Creative writing can be a useful tool for personal growth and development. I recently attended such a workshop with Sue Ashby included as part of my counselling training. We were challenged to write ‘free-flow’ for 6 minutes, even if we repeated the same word until other words came to mind. We started the exercise with the word ‘If’. After the 6 minutes we stopped writing and underlined things that interested or surprised us. We then chose a sentence, used it as our next title and began writing again for 6 minutes. For me, it was great to express and not worry about editing for readers, that was the cathartic bit and the time limit seemed to help with the flow. It was an interesting exercise which I will take into the counselling room with me for clients who wish to use writing as a way of expressing themselves. If you like the idea of creative writing for personal development here are 5 more ways to use creative writing for yourself:
- A letter from your heart to your mind – for times you have conflict, you could write a letter from both, but often the heart doesn’t have the voice over the logical part of the mind.
- A letter from your emotions (anger, sadness, fear, joy) – expressing our emotions can be difficult, it is interesting to see what things get written on free flow.
- An unsent letter to someone (or something) lost – because its unsent there is an honesty that can come from free flow writing that allows us to just express our feelings without sending it anywhere…and sometimes there is nowhere to send the letter.
- Same event, different perspectives – this is a little bit like the ’empty chair’ exercise in Gestalt therapy where one person talks at an empty chair imagining someone in it, then changes seats and becomes that person to reply. Of course there may be many perspectives over one event which may give the writer more empathy for others at the end of the exercise.
- A letter to a place – this could be as a goodbye upon moving and could even be more specific and include an old home, or to express feelings over an event that occurred in a place.
When I move from a place, a home more specifically, I usually smudge with a joss stick or white sage to take my energy with me. I think I got this practice from reading a Feng Shui book 16 years ago and its stayed as part of my moving homes ritual, which may seem a strange ritual to mention until perhaps I add I have moved 34 times so far. My DBS checks are always so much fun! The longest time I have spent in one house is 10 years. This was my family home in the town where I was born, but I only lived in that town throughout my teenage years. I have stayed in one other county for as long since then, but admittedly moved homes 8 times within its boundaries…
I first met you in autumn 2007, when I was on a coastal trip from Exeter with St Luke’s Teacher Training College. The chemists and physicists got to see Lulworth Cove and study the amazing Jurassic rock formations, and the biologists (myself included) walked a steep hill and did quadrat samples on the grass and quite frankly we could have been anywhere in the country. At least we saw a bit of your coast line whilst having our lunch. On the trip back, a fellow PGCE student asked if I would swap my placement for his as he was a surfer. He had got Weymouth and Poole, whilst I was down for Barnstable and Ilfracombe (better surfing opporunities). Although Barnstable was where my grandpa George was from originally and I was intrigued about living there, I thought Dorset would be closer to my sister and niece who would be an hour away in Salisbury so I would get to visit more often. I swapped.
I visited you again for several days later that year when I visited my first school placement at Budmouth College in Weymouth. I met a geography teacher who was looking for a lodger and I moved in with her for the start of Spring term 2008. Barnes Wallis Close my first address here, around the corner from school and perfect for someone without a car. I got to know Weymouth pretty well, which bus to take to town and when to avoid the bus as it would be full of students!
I bought an old red micra called Noddy just before I moved to lodgings opposite Poole Park for my summer term placement at Parkstone Grammar school, Poole and got to know Poole and Bournemouth fairly well too. I was a big fan of Poole pottery and ‘painting your own’. I also enjoyed a mindful walk around the lake and sometimes coastal path between lesson planning in the evenings or at weekends.
I returned to Weymouth for my first teaching post at Budmouth and rented a room above a teachers garage for autumn term. I finally admitted defeat when it got so cold in there that the water froze as it touched the sink. I moved back in with the geography teacher and warmed up for spring and summer term. At the end of summer that year I organised a fossil hunting trip for a group of year 7 for activities week, we got to explore chisel beach and we went successful fossil hunting. It was a shame the weather was too bad on the Friday for the glass bottom boat trip on the lagoon. Harry Potter at the cinema was the only thing that could have helped the disappointment – that’s me, not the students.
I explored and climbed your rugged rocks around the isle of Portland, as a mate at the time rented a room from a rock climbing landlord. I recall he had a sofa called ‘the seat of truth’ turned to face the window and the view of chesil beach linking Portland to the mainland in Weymouth. It was great to watch the sun go down from there. And it was a sobering walk from the The Cove pub back to her room. When she moved to Weymouth we discovered Finns, a very important haunt that got us both through a standard teaching week!
