Many people find that creative writing can help to reduce stress and benefit their health and well-being. Here Sally Brown provides an insight into writing as a form of relaxation and therapy.

Getting your thoughts down on paper is something that you can do at any time of day or night – and it can help you to deal with difficult emotions.

Research shows that writing about your feelings, or even recording your thoughts on a digital recorder or mobile phone, can really help to release the stress that exacerbates disease, which in turn can boost the immune system in a range of conditions. 

American poet Allen Ginsberg said that ‘to gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.’  Which is probably a good starting point if you have never tried to write before.  Capturing your thoughts and feelings can simply be for your own benefit – don’t start by thinking that you have to read it out, share it or perform to an audience.  In that sense you will hopefully be more honest and write from the heart. Even writing something down and then throwing it in the bin, is a helpful way of expressing yourself at a time when you may feel angry, isolated or frustrated.

A class will also act as inspiration, giving you ideas on what to write about.  It may be fiction, or it may be autobiographical, but it’s amazing how a simple idea, such as writing about a memorable event from your past, or a special place that you like to visit, can result in a piece of writing that you want to develop and expand.

However, many people do get started with a creative writing class and it’s worth having a look on the internet, or paying a visit to your local library, to see if there is anything in your area.  Writing classes can be very supportive and can give you structure.  Just having the discipline of attending a regular class encourages you to write each week, and you will usually have a choice of whether or not you want to share your work with others. 

Writing can help make sense of the past, or the present, and it is strangely cathartic when other people take an interest and want to hear your story.  The beauty of it is that there are no side effects, and it works well with people who are not always able to talk about how they feel. 

Many writers suggest making a start by writing whatever comes into your head, for ten minutes every day.  It may be the same word, over and over again, it may just be a list of names or a feeling, but the important thing is to get it down.  Don’t worry about grammar, or structure, just write.  Eventually the more you do this the more focused you will become.  Then choose something to focus on, for example think about how it felt to be a young child, and write about a particular object or place or person from your childhood. Or simply keep a record of your feelings throughout the day. And whenever you feel angry or upset, writing can really help.  Write those feelings down, get them out, put them down on paper – and who knows, five minutes later you might feel a whole lot better.