Creative Writing for health, well-being and fun!

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Monday, 29 December 2008

The New You!

I usually find people - writers or otherwise - take the opportunity to make a New Year's resolution which somehow involves the words 'diet' and 'detox'. This of course would not be necessary if we were not already overloading on Christmas feasting and, of course, the sensible thing to do would be not to overload in the first place. But - given the temptations - I suppose we can expect to falter a little.

At this point, writers - like other sedentary folk - need to take care. Similarly, people undergoing major stress - divorce, separation, serious illness diagnosis, redundancy - whatever - you take the point - need to avoid the comfort of the chelsea bun.

So what to do?

For a start, the British Dietetic Association offers 5 New Year diet resolution tips. These include:
• Drink sensibly. 6-8 glasses of fluid, or about 1.5 - 2 litres per day is enough for most people
• Keep a diet diary for a week – be honest and record everything, then have a look at the areas where you can make changes
• If you need to make changes to your diet do so gradually – make small changes that you can stick to (e.g. eat one extra portion of veg or fruit each day, or have breakfast daily)
• Plan your meals – make a shopping list based on the meals you plan to have for the week ahead – it will also save money as you’ll be less likely to waste food
• Visit the BDA’s website for free resources, meal plans, and strategies to improve your nutritional health.

Just a thought.
Happy New Year! Happier New You!
Lizzie Gates

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Naturally, just before Christmas, I find myself laid low by some currently fashionable virus. So - pause for thought. Most of the preps are done. I could force myself - coughing and weeping - to trail round the shops again. But why?

Christmas for me is not a godless time. It begins with the Christmas Eve Service at Chester Cathedral - all carols and candles, and memories of people, now gone, who loved Christmas and shared that with me. And the life-affirming mystery of the Word of God.

I'm Friday's Child, loving and giving. So Christmas is just right for me. It's one of those opportunities when you can still smile at strangers and outpour your own natural warmth - without being regarded as a suspicious character with a hidden agenda.

And, no, I don't care that I haven't a new sofa!

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The Role of the Arts in Medical Education

This autumn I’ve been working assiduously on a rather fine development among Lonely Furrow Company activities. Many, many people have expressed keen interest in these co-designed creativity workshops, my so-called Out of the Box Workshops. Targetting specific groups, each Out of the Box Workshop has a clearly-stated and totally-focussed aim.

At the moment, I am particularly excited by the prospect of running these with Tomorrow's Doctors! The medical profession, itself, is greatly concerned about aligning itself with the needs, hopes and expectations of its patients. And, as you read this, the General Medical Council is consulting on the kind of doctors medical education should aim to produce. (To take part in the consultation visit The Medical Schools’ Council have also just published their 2008 Conference consensus statement on the role of the 21st Century Doctor (To see the statement, click on ).This impulse appears more Hippocratic than ‘free-market’ and is – in my view as a patient (sometimes) and lay observer (always) – very welcome indeed!

But, as a coach and creative workshop facilitator, you may ask, why am I getting involved?

Well, I've been looking at the work of Robin Downie (University of Glasgow Professor of Moral Philosophy) and Dr Jane Macnaughton (University of Durham Centre for Arts & Humanities in Health and Medicine).

And Robin Downie,in his chapter in Creative Writing in Health & Social Care 2004, indicates that creative writing and reading can help medical practitioners (and ultimately their patients) by developing:
1.Transferable skills such as:
a) an ability to write clear English
b) sensitivity to the nuances, ambiguities etc to be found in normal conversation
c) an ability to see connections between apparently disparate situations
2. Self awareness which has the added benefit of safe-guarding against emotional burn-out.

As it happens, co-incidentally, Lonely Furrow Company creativity programmes also have these outcomes as central to their aims. It's a small world, isn't it?

Friday, 5 December 2008

Acting out the awfulness!

I want to tell you about an amazing workshop I've been to recently. Its theme was the use of psychodramatic techniques in sociodrama. Have I lost you yet? Doesn't sound a bundle of laughs, does it? But it was - and an extremely effective way of setting out the stall of some social problem, together with possible solutions.

For example, one participant - she could easily have been a GP, a counsellor, a lawyer, a public sector employee, a voluntary sector manager, in fact anyone dealing with front-line social issues - came to the workshop suffering from work overload. To help her, the situation was mapped out within the performance space. All the workshop participants were given roles - acting either as building blocks of the problem or people offering support. The director and the protagonist (whose problem it was) pushed and pulled the issue - and the actors - around until a solution became clear. The protagonist was left with the anchored image of a pile of empty chairs - representing her now-emasculated problems - and an action plan - well, first step - of finding the phone number of someone who could help in future. For further information, see or co-director Di Adderley[])

I can't wait to include these techniques in my creativity workshops, which I run to promote well-being among people facing social issues. I'll keep you posted.