Writing for recovery, for wellbeing and for fun ...
This week has shown just how important writing can be to our wellbeing. I met school children who had written for fun in their holidays; I met the Sunderland Recovery College team who help people recover from their mental challenges; and I attended a Sunderland Wellbeing Network meeting at Grace House where everybody present represented an organisation committed to promoting the mental and physical health of the people of Sunderland.
What links all these events is writing with clear demonstrations that there is a place for writing in our lives. The first event was a meeting with colleagues at Sunderland Recovery College in Fulwell where work is being done to support the people of the city recover from a variety of mental health challenges. I have signed up as a volunteer and, following my induction and training, will run courses on wellbeing and writing in 2020. Details of College courses currently running this Autumn Term are available here, with the Spring Term 2020 prospectus due out shortly https://wellbeinginfo.org/sunderland-recovery-colleges-september-2019-prospectus/
I also attended an assembly this week at Castle View Academy to hand out prizes for the Hylton Castle School Story Writing Competition. Encouraging children to write, to express themselves, to use their imaginations, is such an important activity for their wellbeing, their education outside school and their future prospects at work and in life. The Story Writing Competition had been organised by Pearl Saddington who works at Hylton Castle and myself to encourage children to write in their holiday time. With several hundred entries across three Key Stages it proved to be a very popular and successful event https://www.castleviewenterpriseacademy.co.uk/
The City of Sunderland also has a Wellbeing Network which meets once a month so that colleagues in both the state and voluntary sectors can explore common themes and coordinate initiatives. I attended a meeting this week at Grace House in Southwick to introduce myself and my work to colleagues in the network, resulting in several contacts being established with Ger Fowler from Veterans in Crisis (veteransincrisis.co.uk): Tricia Goldsmith from DWP; Chris Pretty from Grace House which offers residential respite for families with children with complex disabilities and autism (www.gracehouse.co.uk); Cancer Research UK who are running a training course 'talk cancer' on 18th December (contact Sarah on firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place); and Bianca Brisan from the University of Sunderland Students' Union where they have just trained students to support their peers with difficulties (https://www.sunderlandsu.co.uk/).
The experiences this week, with more arranged for next week, remind me of the importance of the work we do in schools, with families and in wider society to support young people and adults. Whilst the publicly-funded work is crucial to support the work of schools, the City Council and the NHS, it is hugely enhanced by the voluntary sector - I have come across many people this week who give their time, and much more, selflessly and without the expectation of recompense.
In looking after each other it is important that we also look after ourselves and last week I wrote about the importance of Morning Pages as a process for clearing the mind in order to release the creativity that is often obscured by the clutter in our lives, the distractions in our minds. There is a second side to the concept of morning pages and Julia Cameron calls this The Artist Date. An 'artist date' is a period of time, say around two hours, which is set aside to 'nourish your creative consciousness, your inner artist' (p18). This is a 'date' with yourself which should be protected, both from yourself because it's possible you'll never find the time to do it, as well as others who will offer a distraction so you end up cancelling the 'date.'
The morning pages help to declutter and empty your mind so that the obstacles to your creativity are removed, thus 'releasing' your creativity and the capacity to explore it, embrace it. During this time of creativity solutions can emerge because you have created the conditions for them to flourish, to come to the fore.
Cameron says that 'the Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think
mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy.
They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by
replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it
is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.'
I have seen altruism flourishing in Sunderland this week, but we must make sure that in order to continue behaving altruistically, we must look after ourselves and one way to do this is to clear the clutter in our minds and free-up our capacity to keep going by writing morning pages and setting artist dates ...