As unpaid carers our minds can be clouded by the many things on our 'to-do' lists. Lydia, at Carers Leeds shares how creative writing, can help us create healthy internal dialogues with our experiences and regain some control.
Children spend hours painting, writing and allowing their imaginations to run wild. As adults and as carers, we can feel like those creative days are a thing of the past, even though a creative outlet can be hugely beneficial.
Reconnecting with our creativity can decrease our stress levels. And who knows, we might even discover a new talent.
Creative writing is a great way to reconnect with our imaginations - a chance to escape to a new world and create a universe completely different to ours.
"And it can be a great way for us to process difficult emotions that can be hard to share out loud."
This could be to express our thoughts and feelings about being an unpaid carer or to write our personal story.
Here are some ways to help us get started with our creative writing:
1. Use prompts
A prompt is a simple way to kickstart our writing. Prompts are all around us from images, words, songs, artwork and more. For example, open a book, turn to page 30 and read the first line. Write something beginning with that sentence.
Here are some other ways to use prompts:
We can put a word into Google Images, this could be 'landscape', 'birds', 'colours' or anything we like! Pick an image and write a response to it. Try describing the following;
Where are we?
Who lives here?
What are they doing?
What's the air temperature here?
How does it feel?
What happened straight after this picture was taken?
We can also start listening to a song and press pause after one minute. Carry on writing the song with our ending.
If we enjoy structure, we can also try using these daily writing prompts.
2. Share our message
What do we want to say to the world? Creative writing can help us express that.
We might be ready to start writing about what we know. We can try writing in first person by
starting ten lines with "I am.." and think of all the things we are. Such as;
"I am kind"
"I am resourceful"
"I am strong"
"I am tired"
Is there anything in particular that we want to write a full page about? This could be about our caring role. Does one memory make us want to put pen to paper? Or do we want to take a chronological approach and talk about the journey we have taken?
It can be helpful for us to make a mind map of everything we could possible write about and highlight the most interesting topics.
Or perhaps we are not ready to share our message just yet. Instead, we may want to try free writing and journaling to off-load our emotions and reorganise our thoughts before we start diving into and creating a whole new world. And that's okay too.
3. Books to inspire
In addition to thinking about what we know, we can now try looking at other writers for inspiration.
Read different styles of writing:
Eimear McBride, award winning author of 'A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing', offers her advice here.
Journals also offer a simple, structured way to start writing. There are so many around but we like these ones:
4. Get into character
There are lots of ways we can get into character. Try assuming a different persona and writing from their perspective.
Think about where they live. What road do they live on? What colour is their bedroom?
Draw their family tree
Create a playlist of songs they would listen to
What are their likes and dislikes? From TV, food, celebrities and fashion
Describe a typical day for them
Having a full character can help us begin to write from somebody else's perspective.
5. Keep reading!
Reading other people's work can be a great way to find out what style of writing we do and don't like! As a carer, of course, it can be hard to find time to read. That's where audiobooks can really help. It's easy to pop on some headphones and listen to an audiobook while we are doing something else whether that's cooking, cleaning or walking from A to B.
Becoming a member at our local library is a great idea - that way we aren't spending too much money on books, and librarians can also offer suggestions of books you might like. Audiobooks are also available from the library.
It would be helpful to keep a list of our favourite authors, lines and chapters or genres. And how could we replicate or respond to it in our own writing?
6. Join a group or workshop
There are lots of creative writing workshops facilitated by experienced writers who offer support and guidance in a relaxed environment. We can search Eventbrite for workshops in our area.
Local theatres sometimes run series of writing workshops, so make sure we check our nearest one, or give them a ring for more information.
We could set one up for ourselves and some friends who want to start writing. Put on some music and all concentrate for half an hour. Share back and get some supportive feedback.
Alternatively, we can have a look at the huge number of online workshops. Masterclass offers writing workshops from world-famous writers like James Patterson, Neil Gaiman and Judy Blume.
7. Our voice, our style
Ultimately, we all have our own style of writing and a unique viewpoint. Our story or character is just as important as anyone else. If we need a confidence boost, read just a paragraph to a friend and then one day, maybe our whole book!
"Flow, like peace of mind, is a state we can only achieve when we are not trying to achieve it."
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About the author
Lydia is a support worker at Carers Leeds, where she creates groups and activities to bring carers together in a positive and uplifting way.
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