In Sep 2009 I moved to Portland to teach at Royal Manor, and lived in Wakeham by Church Ope Cove which was peaceful at that time of year. I often walked down the many steps to the beach to listen to the waves crashing upon the rocks and pebbles. I once ran from Fortuneswell to Portland Bill Lighthouse with a colleague who was training for a half marathon. My goal was to blow off the teaching blues and being ex Army I always think I can just do these things without training. I recall I couldn’t walk normally for about 2 days much to the students amusement. Years later I would finally get around to walking up all the steps in Portland Bill and be lucky enough to see dolphins swimming up to the boats out at sea from one of the windows. On the rugged rocks around Portland Bill after a nostalgic walk around Fortuneswell I even received a marriage proposal.
I briefly left you in 2010 when my career in teaching came to an abrupt end, and consequently I couldn’t afford to stay in my flat so stayed at a mates in Amesbury whilst she was on tour. Weeks later Budmouth offered me a supply teaching post which I came back for but sadly the damage of teaching was already done. I did however make up my mind to stay and the only way that was achievable was to invite a long lost father to rent with me – and his two terriers. We moved to dog friendly Cerne Abbas in a lovely home called Ginger Fox Cottage, Duck Street and I could see the cheeky Giant waving his bits at me every morning as I drew back the curtains. I appreciated the village life in your more rural parts and I soon rekindled my love of horses up the road at Home Farm in Minterne Magna and it all inspired me to set up my business Juniper Animals.
I bravely took a teaching assistant job at Colfox in Bridport to support my business and became a little more familiar with your more arty bohemian town. A year later I took up lecturing at Kingston Maurward college teaching the science and welfare subjects in the Animal Care dept. Moving around the campus between lessons sure beat the noisy corridors of a secondary school. My niece joined us for a year in Cerne and she ran wild in a way you could as a child in yesterday years.
In October 2013 my niece and I moved to your county town of Dorchester. We went on several ghost walks and learnt more about the Roman town of Durnovaria and often went for walks around the place taking in the old architecture. I became reacquainted with Lulworth Cove and other old haunts as I explored them again with my niece. For her birthday we went on a coastal activity and got to kayak out of your cove and around the coast towards Durdle door. We ditched the kayaks at the stair hole for a bit of coasteering – can’t beat a bit of jumping off rocks into the sea in October!
When a friend moved in with us for a while and we got touristy once more. I finally visited Brownsea island and travelled around Old Harry Rocks by boat. We visited Athelhampton house which is just stunning and we set the world to right in the secret hiding seats between two conifers in the garden. My niece and I got to know your Piddle Valley area very well as that’s where Jac our first horse lived for 3 years. I enjoyed the hacks out and foraging in the hedgerows with him. There was a bit of time spent in Dorchester hospital when my niece was paralysed, but thankfully more time spent at Aquae Sulis chiropractors where she fully recovered. I remember I had to find a posh dress to wear for the Venus Business awards finalists ceremony in Poole and I never did find out who voted for me in the first place.
I began my counselling studies in Dorchester, and continued at Poundbury, where I have watched Prince Charles’ project town develop more and more. I have even spotted 2 royals whilst being here.
Like my teaching career, fostering came to an abrupt end. It ended before my counselling training was finished and the only way to continue studying and keep Jac (our pony) was to give up renting the flat. An opportunity came up which would mean leaving you, but I did not take it as I had decided to wait. Wait to see if ‘blood is thicker’ than the pull of dark energy. Wait to see if there was any foundation to that marriage proposal on the rocks at Portland. I embraced my vulnerability in waiting, then I accepted my reality, there was nothing more to wait for as it was all in the past. As they say, there’s no point looking back, as you ain’t going that way. Thankfully that opportunity has come back around to make sure it collects me this time. Dorset, I appreciate you letting me stay this long, and I am grateful for a real mix of opportunities and adventures here. I may have moved many times but goodbyes don’t get easier, so here is my fond farewell to you and I ask you to look after all those lovely people I have met here over the last 10 years, even those who are no longer part of my life. I’m not going too far away and I will no doubt be back to visit from time to time.
“And suddenly you know its time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings” – Eckhart von Hochheim.
Photo: Gerry White, 2016.