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Regular news and insight from our many poets, writers, educators and facilitators

20 January 2020

Posted by Joanna Barnard

Write Yourself Well?

Write yourself well?

Those of us fortunate enough to work and participate in Artful Scribe events already know the truth of what last year’s ‘Great British Creativity Test’ – commissioned by BBC Arts in partnership with UCL – examined: creative activities can help us manage our mood and boost wellbeing. Engaging with the arts is good for us.

I’ve personally been a creative writer as long as I can remember, scribbling stories seemingly from the moment I could hold a pen. I’ve no doubt that in difficult times through my life, writing has been a powerful outlet for my emotions; and perhaps even more importantly, that regular writing practice has sustained me in ways I (ironically!) find hard to articulate. From the angst-ridden teenage diaries to the novels in which I’ve worked out, albeit in fiction, some of the big questions I carry about life and relationships, writing has always been my go-to self-help tool.

A few years ago, my life changed when my first novel won a prize and my dream of becoming a published writer was realised; alongside these events, I was re-training as a psychotherapeutic counsellor, having decided I wanted a job where I could help and support others. I became increasingly curious about ‘joining up’ my two chief areas of interest: writing and therapy. I wondered whether I could help others use writing as a tool to protect and maintain, perhaps even improve, mental and emotional wellness.

 In 2017 I started to explore how this might look in a workshop setting, and ran a few trial sessions in a local wellbeing centre. I had recently started facilitating women’s writing groups for So:write (http://artfulscribe.co.uk/blog-category/women-s-writing), and as the trust within those groups was building, I noticed some of the sessions were starting to feel a little like therapy, as voices were found and stories shared.

Fast forward a few years and in February 2020 I will be launching Writing for Wellbeing in Southampton Central Library under the generous umbrella of Artful Scribe with support from the Arts Council. A lot of people coming along for the first time, or contemplating joining the course, might wonder how a ‘writing for wellness’ workshop will look and feel. The Great British Creativity Test research shows there are 3 main ways we use creativity as a coping mechanism:

  1. A distraction tool – using creativity to avoid stress.
  2. A contemplation tool – using creativity to give us the mind space to reassess problems in our lives and make plans.
  3. A means of self-development to face challenges by building up self-esteem and confidence.

I hope the workshops will hit these three marks. Exercises roughly fall into three categories:

  1. Writing for joy / playfulness (distraction) 
  2. Writing linked to particular emotional ‘themes’ (contemplation).
  3. Writing for its own sake, to share with others (if you want to) and possibly with a view to later publication or performance (self-development).  

No-one is forced to read their words aloud, although they are encouraged and supported to do so if they wish. Exercises are generally short and, I hope, inclusive and accessible. Writing for wellbeing is about first of all giving yourself permission; and next, being heard and supported.

Sound good? Join us, or connect via email or one of our social media channels to start the conversation. I’d love to hear your stories.

 Useful links:

Twitter: @wellbeingwrite

Facebook: @writingforwellbeing

Email: sowriteforwellbeing@gmail.com


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