Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Little Red Riding Hood

I used this traditional tale to give a network of carers – who had never thought of themselves as creative writers – the opportunity to  reflect on character and consequences. They were empowered but the opportunities to listen, discuss, select and develop their own versions. This story opens up the possibilities of having choices, a voice and the means to express it.

The Story

Once upon a time, there was a lovely young woman named Little Red Riding Hood.  She lived with her mother in a cottage on the edge of a Forest. Her grandmother lived at the other side of the Forest but close enough to visit often with lots of lovely treats for her lovely granddaughter.


Then one very sad day, her mother told Little Red Riding Hood, “Your grandmother is not feeling very well today. Take these treats over to her – for a change! It will make her happy and she’ll feel better.”


Little Red Riding Hood set off carrying all the delicacies that her grandmother could wish for in her basket. The sun was shining and she knew her grandmother would enjoy the treats. She felt today would be a good day.


Then, on the forest path, she met a tall, strong stranger.


“Where are you going, my lovely?” asked the tall, strong stranger.


“To my grandmother’s cottage,” Little Red Riding Hood replied and explained how ill her grandmother was feeling.


“Oh, the poor dear old lady!” said the tall, strong stranger. “Why don’t you pick some flowers for her, too?”


“Now that would be a very good idea,” said Little Red Riding Hood – always willing to do that little bit extra.


So she spent the next few hours looking for all the most beautiful wild flowers of the Forest. And, although she grew very tired, she kept on looking – because she loved her grandmother very much.


Then she noticed the sun was almost completely gone. And, although the moon shone and the stars were out in the night sky – she could no longer see anything very well. The trees arched over her and the darkness frightened her.  So she ran to her grandmother’s cottage, hoping her grandmother would have a good fire lit and candles burning – as she usually did.


But, when she arrived, all was dark and strange. If anything, the cottage was even darker and colder than the Forest.


“Of course,” the young girl remembered, “grandmother is ill.”


So she crept around the kitchen. She wanted to make the old woman a warm drink, light the fire and set the flowers in a vase where she could see them. Her poor sick grandmother could then have all the treats she had carried through the Forest especially for her.


 But – before she could arrange all this – Little Red Riding Hood heard a movement from the bed. And, candle in hand, she turned round.


What she saw terrified her!


“This illness – it’s so changed you, grandmother!” she cried. “What big eyes you have?”

“All the better to see you with?”

“What big hands you have?”

“All the better to grab you with!”

“What big teeth you have!”

“All the better to eat you with.”


And the much-changed grandmother leapt from the bed, seizing hold of the girl so tightly it hurt. Only then did she recognise the tall, strong stranger of the Forest.


“You are not Grandmother. You are the Wolf! What have you done with Grandmother?”


But the Wolf didn’t bother with explanations. He just swallowed Little Red Riding Hood whole.


However, inside the Wolf, she found her grandmother and the two women – the old and the very young – wept together. But tired, worn out by misery, neither had any idea what to do next.


Then, a hunter appeared  . . .

To empower the listeners, I stopped the story at this point and offered them a number of endings to choose from and the opportunity to develop their own.The rest of the session followed these lines.

A Happy Ending? Really?

Which of these endings do you think most likely?

Ending 1) but the hunter was too late.


Ending 2) The hunter drew out his hunting knife and fought with the Wolf. Then, when the Wolf was dead, the hunter heard the women cry out in his stomach. And the hunter cut open the Wolf and released them. He was glad he had done so when he saw how beautiful Little Red Riding Hood was. He married LRRH. And the grandmother and the mother then lived happily to the end of their days with Little Red Riding Hood and her hunter.


Ending 3) After such a heavy meal, the Wolf fell asleep and the hunter – hearing the women weeping inside the animal – cut open his stomach and released Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. Little Red Riding Hood then placed stones in the Wolf’s stomach. When the Wolf woke up, he tried to chase the old woman and her young grandaughter but the stones weighed him down and killed him.

Ending 4) What else could anyone have done to change the ending? James Thurber, in The Little Girl and the Wolf took out a gun from her basket and shot the predator. Do you have your own ideas how to end this story? Discuss in pairs.

After this, I invited members of the group to share what had come up for them – both in relation to the story and on a personal level. Any group enduring any distressing situation could benefit from the opportunities presented by this sort of story session.


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Hello, Everyone!


Using creative writing to improve life quality for the long-term ill and distressed – and that of their family, friends and professional advisers – is a subject dear to my heart. And since I went to an Arts and Dementia Conference in Liverpool at the beginning of November, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.


As organisers Collective Encounters  explained, the conference aimed ‘to explore the possibilities in the use of arts in dementia care, celebrate excellence in the artistic work created by artists working with people with dementia and their carers, and look at the potential impact of Live and Learn [a new project] will have on the health and social care and creative sectors locally.’


