Archive for January, 2015


Writing Therapy is a rather grand way of describing what I do with clients who want to use writing to make themselves feel better. But it can sometimes work out that way.


To illustrate: at a recent session with brain-injured clients, one of the group had a seizure minutes before I arrived. Other group members were distracted and concerned – to an impressive and touching level – and not overtly in a writing mood. Certainly the Christmas theme was forgotten. They tried hard to make me feel welcome – standing there with my mince pies – but their thoughts were clearly with D – who was lying on the floor, still unwell.


However, I ploughed on. I went through the usual journalling exercises – the Three Word Game, the Five-minute Sprint and the Unsent Letter (adding Father Christmas to the list of usual suspects). Then I spread out the Christmas goodies. The table was covered with (un-lit but scented) candles, silver baubles, crumbling cinnamon sticks, bright orange satsumas, glossy holly and so on. Prompted by the senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, each member began to search their impaired memories.


Then we read the poem, Smells, by Christopher Morley and we discussed what smells mean to each of us. The group members wrote down single words to remind themselves of the memories the Christmas smells brought up for them. And, little by little, I noticed, the atmosphere had lifted.


And – although unconnected with the therapeutic writing session – D felt better too.

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Lists are a simple and accessible writing technique. Everyone makes lists. These lists may be as basic as shopping lists or as daunting as To Do Lists. But lists can also help you establish your priorities and lists can help you create a vision of your future, while helping you identify obstacles, resources and solutions.

So how can lists help memoir writers?

Lists are another way of establishing the structure you want to impose on your materials.

If you feel ready:

  1. Take a spreadsheet – on your computer or in ‘real-life’.
  2. Write your themes and subthemes either across the top of the columns.
  3. Down the side, fill in topics such as events, dates, points of view (with references to interviews (dates and storage), locations,anything else which seems important to you.
  4. Fill in the data.
  5. Review what you have learned about your project from this exercise.
  6. Free-write (5mins): ‘What I want my memoir to say about my life’.

But feel free to contact me with any problems!

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