Writing as therapy - creative writing as therapy

Writing as therapy - Revealing the writer within

Writing as therapy is a well-known concept, but not an effectively utilized concept I would like to think. How often does our writing reveal more of us than we intend to, highlighting our dreams, our ambitions, our desires, our insecurities, fears and the angst within. I am amazed to see that each time I sit down to write a creative piece I see more of me, the inner real me shining through a character’s words, emotions or aspirations. At first this actually disturbed me, as a person who likes to keep personal things personal, but the therapeutic nature of any art form is self expression in ways that are not so obvious to the writer. I would like to clarify at this juncture that I am talking about writing as a therapy and not therapeutic writing, which is directed by a trained therapist

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Therapy with freedom

What gives a writer the freedom to be himself/herself is that, even if the readers know the writer well or think they know, they are left to divide the soul from the spirit of the written words. The soul being the mind which employs creative skills to contrive, dramatize or underplay or highlight emotions or the strengths of the character, from the real person, the writer, the spirit behind the creation. The writer has the luxury of hiding his/her insecurities under the cloak of his/her satire or humor, cynicism or whatever techniques they choose to employ. Yet, the writer knows who he/she is. In some ways creative writing could be a self- portrait of the author’s beliefs, values and understanding of life. Although a writer may start out to keep the character as distinct and unique from themselves as possible, it is often likely that the voice of the writer his/her attitudes, beliefs and interest is reflected through the words and actions of the contrived being.

Dealing with emotions in creative writing

The beginning of all therapy is to emotionally express oneself. Voiced or expressed emotions, become the source of insight into motives and purposes and behaviour. In this light, writing is as therapeutic as it can get even by itself - the very act of self expression. Understanding yourself is the first, but the most important road to therapy, change and inner-healing. The kind of raw pain, anger or angst that pours out in poetry which I read online could more often be well disguised in fiction. Yet, it is not impossible to separate the author from his/her work. I have come across works that are suggestive of very well guarded anger and bitterness, insecurity that the author has been carrying within himself or herself, finding vent through creative writing. Ventilation, while being a useful technique that leads to a cathartic experience, provides relief from all pent up and unvoiced fears, anger, jealousy, frustrations, hate etc..

All negative and undealt-with emotions get an opportunity to act themselves out through the characters or created beings. This not only provides an instant relief, but also channels energy in a very positive and creative manner. It is like physically taking off unwanted or strong emotions from your person, assigning them to a character in a conflict situation to act out those emotions. Negative emotions are better off on paper, on your hard drive or computer screens than in your personal life. They do more harm than good. In real life, such feelings would inflict pain not only on others but also hurt you in ways that you may have never foreseen.

Expressing your feelings through an angry character, acting out his/her violence and aggression, could be just the cathartic experience the author needs. While he or she writes the scene they allow for aggression and anger to be released, but if a writer were to be more sensitive he/she could discover greater hidden truths. The motives ascribed to such behaviour may be worth the analysis.

Bringing about a dramatic change in attitudes/heart of the character may just be the intervention that is needed. Working them out through a creative writing process could make the literary work into a therapeutic exercise. Therapy is all about gaining insight into your behaviour and making it the springboard of further positive action.

The problem with creative writing as therapy, could well be the fact that the author is not fully aware of what he or she is doing. Having dealt with a situation, he or she may go back to the same emotions in another place or another fiction and make it more difficult or complicated for themselves in a low emotional state. Thus undoing all that had been done through a previous work.

Taking the time to study a few of his/her own works with the intent of understanding the problem and how it is dealt with, could give the author great insight into how his/her mind works. This would also clearly reveal to him/her the motives, deep seated desires, fears, concerns and worries that consume him/her. How they assign blame or become victims or even give up and die in the face of difficulty could show a pattern of how problems are resolved in real life. This needs a patient and an objective appraisal of the author’s works.

How to constructively use writing as therapy


To constructively use writing as therapy, one would do well to express emotions, especially those that trouble the writer through a given situation or plot.

Personal tragedies, hurt and pain, particularly abuse, could find excellent release through any form of creative writing. It is a way of dealing with hurt that may or may not have been dealt with sufficiently.

Even if it had been dealt with earlier it gives the writer a chance to re-examine those emotions and happenings in a new and objective light. Guilt or mistakes of the past that need forgiveness from self or reconciliation with self, lends itself well to such therapeutic writing.

