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Excess Baggage and how Writing can help.

 

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We’ve all got baggage, it’s a fact of life. We all have rich histories, full of trials, tribulations and joy. And with that, comes a big suitcase full of stuff. Some of it we’ve dealt with, some of it we’re putting off unpacking.

 

So, how can creativity help? Writing allows us to ‘write around’ those subjects, the one’s that are a little too painful to face head on, but we can write our way into them, as if we’re looking at them using our peripheral vision, acknowledging them, but not waving a red flag.

Writing lets us focus on a tiny fragment. Perhaps you’re not ready to talk about the pain of losing your mother. But you might be able to write about the china teapot she used to keep in the cupboard when you were a child. Each of these fragments that we can access gets us a little bit closer to unpacking that baggage, and walking away a little bit lighter.

 

Why not try it out for yourself? My Writing for Wellbeing Workshop is on Saturday 26th May, 10am-4pm. And you can get it for HALF PRICE if you book THIS WEEK!  Just put FACEBOOK50 into the Promo Code box on eventbrite: click HERE. 

 

(This means you get a whole day workshop, all materials, snacks, teas and coffees and a beautiful lunch for £32.50!- can you get better than that? There’s no excuse not to try something new!)

 

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Giving Yourself Permission to Write

Even as a professional writer, taking the time to write feels a bit selfish. Yes, I’ve got a deadline, and yes, it’s a business, but still. I get to sit here and make up stories, and it feels a little self indulgent. I could be doing my laundry, or cleaning the house, or advertising the book. We often take the stance that this is procrastination, and sometimes it is. But other times, it can come from the idea that what we’re doing isn’t worthy of the time we’re spending on it.

Writing is something just for you. In many ways it’s a completely solo activity. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, people write in a group, and share stories, create together, but usually, the process of drawing out a story from within you to on the page, is a personal journey. Learning that the stories you have to tell are relevant and important is necessary to work well. If you think about it in terms of your feelings, regardless of how the work will be received or what others will say- you have a story within you, and you need to get it out. If the story stays untold, unacknowledged, it’s not going to be good for you. It’ll sit forgotten, itching at you. Like many things that reoccur and pop into our heads, nudging us for attention, it’s important to listen to them.

To ignore your artistry is to ignore how you work, and how you feel about it all. I run Writing for Wellbeing Workshops, and these are a fairly new and holistic way of using creativity. It’s thinking about the process and not about the outcome. Obviously, the writing you produced has a part to play, and often you’ll create some beautiful and meaningful work. The reason people come to these workshops is because they feel they need permission to spend the time on their writing, to take a break from their lives for the day, and focus solely on them and their creativity. It’s a brilliant atmosphere, and the hope is that when you finish the day, you’ll take away the sense that writing is good for you, and it’s not selfish to do it, but necessary and helpful to you.

There’s more details on the workshop here, but always try to remember that anything you do has purpose, and you can’t feel guilty about that.

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Owning, not Moaning: How Writing Can Offer a Positive Perspective

You know that image of the moody teenager curled up in her room, writing poetry about how life is meaningless, or that boy she likes doesn’t notice her, or that nothing ever changes? Why do you think that’s become a cliche? Is it that creative people feel more deeply? Or it is that strong feelings are released through creativity?

Picking up a pen when life gets you down doesn’t have to be about losing yourself in your problems. You don’t have to write depressing poetry, or moan about your life in a journal. You can, if you think it will help, but some people don’t like to get too bogged down thinking about their issues, feeling like focusing on them will only make them feel more negative.

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There’s a place for this theory in writing for wellbeing. Yesterday, I woke up in a foul mood. The neighbours had been partying right through until I got up at 6am. I kept dropping things, losing things, and was pretty much a rain cloud for anyone I interacted with. And I didn’t want to stay that way. So I sat down with a cup of tea, and I wrote a list of things that made me happy. True little details that gave me joy. Listening to Belle and Sebastian on sunny days, singing in the car, walking barefoot on wet grass. I filled two pages with these random little details that make me happy, and when I stopped, I was able to realise I’d fixed my own mood. Sure, that morning had pissed me off, but it was behind me now.

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Writing acts as a perspective shift. Other ways of doing this are writing down your issue, then retelling it from a different person’s position. Even writing in third person (he/she) instead of first (I/me) gives you distance. And that’s what you want, in order to affect change, you need space. You need a moment to move away from what’s been bugging you, and to switch your focus.

 

We’ll be exploring more positive uses for writing in my Writing for Wellbeing Workshop in April, (April 26th 10am-4pm Barnet) more details HERE.

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Write What We Know, or Write to Discover?

It’s an old writing adage that we should write what we know. Some contest it, some live by it. I think it’s rather unavoidable. Even if you’re writing about a futuristic world war where robots made from old bean tins have started a mutiny, you’re writing about human emotions. Even when it’s robots.

We can’t help but write what we know…it’s just that sometimes we don’t know that we know it. My point here? Writing is revelatory. It’s all very well saying that if we’ve been a butcher for fifteen years, we should use our experience to influence our settings, lend authenticity to our creations, but often we find parts of ourselves embedding in our fiction anyway. 

I’ve often written things, and only found where their familiarity comes from when someone else points it out. Ah, that broken toaster that was a metaphor for how we love unconditionally, we actually had one of those in our first house, didn’t we? Huh.

These aren’t always major revelations, but with the right questions and tasks, they can be very powerful. As writers, people often think we spend a lot of time on self-reflection, but the truth is, if we’re dealing in fiction, we’re more interested in other people. Usually the ones who are having conversations in our heads! But we can use what we enjoy and find useful, to explore parts of our own lives!

