Writing for health

This is not an article on how to write for the health market (if that’s what you’re looking for, read A Health Writer Coughs Up) but rather an insight into how writing can be good for your health. While professional or semi-professional writers who have just had a string of rejections, worked past midnight to meet a deadline and whose bank accounts are on life support may shudder at the thought, let’s not forget that many people write for the sheer pleasure of it.  And that’s something we should all try to reclaim.

Health benefits

Pen and Tonic is a community organisation that promotes the health benefits of creative, expressive and free flow writing. They help people to find their voice, reduce their stress levels and build confidence. Bridget Shea from Pen and Tonic says:

Our mission is to spread the word on the positive impact writing for health has on mental and physical well being.

The Crafty Writer asked Bridget to explain a bit more about the concept of writing for health:

“For many people the word ‘writing’ is loaded with connotations.  Some people believe it’s an inborn talent, Pen and Tonic believes it can be learned. 

Love what you do

Writing expressively challenges the perceptions that writing is only for clever people. Using techniques and triggers enables people, however limited their literacy skills or creative writing experience to produce writing of integrity and uniqueness of voice.   So whatever our experience we can grow to love it and if you love something you’ll put everything you have into it and excel at it.

Reducing stress

Some of us find it difficult to verbalise our problems but writing about them can help reduce anxiety and depression. Put simply: it makes us feel better. The experience of writing for health can help us gain insight; by stepping back and observing our problems.

Creating a piece of writing such as a poem from seemingly chaotic or insurmountable problems is deeply satisfying.  Using metaphor helps us to visualize our own inner strengths and create coping mechanisms.  We’re also creating a piece of art; something outside of ourselves that speaks to others; something in which we can take pride.

When ‘writing’ is a turn-off

People are often referred to Pen and Tonic’s workshops through health and social care providers. They are frequently more than a little reluctant to attend an activity with ‘writing’ in its description.  Some initially attend ‘to get out of the house’ or ‘because there’s a ‘crèche’.  Sometimes only two or three participants will turn up to the first session.  Once they experience for themselves the benefits of writing, not only do they come back but they start spreading the word. By session three, numbers have invariably trebled or quadrupled. ”

Pen and Tonic’s writing for health workshops provide opportunities for everyone, whatever their experience, to access the therapeutic potential of creative writing. So if you or someone else you know might benefit from a Writing for Health workshop, check out the Pen and Tonic website for more details. The January workshops are based in Newcastle upon Tyne. The closing date for enrolment is 30 December 2009.

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  1. A health writer coughs up

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