a smile.
This is Hattie, who I thought of when writing about Spike. Do you have a picture of a Jack Russell Terrier or a dog who might have travelled with Natalie through France and Spain? When I was choosing a dog I stopped many unsuspecting dog owners in the street and took photos of their dogs. I could have used anyone of them. If you have a small dog and a copy of my book, see if you can get a picture of your pet and the book, or your pet and your book and link it to the page.If you have a book staring a dog It would be fun to know about it.
It’s at times like these you realise that you are a better writer than photographer, but the dog and the book are there.
You can send a tweet to @brendahSedgwick with a photo. The pictures can be tranfered to my facebook and shared.