The healing power of creative writing

Writing can be therapeutic even when it appears to have nothing at all to do with the events of our lives. Here’s how.  

In my last post I was talking about the healing power of dreams to ground us physically and emotionally when we get over-stressed and too much ‘in our head.’ Since then, I’ve been to a Lapidus workshop in Bristol which has made me want to share my thoughts on the healing power of creative writing.

Lapidus - 'words for well-being'
Lapidus – ‘words for well-being’

Lapidus is an organisation for writing therapists; it includes mental health practitioners who use creative writing within their clinical practice and authors who teach writing in non-clinical settings as a route to greater understanding of the self and the world.

Some of the wonderful books on offer at the Lapidus conference
Some of the wonderful books on offer at the Lapidus conference

Most of the Lapidus workshops I’ve attended have involved writing about our real-life personal experiences, and they have felt rather like counselling sessions, where the theoretical base seems to be about moving towards catharsis or reframing difficult life events or relationships.

One of the great tools of writing therapy is ‘journaling.’ This is a regular practice of personal writing reflecting on personal insights, day-to-day experiences, dreams and inspirations; it’s pretty much what my dream-diaries have evolved into over the years and I can highly recommend it.

But creative writing doesn’t have to be autobiographical in order to be therapeutic. Every poem or piece of fiction we write connects us to our authentic emotions, like the sad dream I was talking about in my last post; it takes us beyond the narrow limits of what we are capable of understanding about ourselves and releases us into the wide, fast flow of emotional and imaginal experiences that make us who we are.

Do you keep a writing journal? Or have you experienced the healing power of writing in other ways? I love to hear about your thoughts and experiences

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10 thoughts on “The healing power of creative writing”

  1. Hi Jenny,
    I agree with you that sometimes, and rather often, imaginative writing is as good or better than strictly autobiographical writing when it comes to writing to heal. Sometimes the roadblocks to actual memory are so great because the memory is traumatic. However, in fiction or poetry, the writer can create distance from the actual while still addressing the emotional truth of a memory or event. In my work with cancer patients and their families, I have often witnessed this.

  2. HI Jenny,
    I wonder, from your attendance at Lapidus workshops, if you’re aware of the Metanoia course in creative writing for therapeutic purposes, run in London & Bristol, going from Certificate level, all the way up to MSc. The course includes an extensive element on journalling and the impact of dreams. Here’s a link to the next introductory taster day, if you were at all interested: http://www.ahsw.org.uk/training_and_cpd.aspx?x=1&id=1352

    1. Hi Shelley – thank-you for this. As a long-time member of lapidus I am aware of Metanoia, but I’ve OK’d your comment because other readers might not have heard of it. I do have a strong interest in writing for therapeutic purposes but it’s only one aspect of my work and I’m afraid I’m just too busy with my bread-and-butter writing and teaching to do any formal courses at this point.

  3. I journaled for about 20 years and it helped me tremendously. Somehow I got away from doing that but recently I’ve started writing poetry and reading the poetry of others. It’s been tremendously helpful. I strongly believe in using writing and other creative endeavors in helping us to cope with life’s difficulties and heal our hearts and souls. I look forward to reading more on this topic.

    1. Thank you for commenting – your comment feels timely. I’ve been journalling much more since my mother’s death six months ago, and blogging much less, indeed wondering whether to let the blog go. But I enjoy it, and it has a lot of readers now, and this feels like a nudge to get started again 🙂

      1. I understand grief and loss well. Sometimes we need a break and time to heal. But I think your blog can help others to cope with their own sufferings. I hope you keep your blog. If you feel comfortable sharing, perhaps you can share parts of your journal.

        1. Thank-you, HeartacheRx. I wouldn’t share my journal, but I do share my experiences if I think they might resonate, once the storm is over. That sharing feels important to me, tribal almost, like elders sharing stories under the tree.

          1. It’s helped me tremendously to know that I’m not alone in my suffering. It’s comforting to know that someone else knows how I feel. I’m sure anything you share will be helpful to others.

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