Memoirs could become excellent examples of therapeutic writing as long as they are done with understanding. The greatest benefit of all this is the unspoken emotion that had been locked and festering inside not only gets a public release, but the assurance of the stamp of complete confidentiality until you as a writer are willing to reveal it.

Identifying core issues and keeping your focus on the problem that needs to be dealt with could be a good place to start.

Working through the problem in the course of your plot and bringing it to a positive denouement in your literary work could help alleviate a lot of pain and suffering, help put the past behind you and move forward with hope into a brighter future without the weight of the past hanging around your shoulders and weighing you down.

Using a reflective style of narration could reveal to you those things that you never thought were within you. Focusing on feelings and behaviour or action could bring up a lot of material that has been buried in your subconscious without a decent trial or closure. Writing a letter in a creative style that expresses all your anger or frustration while making it sound like fiction could help deal with that anger, but in a limited way.

As a qualified, trained therapist, I had taken it upon myself to study some of my own writing and a few other samples from the Internet. This has been the most interesting project I have undertaken so far, I should say. I would assume it is pretty easy to come very close to understanding the author and his/ her idiosyncrasies from a good selection of his/her work. But that is not the point that I would like to make here. I believe that more often than not it could be a great source of self-discovery for the author himself/herself, if they would take the time to understand from where each word or action of their character springs forth.

I truly hope that more people make good use of this great and liberating form of self expression and therapy.

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63 comments

asmaiftikhar profile image

asmaiftikhar 4 years ago from Pakistan

Interesting and useful hub.And for me each and every word of the hub is use ful and i think for every writer that is worth reading.All concepts are worth praising.Thanks for sharing.


LisaKoski profile image

LisaKoski 4 years ago from WA

This is very well thought out and an interesting topic. I completely agree with everything you say here and I think this is useful for anyone considering writing as an outlet.


thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. This was a well written article Sofs. I use these approaches when I write my music lyrics as well as articles and such. This is great advice Sofs.


Maria Cecilia profile image

Maria Cecilia 4 years ago from Philippines

Thanks a lot for this.. I also started writing about personal experiences and myself and I found it very rewarding. First you were able to express yourself in creative way, and second, the output is great when everything written really came from the heart.


JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

Fantastic article. Sometimes I think writing gets downplayed as a form of therapy, but its certaintly helped me out, when I've needed it. Voted up.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

asmaiftikhar, thank you, I hoped it would be interesting, I was pretty absorbed working on this one for a few days now. I appreciate the read and the comment. Have a blessed day!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Lisakoski, I am glad you think so. I hope writers would be able to use some of this information in a positive way. I am glad to have met you through this..have a great day! Thank you!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

the lyricwriter, thanks for such an enthusiastic show of appreciation. I am glad that you do use these techniques with understanding.. that would be a great way to channel emotional energy. I truly appreciate your comment. Have a lovely day and God Bless!


JamesPoppell profile image

JamesPoppell 4 years ago

Thanks for the great article. I see a lot of my personal emotions and thoughts being camouflaged in my fiction. Sometimes I am aware of it but often times it comes through my subconscious mind. I do not realize it until my second or third time reading it. This article is interesting and useful!


annart profile image

annart 4 years ago from SW England

Good writer. Useful and interesting hub. I find when writing that I challenge myself to make every word more exciting, funny, interesting, etc, depending on my goal. I sometimes think about memoirs but shy off the painful bits - must do better! Thanks for the ideas and insights. Voted up, useful and interesting.


timorous profile image

timorous 4 years ago from Me to You

Some interesting insights in this hub, sofs. While I don't write fiction myself, many of my hubs are a reflection of what I was feeling at the time, and in that way, they were a good release for me.


krazikat profile image

krazikat 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Excellent hub. I often write to vent or even just to relax. It can be very relaxing - I wish I had more time to do it!


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

A great topic Sofs. I have found writing is great therapy and writing about my personal problems and reading other writes with similar problems has helped a great deal. Now I write to try and help others through similar problems.

I try to stay positive in my personal life and to be positive in my writing as a way to reach others.

