Pen To Print

Click "Enter" to submit the form.

Monday Moments: Overcoming Through Self-Compassion and Solidarity

Introduced By Amber Hall

Hello readers! This month, our theme continues to be ‘Overcoming’, and I’ve been thinking about how writing – or anything creative, for that matter – can be an act of overcoming in itself.

We rarely get to see creativity unfold. Instead, we’re shown the final version; a re-draft of a re-draft, a canvas with all the blank spaces filled in. We’re asked to overlook the process and simply marvel at the thing in front of us. And that’s great, obviously, because we get to enjoy fully formed art that speaks to us. The problem is, we can think of our own work in much the same way: as an end point, rather than as a series of creative bursts that take us somewhere.

I have pages of half-written essays and short stories stored on my computer, like digitalised balls of scrunched up paper thrown hastily in the bin. I don’t think I persevere with things enough, sometimes, and I know that my perfectionism gets in the way. I forget that draft one of anything isn’t for others’ eyes; that the first go is partly just to show you where you’re headed. For the past month, I have frequently berated myself for “not writing enough”, despite the fact that I’ve been writing in one way or another – journaling, mostly – every day. I told myself that I’d spend hours at my desk each week, masterfully penning my memoir without a hitch.

It hasn’t gone that way, because it rarely does, but that’s not to say the time hasn’t been valuable. The project in question is deeply personal, and retracing some of the more traumatic aspects of my life has been challenging. I’ve realised that I can’t approach this story with the same kind of objectivity as I have in the past (with restraint, someone once told me). The work will be stronger with the weight of my emotions behind it, but that means I’m going to have to meet myself where I’m at. I’ll need to go gently and probably get a bit of therapy to help me through, too.

In the past, I have allowed self-doubt to get in the way of my writing (hence the unfinished essays floating around in the cloud). It’s always been my biggest obstacle, and perhaps it always will be. But this isn’t unusual, and I think we can all take solace in the fact that it’s a feeling commonly shared amongst creatives. Sylvia Plath, a literary hero of mine, said ‘everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt.’ Plath wasn’t wrong. There’s a story (I’d wager at least a trilogy) in everyone, but it takes real courage to share it. It isn’t easy to write, because creativity can make us extremely vulnerable.

Speaking of courage, I was so awed by the talent and honesty displayed by the creatives who joined us for the WorkingClass StoryFest (more on that here). Everyone really shared who they were, which is an immensely brave thing to do – particularly if you’ve been told (which working-class folk always have) that you don’t matter. It reminded me how strong we are in numbers, and how much can be achieved in solidarity. I want to personally thank everyone who was involved in making the weekend so special. For updates, follow the Working-Class Collective on X: @WorkingClassColl and Instagram: @workingclasscol, and keep an eye on the Working-Class Studies Association website.

The pieces I’ve chosen for my page this month explore the notion of overcoming through self-compassion and authentic connection. Each piece serves as a reminder that great things can be achieved if we see beyond doubt; if we feel the fear and do it anyway.

I wanted to start with this prose piece by Jilly Henderson-Long, who writes about the therapeutic benefits of writing. I like the way that Jilly reminds us that, whatever we choose to do with our written work, there’s value in the catharsis we get from exploring our feelings on paper.

Writing As Therapy

Writing has been a major factor of my life for over six decades.  It is something I have always done, which pretty much makes it second nature to me now.  Not only has it led to a sense of achievement and a modicum of success; it has often proved therapeutic whenever life has presented a challenge, as it has on many an occasion!

I am writing today because a few weeks ago, my brother died from lung cancer.  He was three years younger than me, and I never thought for a moment that I’d outlive him.  He was diagnosed a year or so ago, but it was still a huge shock when he suddenly took a turn for the worst and died within a few short days.  As a diarist and journal writer, I have found that expressing my feelings on paper is really helping me to come to terms with this devastating loss.  Reflecting on all the love, laughter, tears and ups and downs we shared throughout our lives has been like opening a treasure chest of precious memories.

