Conversation 49: Writing as a Holistic Practice


“We Write in order to Celebrate and Make Sense of our World” Writer David Almond

My incentive to set up  THE DAILY HAIKU, building on my experience working as a Creative Practitioner in community, education, healthcare and corporate settings, continues to be to offer a format that encourages more people to ‘write’. My focus is to increase accessibility, engagement and creativity.


Paper Nations are currently supporting a poetry project and competition in schools in Gloucestershire with writer Marnie Eldridge Forbes. This is my inspirational quote about writing for this initiative:

Writing is what you see, you feel, you imagine, you say, you sense, you dream – all you have to do is choose how you want to express it: in a story, a poem, in a diary, a film, a recording, a text, a drawing…”


I believe writing is a holistic process. Sometimes assumptions about what writing is, and this can include who can write and who can’t, stops people being able to access ‘creative writing’. Furthermore many people are put off writing from past experiences at school or by others squashing their efforts. However writing should not be an exclusive club and is more than simply having a pen and paper or feeling that you need to know about writing to be able to call yourself a writer.


I often work with people who cannot write in a formal way. This can be due to several factors including dementia or a lack in literacy skills. BUT, and this is crucial, they are still writers. We can encourage them to express themselves in creative ways and embracing a holistic approach to writing. We can record people’s writing,  use visual means and drama and respond to individual needs rather than imposing rigid methods that are excluding rather than invitational and inspirational.


There is nothing more moving than to witness the moment someone realises they are ‘writing’ and that their creativity is valued. At St Petrocs, a charity in Cornwall tackling homelessness, working with ArtsWell an anthology of work STONES IN OUR HANDS includes work from a series of  workshops working with those experiencing homelessness and staff members . It is also raising funds for the charity but also helping those who participated find their voice. One participant’s comments:
‘Since this writing project has started it’s helped me a great deal along the way, to feel empty now. It’s released all these chains. It’s like I can breathe again.’


Choices in how we express ourselves are crucial. Not everyone has a dedicated space to write in or is at a point that they feel confident in saying they can write. When we ask questions around subjects or themes this can unlock the world of writing for people and encourage individuals to value their view and feelings about the world around them.  I am passionate about finding methods that create these KEYS which unlock creativity.


I am also very keen to make sure that my practice continues to evolve in this area. However recognising a holistic approach to writing enables this process to open up accessibility and engagement.  A pertinent example includes working with a man with dementia on AGE AND AMBITION a project run by Arts for Health Cornwall and The Isles of Scilly where the assumption around producing some poetry changed after listening to his individual needs and interests. This developed into producing writing that included a series of photographs taken by the participant and a guide on bowls which formed part of a wider exhibition.


On THE DAILY HAIKU debates about haiku often revolve around whether to include images or not. I am keen to focus on acknowledging  preferences in how individuals wish to express themselves. What is important is choice  in how we want to EXPRESS ourselves and encouraging each other to find ways that work for them. The VARK model is helpful here in understanding VISUAL, AUDITORY, READING/WRITING or KINESTHETIC learning and thinking.


I also feel that sometimes by opening our practice to other techniques we can also move away from being stuck in one way to ‘write’. This also allows us to understand other peoples’ approaches and I hope encourage experimentation, but more than anything increase accessibility and engagement.


We are all creative beings – all artists – all writers. This is the ethos behind wonderful initiatives like 64Million Artists.  Writing too can be collaborative as a conversation that not only encourages people to have a go but also supports each other when we start our writing adventure.


We have ideas, feelings and ways of seeing the world that are unique to us. I hope that THE DAILY HAIKU has become a place that supports, encourages and nurtures ‘writing’ in this way. It is exciting to see the diverse ways we express our writing on THE DAILY HAIKU. This includes opportunities to get involved in projects such as the wonderful film and haiku initiative I EVEN DREAM IN HAIKU with Paper Nations.


Moving forwards I look forward to more projects and ways we can celebrate our writing, whether in book form, a schools haiku competition or in a sculpture or all of the above. Ideas below please.


The VARK model

64 Million Artists

St Petrocs


Paper Nations UK

The films in the ‘I Even Dream in Haiku’ Series









And on The Great Margin website and at twitter @TheGreatMargin


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