I think I'm repeating myslf now, so I'll just say you have done a great job here and very useful.

voting up


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

James Poppell, I love the way you have from your experience endorsed my work. Often times we are unaware of what flows out of our subconscious, and it is such a great source of self discovery. I am glad that you read and commented on this article. Have a great day! God Bless!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

annart, I am glad that you found this hub useful and interesting. Every word we write is a challenge of sorts.. depending on our level of awareness! Thank you and I am so glad you came by. have a lovely day!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Tim, you are spot on with that observation all writing, all art or any form of self-expression reflects who we are, our beliefs, cultures, norms and values. It should in a way prove to be a great channel for emotional release. Even writing an email could be, provided you write all you feel, with the knowledge that the person you write to will never read it, just don't send it... it will certainly bring you a good deal of comfort. Not that I think you have such aggression within you lol :) but it is just a manner of speaking. Thanks my friend for all the support. God bless you and have a wonderful day!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Krazikat, I write some stuff in another place for the same reason. I have a lot of fun doing what I do, I enjoy writing there because that allows for a great deal of freedom and self-expression. I do agree with your point of view. Thank you for stopping by and doing the honors! Have a lovely day!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Rosemay50, Experience is a great teacher, isn't she? I am so glad that you are working your way towards positive thinking. Ah! do I love that? Way to go lady... become the inspiration that you can be! Have a wonderful day and thank you for saying what you said. God Bless!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Oh my ! Please forgive me!

Maria Cecilia, I seem to make this mistake often when I respond through the feed. I do appreciate your comment very much. Yes, when you do write from the heart it touches others, it is not just a great piece of fiction or art. The heart is the Key and you have it my dear. God Bless and have a lovely day!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Jkenny, I am sorry for missing your comment earlier. Let me right the wrong now.

Thank you so much for endorsing that opinion. Yes, it is often underestimated, because you stand you gain and not your therapist.. lol :) On a serious note.. .. It does help if we become more aware of where such emotions and reactions come from. Thank you and I appreciate your comment very much. God Bless and have a wonderful day!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Sophie, If i did not know better, i would think you had me in mind when you wrote this. Writing has certainly been a cathartic experience for me. I also have been able to re-examine a dramatic occurance in my childhood and look at it in a more objective light, thus, allowing me to forgive..Thank you so much..


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Hi Ruby! Maybe I did sweetheart!! Nah! I was just joking... I have seen and read the Ruby inside of the explorer... in you! That is a very special person indeed. I am glad that you have found this amazing quality of writing creatively - its therapeutic nature. Go on and have fun.. and we will all join you in the dance and the song!! Have a beautiful day my friend.. and I love this endorsement ! Thank you!


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Writing is necessary for my mental health for sure. I am sure I have revealed everything in my writing, especially the writing I have labelled as my "rants." Ironically, people tell me I talk to much and criticize me for revealing too much. Huh? Isn't that what a writer should do?


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Hi Flora, good to meet you here.. and love to hear that writing is your mental health. In creative writing especially short stories or novels even if you rant you have the characters to shield you from the critical appraisal of the world, that is the cloak many a writer uses to get away from it all. Try writing short stories or novels, it may help you rant and even act out your various emotions in many ways. If that is of any help to you! Thanks for the sharing and the comment . I appreciate this very much! Have a wonderful day!!


whoisbid profile image

whoisbid 4 years ago

You definitely can write


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 4 years ago from Amman, Jordan

An original piece, effective and very innovative, an angle which all of us should be aware of. It is actually scary of think that your writings is a representation of the self, to some degree at least.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

whoisbid, I thought so too! :) Thank you!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Marwan asmar, Thanks for that thoughtful comment. It did scare me so much in the beginning that I did not want to write anymore... but them rational and understanding prevails. It is amazing how therapeutic your writing can get when you write with the understanding of how the mechanisms works.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very inspiring hub. I agree with you that writing is kind of therapy of mind. I always use writing to keep my mind works and protecting from senility. I am so happy if someone love my work. It's another therapy for me. Well done and rated up!

Prasetio


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Prasetio37, you mean like now.. When you tell me that this is an inspiring hub! :D LoL Writing is indeed a balm for the soul which could be applied with a little expertise to produce a massage like effect.. on your mind :D Have fun and enjoy therapeutic writing ! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Appreciate that , have a great day!


tlpoague profile image

tlpoague 4 years ago from USA

I have always used writing as a form of therapy. I found it to be a healing balm. Like FloraBreenRobison, I have been told I talk too much and am constantly critized for revealing to much. I think that is a part of a writer's character. If we couldn't express ourselves, what good would our writing be?