Being able to write all this down has been very instrumental in my effort to find a way to, as my youngest sister put it, get used to this ‘new normal’.  It may yet take a while, but the option is there whenever I need it.  This personal experience only shows how important it is for all of us to find an outlet for our emotions.  Being able to write creatively is a very special gift. It is an activity we all engage in one way or another.  It is an even more special gift when feeling low, because it costs nothing to grab a pen and sheet of paper and really let rip. You can scream silently on paper, pepper it with your tears and swear and cuss whoever or whatever has done you wrong or left you feeling bereft. And, when you feel calmer, you can do one of two things. Screw the sheet of paper up and bin it or put it in the back of a drawer somewhere and forget it. You couldn’t very well do that with a human therapist! Plus, from a truly mercenary point of view, being able to use those strong emotions some day in the future may even add reality to any future writing projects.

I am still riding the roller coaster of emotions following my brother’s passing.  It will take time to heal – or even to believe that healing is possible – but writing about it is proving enormously helpful and I recommend you try it next time you feel lost, alone, scared or angry.  Not only does it provide a worthwhile outlet, but it will also, in time, give you a fresh perspective on things. And that, I think you’ll agree, is therapeutic in itself.

© Jilly Henderson-Long, 2024


The next piece comes from fellow Write On! page editor, Eithne Cullen. In recounting this true story of a community coming together, we’re reminded that even the biggest challenges can be overcome when we are united by a shared vision.

Collective Effort

Ben, the bus driver, was in a good mood at the start of his shift. He headed to the busy junction.

He thought he’d lost it when he caught sight of a deadlocked unicyclist who quickly disappeared from view. When he heard the thud, Ben knew something was wrong.

People in the street said: thump, crash, pop, smash, bang. Some of them ran towards the bus: one from a car behind the bus, some from nearby shops and restaurants. They had seen the cyclist vanish under the bus’s wheels. The driver was looking around, trying to make sense of the situation.

Ben knew there must be something under the front wheel, he eased forward but stopped as the crowd banged on the window and screamed at him to stop, roll back.

On the pavements, women screamed and men called out. A woman in a hijab prayed and cried, she took her phone out to film the incident. More phones appeared.

People moved towards the bus, three or four at first, then twenty, thirty, more. They tried to push the bus. Ben sat, helpless. They shouted again, telling the passengers to get off – they were adding to the weight. As passengers streamed off the bus, many joined them. More and more hands appeared to help the rescue effort. The sense of collective understanding was clear: they had to move the bus.  Someone called out, “One, two, three!” No one told them to but, instead of trying to lift the unyielding wheel, they pushed to tilt it and it gave way, lifting about a foot from the ground. Someone grabbed the victim and dragged him out.

It had taken a few minutes. Time stood still for a moment, a moment of elation. Then they began to disperse, the crowd moved on.

© Eithne Cullen, 2020

Connect with Eithne on X: @eithne_cullen and Instagram: @eithnecullen57.


I’d like to finish with a second piece from Recovery Voices, edited and submitted by Helen Aitchison. I featured another piece from the collection on my April page, and wanted to share this touching acrostic poem by an anonymous contributor. I like how impactful and yet concise it is; how much sense we get of the writer’s lived experience in seven short lines.

Better Me

Better me,
Evolved from the
Trauma of painful
Tragedy that
Engulfed my mind and body.
Recovery gave

Me the motivation to

© Recovery Voices (Anonymous), 2023


Issue 20 is available to read online here, you can also find it in libraries and other outlets. Read previous editions of our magazines here

You can hear great new ideas, creative work and writing tips on Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo, or find us on


If you or someone you know has been affected by issues covered in our pages, please see the relevant link below for ​information, advice and support​:

It isn’t easy to write, because creativity can make us extremely vulnerable.