Think about how you come up with a character’s name, or when you’re a reader, how do you identify with the character. What does their name signify? What possible meanings can come from it. Now think about your names. Not just your given name, but any nicknames, any affectionate words, or unwanted familiarities. How do they make you feel? How do they define you? We name characters and allow their names to shape them- are we given the same opportunity? What about titles? Wife, mother, husband, brother, teacher, agony aunt? Boss? How is who we are shaped by the names we are given.

These are just some small wonderings, but it’s an example of how we use writing to look inward, even when we’re creating outwardly, and it’s part of a task I’ll be doing at my Writing for Wellbeing Workshop in Barnet in April!

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For details and tickets, click HERE

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Finchley Literary Festival and Competition!

Hello there!

I’m super excited to be involved with the Finchley Literary Festival, happening this May, in a variety of excellent venues around (you guessed it!) Finchley, North London. I’ll be running my typical DumbSaint Creative Writing Workshop for kids in Friern Barnet Community Library on Wednesday 28th May, for two sessions (10.30am-11.15am and 11.30am-12.15pm). No booking needed and it’s FREE!

Come play with the Story Dice, be a Prop Detective, create a superhero, race in the Sixty Second Scribble and loads more great games!

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL ARTY FOLKS!

COMPETITION TIME!

Greenacre Writers, who are presenting the festival, are looking for one creative young person to design a logo for the festival! 

All you have to do is look at the flyers below to get an idea of last years style, then submit your logo idea to andrealmichael@aol.com

The winner will get a copy of this years anthology, a free ticket to the festival, their name plastered all about, and cake and thanks from the Greenacre Writers 😀

 

DETAILS/RULES:

  • You have to be from the borough of Barnet (preferably Finchley!) BUT if you can offer us some sort of tenuous link to Finchley (your favourite pub, for example?!) we might look the other way …. 
  • Adults and children are encouraged to join in, whether you’re a designer, a student or just like to draw!
  • We will be keeping the font used in the below documents, so try and find something that would go well with it!
  • All applications have to include a name, age, a couple of sentences about yourself, and the image in the highest resolution you can offer. 
  • All applications must be received by Sunday 23rd March 

Other than that, happy designing!

Sample images: 

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Writing For Wellbeing: Fragments of ‘Us’

Writing For Wellbeing: Fragments of ‘Us’

 

 

As many of you know, I’m currently setting up workshops in Writing for Wellbeing, as I continue training in my MsC in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. 

The Arts have always been accepted as having healing properties, it’s why art therapists and music therapists are so widely accepted in hospitals, hospices, rehab facilities, and why the arts are at the forefront of the health and wellbeing industry. But where have the writers been in this? 

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Writers are very often complicated people with complex lives and emotions, and putting things down on the page, whether as autobiography or as fiction, is a release from that. How about journals? As children and teenagers, diaries were encouraged as a way to share the thoughts that we weren’t comfortable or capable of expressing to the adults in our lives. Why is that any different now? Sometimes, we just need a space to address and accept the parts of our lives we’re not sure about, without judgement or comment. Writing is the simplest way to open a direct line with your subconscious, open up your feelings, and validate how you feel.

 

We all have stories of value, we all have moments that make us who we are. My style of workshops (and my style of writing) is influenced by ideas of fragmentation. We all exist in a series of moments, a childhood memory, a dream, a description of your mother’s kitchen, – our lives and our selves are made up of snapshots. They’re not necessarily in order, and you might not be the same person you were in those moments- but they’re still a part of you. 

Connecting to your stories through a fragmented writing process can bring a sense of calm, confidence, and a greater sense of self. It also allows us to be more empathetic with our ‘selves’. To look back and say ‘yes, I see why he/she made that decision, fair enough.’ To get some distance, some perspective, and look inwards with kindness.

Our lives are brilliant interweaving tapestries, complex and sustained narratives that are still growing and changing every day. Writing for Wellbeing, and working with fragments, can work a lot like therapy, helping us to break down the chunks, but to also take a step back and look at the bigger picture of who we are. 

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Sounds like a lot? It’s also fun! It’s brilliant to unearth those beautiful memories you thought you’d lost, to make up stories that make you laugh, to adequately and comfortably handle those stories that you never think about. 

If you’re interested in what Writing for Wellbeing can do for you, leave me a message here, and stay tuned for the workshop in April 2014, based in Barnet.

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Words With Edge Fest

So, as my residency at Red Door Studios draws to a close, I have one BIG project left: Words With Edge Literary Festival. (See our excellent Poster designed by Lauren Stone at the bottom.)

So, what is Words With Edge? Simply, it’s a lit fest without the pretension. You don’t have to be a writer, you don’t have to be a reader, you just have to be open to experiencing new things! And we’ve got some brilliant stuff:

  • Dizraeli
  • Hollie Mcnish (workshop AND performance!)
  • Slambassadors
  • Clare Murphy
  • Workshops by Steven Sparling, Louise Davidson and myself, varying from how to market as an artist, scriptwriting, and writing for wellness. Plus Steven will be using his talents as a voice specialist to show you how to SPEAK UP! What’s a writer if they can’t read it out?!
  • Joz Norris’ excellent Edinburgh Fringe Show ‘Awkward Prophet’
  • Carmina Masoliver
  • The Roundhouse graduated Early Doors Collective
  • Myths of the Near Future
  • 4’33’ Magazine
  • Talks and stalls by Atlantic Books, Stairwell Books and many more!
  • A short play by The Woodhouse Players
  • A Literary Themed Red Doors Pub Quiz with Treehouse Quizzes
  • AND Story themed CAKE CLUB!

AND MANY MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED!

I’m really excited to  be running my first Writing for Wellness Workshop, following on from my studies in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes at the Metanoia Institute. It should be a thoroughly creative week of events, workshops, classes and talks, as well as first class performances!

 

GET EXCITED!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Litfest poster