I’ve plugged the Artist’s Way before here and for not dissimilar reasons I give the thumbs up to Write Yourself – an addition to Gillie Bolton‘s ceaseless enquiry into the benefits of writing for creative or therapeutic purposes. She has an interesting background of research into the field (there’s a fair amount in the USA, Finland and Holland but scarce funding for it here) as well as a particular interest in Medical Humanities – a field I didn’t even know existed.

She takes you through lots of ideas about writing for personal development, contextualizing them with case studies and contributions from colleagues (with a conversation at the end with a leading Finnish expert in the field). Personally, and from the experience of many clients, a number of exercises she suggests have proven very useful. Such as:

  • 6 minute free-write….Letting yourself scrawl on a page for 6 minutes without stopping or caring about grammar, spelling, punctuation or presentation at all. This may help to clear your mind (before therapy, before a meeting, before anything you want more mental space for) or it can serve as a valuable precursor to other exercises such as:
  • writing a letter (NOT to be sent) to your ‘inner mentor’ when you lack confidence/clarity over an issue
  • writing a letter (NOT to be sent) to someone who you are in deep conflict with. Maybe the person is dead.
  • write a habitual phrase used by anyone in your life or past when it irritated you (eg ‘life is hard, get on with it’). Write about who said it and when, why you think they said this so often and then, write a letter to them explaining how it made you feel, along with their reply

Whatever the exercise, the important thing is only YOU have the choice if you are going to read back what you have written or if you are going to let anyone else read it too. You can delay reading it as long as you like, and then edit it if you want.

Many people are surprised at the power of writing things down in this way – how clarifying or revealing it can be. We know that writing and talking spring from different areas of the brain, so it also makes sense to me why it is that writing can produce ideas and concepts not spoken about out loud. I’ve long been interested in the difference between someone’s oral and written fluency.