It did and I found it difficult to process so many stunning insights all at once. But one story particularly impressed. David Clegg – a sculptor by profession – had volunteered to visit an old lady with dementia. When, after fifteen minutes, she found her front door, she was stark naked apart from ski-boots and oven gloves. She told him later, she was dressed this way because someone had stolen her clothes and replaced them with the clothes of an old woman. A stunning insight – indeed.


David now spends his time, when not sculpting, helping people with dementia record their stories and make sense of their lives. Which is what we all – as humans – want to do. And what creative writing is all about.


So, I have two pieces of news for you. Firstly, I now offer e-courses in Therapeutic Creative Writing – fiction, life-writing and journaling – for anyone dealing professionally or personally with relationship issues and emotional health problems. These e-courses each contain six units full of advice and writing games to explore the unit topic. Each unit may be completed at your own pace and in your own time with 24/7 support and – when appropriate – professional critique.


Secondly, November is packed with Lonely Furrow Company’s Out of the Box Workshops. These are designed to be useful for those – including writers – who deal with relationships and communication issues professionally. Group interaction is a crucial aspect of this form of communication training and the workshops provide a basis for further work.


November Workshops:


All will take place at The Conservatory, 28 Park West, Heswall, Wirral, CH60 9JF. (Tel: 0151 342 3877)


Communication Series

November 23rd 2011 (1pm-3.30pm) ‘Body Language – the silent story’  (£25)

November 30th 2011 (1pm-3.30pm)  ‘Story-telling – the techniques’ (£25)


Creative Writing Technique Series

November 26th 2011 (10am – 12.30pm) ‘Memorable Characters – how to write them.’ (£20)


To find out more or book your place, contact me initially via Elizabeth@lonelyfurrowcompany.com or telephone 0151 342 3877.


And, for a no-charge, no-obligation chat about any Lonely Furrow Company services, contact me initially via the Lonely Furrow Company brochure website www.lonelyfurrowcompany.com .



I hope you find the concept of Arts in Health as inspirational as I do. If you’d like to know more about this kind of work, please also see www.lapidus.org.uk. Lapidus is a professional organization which promotes the use of creative words for health and well-being, has established an ethical code for this work and maintains a directory of creative writing practitioners (of which I am one).


With very best wishes




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Reading and writing are concerned with people. The reason why I have been drawn to literature all my life is because I hoped – through story – to find out about people, to understand them better, to make sense of them where at times there seemed no sense. Sometimes, I have wondered how this works – this quest to connect to humanity. And, it seems to me, it works through the senses. And through the imagination.

As a writer, through sense impressions, you can build up a world for the reader which he can recognise. Sense impressions – visual, aural, tangible, olfactory, gustatory – link the writer and the reader through their common humanity. And, when this linking happens, as a reader, you know you are not alone, not a freak. You know you have something in common. You then take it further. You want to gain the insights which will help you make sense of your life. You want to be prompted to ask the questions ”What if . . . ?’ or ‘Where next?’   And, as a consequence, ‘What if . . .?’ and ‘Where next . . . ?’ are two of the most important questions a fiction writer can have in his or her tool kit.

The process has another important dimension. When you are the writer and the audience – as when journaling – the whole experience moves up a gear. You learn to understand yourself better, to make sense of your own life. You learn what is important to you and what your chief anxieties are. And, in the ‘safe place’ of solitude, you can learn how to express these – first to yourself and then to the world at large.

Here’s a writing game to engage you with your senses!

Settle yourself down where-ever you like to write, relax into your writing state and take up your pen. Complete the following:

On my way to my favourite chair, my desk, my bed:

  • I saw
  •  I heard
  •  I tasted
  •  I touched
  •  I thought
  •  I felt
Now, choose the three complete thoughts that seem to you to have the most potential for you to explore in fiction. Think of a character, give him or her a name, and your three sensations. Write a story of no more than 500 words using this material. Consider what you’ve created. Do you like it? Could you develop it further?
Through this game, you will demonstrate to yourself that you possess the imagination essential to linking writer and reader  in quantities.

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Creative Writing comes from our ability to day-dream.  Through it we can practice our narrative competence – making sense of our own lives, our own fears, our own anxieties.  We can generate meaning and find re-assuring resolution.

As writers, as Freud said in his paper on Creative Writers and Day-dreaming (1907) we can make up imaginary worlds, take them seriously, invest them with huge emotion, enliven them with material from the world’ around us and keep these worlds separate from our own reality.

So what’s in it for doctors?  Why should they bother writing – creatively?

By developing an alternative world, you can process emotions you experience in the real world.  You can give your characters your own insecurities, your own feelings of powerlessness, your own sense of burnout.  You can express how these emotions act out in imagined situations based on the reality you live with – how bad news is broken, how guilt and fatigue feel.  You can put yourself in other people’s shoes.  And, from your own creative resources – as a humane and caring person – you can work out some better ways of handling matters, trying for the ‘happy ending’ – whatever that may entail.

