By Fulbahar Ali Begum
I started writing as a teen, using the creative process to explore things that were private to me. My writing resulted in me being featured in magazines and performing on stage – even showcasing poetry segments for International Women’s Day – all before I turned 19. However, it started feeling too personal, so I made the choice to move away from expressing myself so openly. As family and work matters started encroaching on my time as well, my creative writing turned into project plans and university reports. Years went by, but eventually, I realised I needed to find my voice again.
So, 15 years later, I re-engaged and LitSpeel, a manual for better mental health through writing, was born. This book came about through the time I’d spent at my father’s bedside in the hospital. I was watching him sleep one day when I suddenly had the urge to connect with other people, looking for words that encapsulated their lived experiences and to see whether they matched my own. I found myself checking Google to see if something approximating what I was itching to write, had been quoted already. Believe it or not, many of the things I was thinking were already out there. Knowing this made me feel validated, but also made me realise there was space for my own words.
LitSpeel encourages therapeutic writing as a way to tackle negative mindsets while exploring different ways of expressing emotions: loneliness and triumphs, too. Finding a way to get the emotions out of you and sharing them with others, is healing. Truth is, I tend to keep my personal life personal – and so, the world of worries sitting within it – to myself.
Of course, we all have different mindsets. However, the concept of getting things out of you and on to the page that matters are, I think, relevant to all of us. In my case, I use therapeutic writing to stop things from bottling up. Once things are written down, they are out of my system. Furthermore, unless I choose to share what I have written, it doesn’t matter at all what other people think!
It’s not my intention to turn my readers into famous creatives. Rather, living through the pandemic has meant significant challenges for many of us (statistics around domestic violence and wider mental health issues bear testament to this), and I believe therapeutic writing can help us deal with these. I was born a Muslim and, heaven knows, I don’t want to bombard God or, indeed, others with feelings of negativity, so encouraging creativity as a form of self-healing is a truly positive act. In my case, poetry is the genre of choice. However, you might want to explore a diary, poem, song, essay, report as a way of cleansing yourself from negativity.
Here are some things to consider if you are inspired to try therapeutic writing for yourself:
Sometimes it’s daunting to see our own mental health in the form of art, splattering messily across the page. However, the more we reflect on our own being, the more we are able to understand others. Those feelings pass after testing us; we just need to have something creative to do with it.
If your work opens up other things, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Confide in family, friends, colleagues or those you can trust or rely on, i.e.: doctors and helplines if you need the support. Avoid arguments! You are going through a phase of self-discovery: healing and not self-harm is the key point to remember.
Make it enjoyable, make it fun, make it healing!
There is no point in staying quiet; hiding from the truth never works. In doing so, we may very well end up hurting ourselves, eventually leading to hurting the ones we love and care about in the process.
Share the process
Even if you keep the end result to yourself, practising creativity as a way of improving your mood will allow loved ones to feel a part of things too. Here are a few examples:
- Buy a pack of post-it notes and write a one-liner which you put on the fridge every day. By asking each member of your household to do the same, you will get a much better sense of each other.
- You could turn these post-it notes one-liners, into a weekly ‘Truth Train’ catch up, using them as prompts to find out what is going on in each other’s lives.
- Think of those you may have parted from in discord and write to them to make amends or clear the air. What’s the worst that can happen?
- Buy yourself a notebook or start a daily journal: often one line is all that’s needed. It will summarise your day while clearing your mind or even help you to celebrate.
We are living in a world where technology has taken much of our day-to-day energy, often stopping us from engaging with people in reality. It has a useful place, for example, in helping us reach each other during the pandemic. Nothing replaces face-to-face connection, though. I care about the world we live in and the community I am surrounded by and want to use therapeutic writing, whether shared or personal, to improve the way we interact. For, although it’s an individual activity, it gives us a chance to reflect on wider issues as well. And, of course, if your mental health improves, positive ripple effects are created for those around us into the bargain. The lighter we are internally, the more energy we have to be prosperous. Success never comes without a try, so give yourself a chance!
To order copies of LitSpeel please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Instagram: @fullyalibegum
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Therapeutic writing is a way to tackle negative mindsets while exploring different ways of expressing emotions: loneliness and triumphs, too.