How many of you poured your hearts out in a teenage diary? Did you feel cleansed afterwards? There’s no doubt that for anyone with a writerly spirit, writing can be a useful form of therapy. It helps us get rid of the toxic waste that pours into our system from so many sources and rebalances our view of ourselves and our world.
What people don’t always realise is that there is a subtle difference between therapeutic and creative writing. Therapeutic writing is writing for release and for comfort. Creative writing is writing to tell stories, to invent characters, to find new ways of explaining universal concepts. In summary, therapeutic writing is for yourself, creative writing is for yourself and for others.
Some people fail to make this distinction and believe that creative writing groups and classes are a good outlet for their therapeutic writing. This puts the other people in the group in the awkward position of having to evaluate writing that is extremely raw. Critiquing it means belittling that person’s experience. Ultimately, it’s not going to be helpful to the person either. They clearly want to reach out, but a counsellor will be in a better position to give them the support they need.
Creative writers draw on their own experiences for their writing as well. The difference is that they use their characters and their words to give shape to that experience and to build a new world. Not only are they cleansing themselves, but they’re taking their life experience and using it to create something beautiful, something that resonates with other people. Think about how powerful that can be.