The benefits are real if difficult to measure quantitatively.

You’ll be more easily able to see your patients as people, not medical cases, recognising and understanding their re-actions.  You’ll develop curiosity about what it’s like for them, for example, to hear the bad news you have to tell them.  And – because you understand them better – you may be able to adapt the way you tell them.

You’ll become a better communicator – even a better doctor – as a result.

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Unless you are writing exclusively for yourself – and I’m not sure how possible this is – you are not writing in a vacuum. You are writing for an audience.  That audience may be represented in indirect ways but an audience it remains.  For example, an editor represents the readers of his or her magazine or the buyers of his books.  And, as you write her memoirs, your great aunt Agatha will be sitting on your shoulder – probably tutting.

As a writer, you are – or should be – acutely aware of your audience.  And, when reading what you’ve written, your audience will be acutely aware of what’s in it for them.  To communicate with them successfully, you should be, too.

But, when writing up personal memoirs – whether as a series of anecdotes or a detailed auto-biography or a family history or even fictionalised as a first novel – you have to protect the feelings of people you know and love in a way that pure fiction usually does not.

Taking the extreme example of the First Novel – usually largely autobiographical – family and friends will paw over the text, hunting for mention of themselves.  At first reading, they will see little other than what they imagine – true or false – to be them.  And your saying ‘If the cap fits…’ will not help.

Similarly with Triumph over Tragedy personal stories for magazines, be cautious.  If you intend to write it yourself, consider how it will impact on all the other players in the ‘drama’.  Do they want their names, photographs, follies and fears all over a tabloid?  And don’t let someone else write it for you unless you absolutely trust them and you really don’t want to set pen to paper on the subject.

This begs the question: Why bother?

  • Some people get involved for the money.
  • Some people get involved because they want to help others.
  • Some people get involved for the therapeutic benefits of unloading.
  • Some people get involved for revenge, setting the record straight.

But writing up memoirs – as opposed to fictionalisation or journalism – has different, more personal, often more loving motives:

  • You may want to ‘remember’ someone in the most reverent way of which you are capable.
  • You may have been asked by ‘the family’ to be keeper of the collective sense of ‘Who we are’.
  • You may want to explore who you are through your own life-story.

You may also want to provide a record for future generations – an oral history transcribed into readable form. But you do not at this point know your audience and you cannot assume any knowledge of your life and times. This will influence what and how much detail you include.

And, even if you suspect your memoir will have a limited audience, you need to exercise diplomacy.  Great Aunt Agatha may be consigned to sitting on your shoulder.  But her other descendants and dependants – your siblings and cousins – may yet be extant. Include anecdotes with caution and – at times – at your peril.

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A new roadshow workshop series is being planned for the Autumn, dates and places to be announced.  Entitled Communication for Families in Crisis, these workshops will examine the difficulties faced by mothers, fathers, adult children, grandparents and extended families when divorce or separation are on the cards. And they will provide opportunities for self-reflection and improving communication skills in a safe and supportive environment. Contact me for further information or to book your workshop.

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When A&E call you at 2am in the morning to ask you to remove your caree from their charge, what do you do next?

Jane was no more than former next of kin to her schizophrenic ex-husband when she was called out in this way. And no-one would hand over the case notes or make suggestions as to where she could get help.

So, one of the most important things you can do to preserve your sanity is ask your caree in a calm moment to sign a letter to the GP – and any other interested party – giving them permission to discuss your caree’s case with you.

This avoids a situation where you are kept out of the loop of discussion with regard to case plan and management. To have a say in this is crucial – as you could have responsibility for your caree 24/7 and are therefore intimately related with and affected by what goes on.

In Jane’s case, there was nothing she could do. She had to take her ex-husband home – even though he was threatening her with jealous violence at the time.

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For centuries, creative writing has been accepted as beneficial to people with emotional problems. Aristotle described the cathartic effect of drama.  Shakespeare warned:  “Give sorrow words.  The grief that does not speak/ Whispers the o’er fraught heart and bids it break.” And twentieth century researchers began to seek an evidence base for this – hoping to establish a cornerstone for creative writing therapy.

However some of the findings have surprised even the already-converted.
In independent studies, benefits of creative writing have proved certainly emotional and spiritual but also psychological and physical. (more…)

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Creative Writing – what’s in it for doctors?

Creative Writing comes from our ability to day-dream.  Through it we can practice our narrative competence – making sense of our own lives, our own fears, our own anxieties. We can generate meaning and find re-assuring resolution.

As writers, as Freud said in his paper on Creative Writers and Day-dreaming (1907) we can make up imaginary worlds, take them seriously, invest them with huge emotion, enliven them with material from the world’ around us and keep these worlds separate from our own reality.


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Thanks to GP Newspaper for permission to publish.

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