I think you are a wonderful writer. I have enjoyed reading your hubs, even though I don't get to comment as much as I would like. It is pieces like this that lets us know that it is ok to be the way we are and writing the way we do. Keep on writing! I am using reading as a therapy too! HUGS!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Writing is soul balm indeed. You are right, if you did not express your emotions what good would your writing be.. artifacts of stone. If you are comfortable expressing yourself, why should you even care about what other say? Write on my friend.You are human only as long as you have emotions, only the dead / emotionally or physically have nothing else to say. Read on... there is much to know.. out there. :)

Thank you for those kind words, it is encouragement like yours which I have found here that makes my day! (((((( Hugs)))))) right back at you! Have a great day/night!


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi sofs, I have just read some of the first paragraph to my husband, he said as I thought, that could be me!

A well written and very interesting article, thank you and voted up!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Movie Master, I guess anyone who writes reveals more of themselves.. lol :) I have been thinking so much about this hub.. and doing a little more research.. maybe I will follow it up with more interesting facts. Thanks for the read and the comment.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Well said, Sophie. I agree that it can be a cathartic and healing experience. I am always amazed at areas that are revealed in creative pieces. Thanks for sharing such a useful hub. Voted up and across.


Charu Bhatnagar profile image

Charu Bhatnagar 4 years ago from India

I agree with you completely. Many times, writing is the only and best possible way to heal or at least vent out one's overloading emotions. It is better than trying to find out some one else's shoulder to cry upon, which anyways mostly makes one dependent on such support.Writing also initiates a thinking and self-exploratory process. Besides its something constructive!As you said, it is therapeutic.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Hi Denise, Thank you for endorsing my views. It is of great interest to study your own emotions flowing through your writing, sometimes even without your knowledge or assent. l like this approach to self exploration... it brings those things that have been hiding deep within... it is discovery time for me! Thank you for taking the time to read and share your views with me.. I appreciate this greatly. God Bless. Have a wonderful weekend. :)


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Charu, writing is first a pleasure for me... then healing, I hardly vent... that is how it is for me... I do love once in a while to soak my husbands shoulders... a great therapy :) ..because with him I am safe.. LOL :) .

I love the fact that you chose to pick up the self-exploration part of writing... that is what amazes me all the time... I am surprised by the intensity and depth of emotions that often come out when I write.. it is a great tool for self-awareness and yes, that is amazingly therapeutic. Thank you for taking time to read and leave a comment here. Welcome to HP. Have a lovely weekend. God Bless!


Charu Bhatnagar profile image

Charu Bhatnagar 4 years ago from India

:-) You are right first and foremost, for any writer, writing should be a pleasure. Only then he/she can really enjoy the whole process of writing/creative writing.


thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 4 years ago from Sweden

Writing is really a great form of therapy, maybe that is the reason we feel an urge to Writing is really a great form of therapy, maybe that is the reason we feel an urge to write! I have not written anything including human characters but I think about it. It is something interesting about the freedom, exactly as you describe, the freedom to create a character consisting of bits and pieces of people we have met. Very interesting article, I enjoy reading,

voted up and much more

Tina


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

thoughtforce, thank you for the read and the comment. There is something real about creating characters giving them a life, a voice, emotions and let them go through all that the plot puts them through... pressure creates interest and also reactions to situations... :) I am so glad that you enjoyed reading this hub on writing as therapy..I appreciate that. Have a great weekend :)


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

This is a great hub! I can't wait to share it with my followers! Great work, voted up, etc.


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 4 years ago

Dear Sofs ~ Wonderfully insightful piece on understanding the author behind the writing. I find it telling that you do not have your name along with your Hubpages? Whenever you hear an interview of a new movie or book, the questioner always asks, "Is this part biography and what character do you play?" We cannot help but put something our self and our own experience into our writing. Learning more about our unconscious mind by examining our own thoughts on paper will open possibilities for healing. I voted up on useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

Blessings, Debby


cebutouristspot profile image

cebutouristspot 4 years ago from Cebu

Hi Sofs - interesting concept you have here I never taught about writing as a therapy but I do agree at some of the points you have raise. Voting as interesting :D


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Brittanytodd, Thank you for the read, your kind words and the share... I appreciate that very much..have a wonderful day. God Bless!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Debby Bruck, Thanks for the insightful comment, it is the self-exploration or Self-discovery part that is crucial to a therapeutic experience.. I appreciate your pushing all the buttons on this hub..

