Tag Archives: internal critic

Writing the therapeutic journey #6: reflecting as we go

autumn treeThese blog posts are about exploring creative writing as a support for our mental health and our over-all wellbeing. The first aspect to this is to have the impulse to write, the second is to get words onto paper with as little judgement or self-critiquing as possible. Remember this writing has an audience of one – you (or possibly two if you are working with a therapist or a supportive friend/mentor).

It is interesting to note at this point that for some of us, our own internal critic is the harshest of all. Saying, ‘Only I will read this,’ may not silence all the ‘should’s and ‘have to’s we have absorbed about how and what to write. If this is true for you, then a written exchange – never sent letters or emails – may be illuminating.

Doing this for myself and with others, I have found the internal critic comes often emerges from one of two sources. Firstly it could be the voice of someone in the past – parent, sibling, friend, teacher – who (for their own reasons which we may not know) have sought to restrict what we do or say. Or secondly, the internal critic might be about protecting the writer from the perceived possibility of shame. Perhaps there has been a time when we have spoken out or been ‘too loud’ and we have been ‘told off’ in an unduly harsh way. The embarrassment we felt then is seeping into our present. Our critical voices could need reassurance that the potential for embarrassment is not currently present.

These are only squiggles on paper which we all agree to understand as words. How often they can feel more like unexploded bombs! Elma Mitchell suggests as much in her poem This Poem… Here is an extract:
… Even the simplest poem
May destroy your immunity to human emotions.
All poems must carry a Government warning. Words
Can seriously affect your heart.

And yes, in the end, however we come at it, with this type of writing we do eventually want to touch a nerve, unearth an emotion or two, circle around a troubling relationship. This may come through your writing without much effort. In blog post #3 of this series, I suggested taking the time every few weeks to reflect back on your writing. Again we will use writing to do this. We will re-read some of what we have written and then start a reflection such as ‘I notice….’ or ‘I feel….’ or ‘I am intrigued by….’ or ‘I am confused by….’ (See Thompson in Bolton, G., Howlett, S., Lago, C. & Wright J. K. (2004). Writing Cures. An introductory handbook of writing in counselling and therapy. Hove & New York: Brunner-Routledge.)

When doing this exercise, keep an eye out for metaphors which might be hiding an LD1Nov13emotion. Is there a certain image which returns and returns? What kind of emotion does it evoke? Could it be a metaphor for that emotion? Also, take note of patterns in your writing and things which get repeated. What are these telling you?

Through writing we can express ourselves. In addition, through writing, we can begin to gain greater understandings about ourselves. I would be inviting the one to feed naturally into the other.

What is your experience of writing for good mental health and wellbeing?



The Indie Publisher – the art of wearing many hats

So I am ready to launch myself as an Indie publisher, in order to bring out the first novel in my crime series set in Scarborough, The Art of the Imperfect. I have spent the last month or so talking to people and gathering information and I now have a path to follow. At this moment, it doesn’t feel easy, it feels like an exercise in hat spinning.

During the previous fortnight I have had my editor’s hat on. It is interesting to note that even seasoned writers have their internal critic. Mine comes out when I am in editor mode. I noticed this with my last book, but that time I had a publisher waiting and encouraging. This time I don’t have that as an impetus and the process has been tougher than ever. However, I do at last have my manuscript prepared for the proof reader – a hat I refuse to wear. I’ll proof read (for myself and others) short offerings, such as an article or newsletter, but an extended work is different. I still hold fast to the belief that proof reading has to be done by another professional, and luckily I have a trusted colleague to do it: http://www.thewriterthebetter.co.uk/

Now I must put on my publisher, designer and IT-supremo hats, in order to work through things like: front/back pages; ISBNs; publishing house logo; cover design; and formatting the manuscript to Kindle and Createspace requirements. And probably various other little issues which are still to be discovered. I would prefer to bring in professionals where I can, unfortunately, my budget prohibits much reliance on others.

Though there is something tantalising and exciting about being in so much control of the process, right now I’d rather be wearing just one hat – the writer’s one. On the other hand, if I get through this anything like half successfully, then maybe I will be more comfortable with the hat spinning.

That is for the future, today I am on the path as an Indie publisher, taking it one step at a time, with my various hats dangling on cords around my neck.