Writing Together: Therapeutic Writing in Mental Health – 4

Another extract from the ongoing serialization of Chapter 7 of the Words for Wellbeing book…

Inspiration for writing

Here are some examples of writing stimuli that I think can work well in a mental health unit (roughly in the order of frequency that I use them). Where I have quoted from a participant’s writing the prompt word or other stimulus is given in square brackets after the quote.

Freewriting, e.g., using sets of words as prompts, e.g., pool, moon, sky and cloud; snow, cave, mountain and river; red, blue, green and yellow.

Graham: “While serving in the Armed Forces an exercise to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco resulted in trekking across peaks early before sunrise. Gentle as a breeze which will only disturb a feather or as strong as a lion with a roar to match.” [avalanche]

Carol: “I love it when an avalanche of words pour out of my head onto the page. To me the word avalanche sounds interesting but the things themselves are so destructive and scary.” [avalanche]

Graham: “When working I have been described as an animal, what type of animal I do not know but possibly a bull as I am a Taurus.” [animal]

The following four pieces of freewriting were all written by the same person (Janice) in a one-to-one writing session. After she had finished writing them I showed her how what she had written could be turned into a poem, which follows the four short pieces.
“Clouds shining in the sky. Birds flying through the air. Black clouds, white clouds. All around clouds.” [cloud]
“Sun shining brightly making us happy. Sun mellow yellow brightening the day.” [sunshine]
“River flowing past, current flowing fast. Boats and vessels sailing on a blue, clean river. Throwing stones into rivers and splashing.” [river]
“Flowing on in chatting. Flowing freely and easily. Flowing on like a river” [river]

On the River with Family and Friends by Janice and Carol

Clouds shining in the sky
Birds flying through the air
Black clouds, white clouds
Clouds all around.
Sun shining brightly
Making us happy.
Mellow yellow
Sunshine
Brightening the day.
River flowing fast
Current rushing past
Boats and vessels
Sailing on a blue clean
River.

Picture postcards. I use picture postcards often, in all sorts of ways, and consider them to be endlessly adaptable. Often I ask people to each choose a card that appeals and give them ideas to get them started writing, e.g., write what you see, imagine the scene in another season, imagine you were there, write the ‘story’ of the picture. Sometimes we all write about the same card. Once when I asked everyone to write about the same card and write what they could see in the picture, all but one of us described the tangible elements of the picture – sea, sand, sky, car, man, woman. But interestingly one person wrote solely about the emotions she could see being played out between the man and the woman in the picture. The differences in our responses to the cards and the ‘stories’ we devise make for interesting writing and stimulating discussions.

George: “I would like to climb up Dodd Fell because it is no longer covered in conifer trees. Perhaps I will see a red squirrel. I have never seen a red squirrel except on posters and in nature magazines. I would like to join the organisation relating to them. I also want to join Friends of the Earth and some similar organisations. This September I am going to start studying for a three-year degree course in Ecology and Environmental Protection at Lancaster University or the University of Cumbria.” [a photograph of a red squirrel]

Objects, either an eclectic assortment, e.g., a dolly peg, an evening purse, a compass, a perfume bottle and an ornamental box; or a themed collection, e.g., half a dozen pairs of gloves (including work gloves).

George: “The compass reminds me of wonderful walking days in the Lake District. It also reminds me that I need to buy a compass, and also a rucksack and some waterproof trousers.” [a compass]

George: “In the purse there is a pearl. It is a real one. It reminds me of days on the beach.” [an empty purse]

Nigel: “Rebecca was excited as she unwrapped the small parcel with which she had just been presented. Inside was a little house. She loved everything miniature and the gift appealed to her enormously. There was ivy growing up the walls and benches outside the front. It was just the sort of perfect little cottage that she imagined living in when she grew up. She wanted to keep a tea shop and this would be ideal. She picked up the house by its roof, which came off, revealing that as well as being a perfect miniature house it was a perfect little box. She knew immediately what she would use it for, she would keep her baby teeth in it. She had just lost her first one and knew that she would keep the rest. The house would make a wonderful place to keep them.” [a small box in the shape of a cottage]

To be continued …

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About Carol Ross

Interested in therapeutic writing.
This entry was posted in Books, Wellbeing, Writing, Writing Ideas and Prompts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Writing Together: Therapeutic Writing in Mental Health – 4

  1. Louise Hart says:

    Encouraging therapeutic writing by using prompts etc, produces responses which highlight our subjective “natures” and experiences, regardless of the setting in which it is produced. For example, the anti-creative setting of a mental health unit, and, undoubtedly, helps “patients” rediscover aspects of “selves,” which, perhaps, have withered beneath the pressure of psychiatric symtoms.

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