Gillie Bolton’s life’s work has been devoted to the creative writing process as a self-development and reflective tool. The Writer’s Key is her latest addition to an already healthy bibliography. For a newbie writer, this book offers some valuable and warm-hearted support into creative writing for personal development. For a more experienced one, it could serve as kindly companion who could nudge you when a block emerges or a spark is lost.

Like therapy can, Bolton believes that creative writing can deepen our understanding of ourselves and how we respond to life. She encourages us to work through problems, big or small, on the page and offers various means of doing so – each chapter ends with a menu of writing prompts and exercises. She conveys the power of writing to harness our inner wisdom, and to access answers we may know already, but also maybe also don’t know that we know. Bolton’s enthusiasm and faith in our inner author is infectious – I’d hope to ignite the same with my clients.

The Writer’s Key begins at ‘the beginning’, speaking to those with no prior creative writing experience. One of her core ideas that reappears from other work is the ‘six minute write’ – a method of splurging words down, without stopping, in a judgement-free way. Regardless if it makes sense, has grammar or punctuation, this helps to clear a path for the more focused writing exercises. Subsequent chapters can be read separately, but there is a developmental sense in their order: from journalling, descriptions and poetry to later, more ambitious (for the writer) chapters on developing fiction and use of metaphor and writing about dreams. I particularly liked the chapter on ‘Mentors and Terrorists’ where Bolton suggests ways of dialoguing between our powerful wise self and our self-destructive force.

Dialoguing between parts of self may be familiar to some in therapy, and a chapter ‘Conversation with Myself’ delves deeper into ways of doing this – including the crafting of a play with characters representing our different parts. Indeed many suggested exercises may make this book a potential close ally to therapeutic work. And indeed, the book is generous with anecdote – personal and other – of the tremendous psychological benefits reaped from this type of writing work.

A version of this appears in Private Practice journal.