Episode 10 – Mental Health and Wellbeing

Episode 10 is about creativity and mental health. On examining the evidence, few scientific studies support the widely held assumption that there’s a link between creativity and mental health. While the research says that exercise helps mild to moderate depression, there is no clear evidence that creativity is linked to mood disorder.

Despite this, many activities for the prevention or treatment of mental health conditions focus on creative activities, such as writing. The opportunity to connect with others is what’s important, but what does this mean for writers who spend large amounts of time in their own heads? They often work alone, where there’s a risk that ruminating might get out of control.

Most people suffer from mental health problems at some stage in their lives. In many ways this seems as obvious as pointing out that most people will suffer from an illness at some point in their lives. Life is generally tough and regularly hits us with issues such as grief and loss whether that’s a person or the loss of a job or relationship. No matter how strong you are, there is a chance that something will get you right where it hurts at some stage.

Mental health, like physical health, is on a continuum and dependant on what stress versus resilience an individual had as to where they are on the scale at anyone time.

MIND and Young Minds encourage group creativity; building a network of support and getting in the habit of challenging negative thoughts and ideas.

RESOURCES

These are UK based resources, but if anyone wants to add anything local to them that could help others, feel free.

British Psychological Society

MIND – see the website to find the Wellbeing Being Journal. Journaling helps me when I struggle to find the words when I’m too angry, despairing or confused to know what I think. It gives me a voice.

Samaritans

Mental Health Services NHS

Your Brain on Fiction published in The New York Times 2012, reported on research that demonstrated that the brain can learn from stories in the same way as if we experienced it.

Factsheet Mental Health Disorders

Factsheet Mental Health: – Strengthening Our Response

There are the Headspace and Calm apps that support the practice of mindfulness.

Happy Place; Calm Journal; Happy Journal by Fearne Cotton

Episode 9 – Barriers to Writing

In this episode, Anna and I talk about barriers – internal and external. We discuss trying to find a way through, from family issues to imposter syndrome.

Signs of being stuck:

While deep down we might know that we should be writing, it is not always apparent to the conscious mind that we are struggling to write. What does that mean? If you aren’t achieving your goals, it might be a good idea to look at why that could be. Self-sabotage could be to blame. It’s worth considering whether you are experiencing a fear of change, of failure, or even a fear of success.

Other signs are; there is always another small task that just has to be done, interrupting your writing time.

Is research writing? Well, it might be, but it can also be an effective way of avoiding writing.

Other symptoms include; feeling confused, starting and then going blank. The story itself or the characters are not right, making it difficult to muster the motivation to carry on.

There are also external barriers, such as a noisy environment, no space or demanding children, pets or relatives.

Some solutions:

An activity such as running or walking can kick start the brain and get it unstuck, plus increase your daily step count, burn calories and help you get fitter.

Brainstorming or writing for fun. A change of project can get you back into the habit. It isn’t supposed to be torture – honest.

The noisy egg timer helps me concentrate for a short period (it only goes up to 50 minutes, which is plenty long enough).

Surround yourself with people who encourage you. If you find some who supports you and believes in you, treasure them and/or marry them.

Take a break from writing to have some new adventures. Just like the body, we need to take care of our creative brain. Just remember to plan a writing session at some point in the future.

Allow yourself to be inspired by other writers. Reading replenishes the soul, it’s a fact!

If stuck – look at your life and throw out the unworkable stuff. This is probably a good recipe for living whether you are a writer or not.

Be open to the present moment. That sounds easy! Train the brain to make it easier with techniques like mindfulness.

Shut off all distractions – phone, Facebook etc. – and when you are bored enough, perhaps you will write.

Books mentioned:

Reasons to Stay Alive Matt Haigh

The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron

Let us know any barriers we’ve missed. Any that are specific to you or even better, how you have overcome them. We’d love to hear from you. Good luck,

Lucinda and Anna.

Episode 8 – Writing Education

In this week’s podcast we discuss the benefits and pitfalls of writing groups and give listeners some ideas of the options available (see below).

The links included are local to Sheffield but you will find similar classes near to you unless you are in a remote area, in which case you can check out online courses. You might prefer an online course for a variety of reasons. If so the links below are an example of what’s available.

The different types of writing educations/groups available:

In person, local classes that often run for a number of weeks for a set fee. People can also sign up for day, weekend retreats, or even longer. https://www.arvon.org/

Fellowships and grants are sometimes available https://literatureworks.org.uk/resources/bursaries-and-grants-available-for-writers-in-the-uk/

Online courses that range from free,  https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/start-writing-fiction to paying a set fee. http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/find/creative-writing

If you fancy becoming a graduate or post graduate degree there are a range available at Universities, such as the Sheffield MA https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/english/ma/course/creative-writing

https://www.shu.ac.uk/courses/english/ba-honours-creative-writing/full-time

Free writing community groups, http://www.hivesouthyorkshire.com/young-writers-groups

WEA courses, https://www.wea.org.uk/yorkshire-and-humber/autumn-2018-19-courses-rotherham-sheffield

Library courses https://sheffield.carpe-diem.events/calendar/9083795-creative-writing-group-at-sheffield-central-library/

Courses can be tutor led or peer led. You can of course start your own group and/or you might consider getting together with a writing friend to encourage and support each other.

Episode 7 – Indie versus Traditional

Anna and I talk about our different perspectives on publishing.  Anna would be keen to go down the traditional publishing route while I am a committed indie. There are pros and cons to both – have a listen.

What do you think? Would you prefer the freedom and control of being an indie author or would you prefer the option to win awards and have your book in a prominent place in a bookstore?