If I have understood you right I am sofs to all who know me...Well Sophie for the records.. but sofs does very well for me.. this account does reveal a lot about the person I am... I hope I have set your mind at rest with that one.. lol. Have a lovely day!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Cebutouristspot, Glad you now see what I mean... I guess once a therapist always a therapist... my mind does work on that same groove all the time... lol. Thanks for taking the time to read and for your kind words. Have a beautiful Sunday!! God Bless!


Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 4 years ago from trailer in the country

I have found writing to be very therapeutic...especially when I do guided imagery first, and then write about it. It has helped end certain negative cycles.


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 4 years ago

Dear Sophie - I like to address people by their name out of respect and to make a better connection. Yeah, I was pushing buttons. As a health advocate, I recommend everyone to journal as a part of healing therapy, which essentially says the same as proposed here. This could be mandatory reading for many in search of healing techniques. Blessings, Debby


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Enlydia listener, that is double therapy I would say. I am so happy for you. Have a wonderful day! God Bless!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Dear Debbie, you are welcome to address me as Sophie, I really love my name! Thank you for your kind words.. I appreciate them from the depth of my heart.. Thank you for coming back and saying this..God Bless you!


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

I loved this hub so much I put it in my favorite hubs of this week hub:

http://brittanytodd.hubpages.com/hub/My-Favorite-H...


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Thank you Brittany for including this hub with your favorite five for this week. I feel truly honored and appreciate the gesture very much! Have a wonderful day. God Bless.


savanahl profile image

savanahl 4 years ago

Very awesome info. I write as a form of therapy and the concepts here are very useful. Thank you for sharing.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Thank you, Savanahl. I am glad this hub has helped to recognize what you already apply in someway.. knowing is power and I hope this hub empowers many. Have a beautiful day. God bless!


princesswithapen profile image

princesswithapen 4 years ago

Writing has always been recognized as a form out outlet for emotions and pent up feelings. This hub is an interesting read and surely all hubbers will rejoice that in some way or the other, hubbing and creative writing is therapeutic. I'm sharing this.

Princesswithapen


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

This is a wonderful, thought-provoking article. In a way examining our own writings in the manner that you suggest would be similar to working with one's own dreams, especially in a Gestalt way.

I've always found writing cathartic and a great way to express emotions.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this hub.

Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Princesswithapen, I am glad that you recognize the therapeutic nature of writing. Thanks for your generosity in sharing it with your followers. I appreciate it very much. Have a beautiful day and God Bless.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Happyboomernurse, I am glad you liked this article. Yes, it is such a great boon to be able to find a creative outlet for your emotions. It has helped me during a tough period in my time of loss and grief.. and I would be looking at writing another part to this hub sometime soon when I am able to put my analysis together. Thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment. Have a wonderful day. God Bless.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

I enjoyed your thoughts here. I think if we look to some of the masters in writing, we see that we needn't reveal much of ourselves when we write. Perhaps in the beginning of becoming a fiction writer, we do reveal more than we intend -- or sometimes we do it intentionally -- but as we fall more in love with the English language and good literature, we want to learn to write full characters and realistic settings. This takes a world of characters to pull from and so we let go of ourselves and get down to really developing our style.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Pamela Kinnaird, thanks for that thought provoking comment. Yes, you do not have to reveal yourself but somewhere your voices does show up. I believe I am talking about using creative writing specifically for its therapeutic value in this article.. I have been greatly helped when I have seriously applied the principles in my own writings. I appreciate your comment and follow. Have a wonderful day. God Bless!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Yours is a most valuable exploration into what anyone who writes can learn about themselves in the creative writing process, if and when they choose to.

I was particularly interested in your words here: "The problem with creative writing as therapy, could well be the fact that the author is not fully aware of what he or she is doing..."

I've been working with drawing and writing for a long time, often using the first to get to the second. I wonder if a drawing exercise doesn't help writers gain awareness of what they are doing?

I just published a hub about using drawing to coax out the "writer within," and linked to your hub here.

Deep wells of understanding and insight exist in all of us, but how to get to the bottom of them and bring up enlightenment escapes most of us. I think your hub and mine have a handshake.

Voted up, useful, and where the heck is "important"? :)


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Sally's Trove, Thank you for your insightful comment and the link. I am curious to read your hub on Drawing to draw the writer within.. drawing has been always been a part of the diagnostic and therapeutic process, especially with children. I will be over there soon.. Thank you once again for your kindness. Have a great day. God Bless.

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