Writing for Wellbeing: Using Metaphor



Images are powerful things. The best writing is imagistic, powerful, visual. Since starting this course in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes, it seems like I can’t express how I feel without turning to metaphor. There are some emotions that would take pages to untangle and analyse, but when associated with an image, can suddenly make our feelings clear. 

Like standing on an unsteady ladder. We feel worried, we feel nervous, we know we’re in danger, we’re continuing anyway. But that feeling? That specific feeling when you’re on the edge and you can feel yourself falling? Well, we may not have all been on a rickety ladder, but we can all understand what that means.


Images are the best way to succinctly and clearly explain how you feel. There is a place for writing reams and reams in a journal or diary, exploring feelings and specific instances, but the use of metaphor explains just how powerful poetry can be when we’re trying to emotionally connect something.


Metaphors can’t really be forced. To push them is to somehow make them less encompassing. But next time you’re trying to explain a difficult emotion, see if you automatically use a metaphor. We use them so often now, without even thinking. And next time you do use one, write it down, explore it, continue it. 


Just as in English class our job was to identify those images and tear them apart, I am asking you to build them up. Embellish them. If you feel like a caged bird, what is the cage made of? What colour is your plume? What song do you sing? Where does the bird wish to go? Explore your image, because metaphors are a path to deeper understanding. We use them because it’s an easy connection- something in us identifies with that image, but by exploring it, we can reveal so much more!



A Reminder that my Writing for Wellbeing Workshop in Barnet is now up and running. You can find details HERE and HERE. It’s a full day of writing tasks and discussion, guaranteed to leave you feeling thoughtful and uplifted, and hopefully with a collection of writing work you can feel proud of! Please do get in touch if you’re interested by emailing andrealmichael@aol.com



On Waiting for Inspiration

Once, I used to think of inspiration as a fleeting mistress. It was a cliched and enjoyable notion. Oh, nope, Inspiration’s not here, can’t write today! I can’t be expected to write without being inspired!

Some people still stick to this. Other writers will say to write every day, regardless of what it is. Like a blog post, perhaps. So now you know my motivations.

Now, I think of Inspiration in a different way. More like a baby, growing inside a mother, Inspiration needs time to mature. I can feel the churning away of my mind, collating all the data that I’ve taken in over the last few weeks and months, trying to find a shape in the form of a story.

What’s great is that I don’t panic about it anymore. Because I know it’s always there, waiting. It’s like being very aware of your body clock, knowing when your brain is going to click into place and make you pick up a pen.


I like it.

The basis of this has always been to expose yourself to new experiences. I recently went on a trip to San Francisco, one of my favourite cities, home to some of my favourite people. And I had a fantastic time. But I was expecting a new novel idea to just appear out of thin air. The reason it didn’t? I’ve been to San Francisco three times now. It’s not new. It’s brilliant, but it’s not sparking any synapses. That doesn’t mean I didn’t glean a few settings for stories, or nuggets of information from my thoughtful friends. But it’s the new experiences that make Inspiration get her act together.


This is SF to me

Similarly, the oldest writing adage still rings true: Write what you know. So, whilst I was waiting for Inspiration to work herself out, I started listing all the things I know. The things I see that other people don’t, the understanding of situations that other people haven’t been in. What makes my view different and what makes it true? I analysed my upbringing, my cultural background, my job, the people I see, the things I find interesting.


And as I allowed my mind to explore these options, a new story started coming into view. So we’ve decided Inspiration isn’t so much a fickle mistress as she is a very picky dinner guest. Provide her with varied nourishment, a steak she can truly stick her teeth into, and she’ll pay the bill. Feed her the same rabbit food of your every day life, and she’s likely to dine elsewhere.


I like it.

So what next? Well, in my personal system, I allow this idea to slowly come to it’s own conclusions. I don’t talk about it with other people. The only thing I’ll say is that I have an idea. Discussing it is like talking about a business deal that might yet fall through. Treat Inspiration with caution, and your own ideas as frail and delicate. A character walking through your subconscious may not stand up to your internal critic just yet. Let them grow of their own accord, let their environment colour itself in, let a storyline emerge, defined by character.

This is my personal response to Inspiration. She’ll turn up when she’s needed. And whilst she’s hiding out, I’ll be off having adventures. She can join me when she’s ready.