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Creative Writing for Personal and Professional Development Celia Hunt University of Sussex

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1 Creative Writing for Personal and Professional Development Celia Hunt University of Sussex

2 Aims of the MA Creative Writing and Personal Development at Sussex University To enable participants: to develop creative writing through reflection on the self in the writing process to acquire skills to facilitate developmental and therapeutic writing groups to explore the connection between self and creativity through creative writing

3 MA Participants People aspiring to write creatively Established writers experiencing blocks Professionals from health and social care, education, business, etc. wishing to acquire skills for use in their work New graduates seeking professional development People in transition seeking an opportunity for reflection

4 Approach to Teaching and Learning in the MA Fictionalising experience of self and others through creative writing exercises Small, student-led groups for discussion and sharing creative writing in progress Study of theories of self and creativity Critical reflection through learning journals and reflective essays

5 My Research Project 2004-08 into the Learning Process of students taking the MA* Questions What is the nature of changes students experience? What facilitates these changes? What are the challenges of this kind of learning? *Funded by British Academy and Higher Education Academy

6 Main Finding: a Significant Change that Students experience Shift away from reliance on (often unexamined) self-concepts, e.g. what it means to be a writer or a learner or an ill person or a spouse, towards a more fluid and flexible self-experience grounded in what it feels like to be oneself Often leads to increased flexibility of thinking processes

7 Example: Change in Self-Concept as Writer I think in the past I was very worried about […] this idea that I didnt feel I was a writer, because I was a woman or something, but also this idea of writing having to be good. You know I sort of brought into it all the academic stuff about writing being good, or not being good enough (5F Int2). I used to think if I wrote I could only write brilliant things, I could only write bestsellers, you know whatever I did it couldnt ever be mediocre or I couldnt just do it for fun, it had to be going somewhere (3F Int2).

8 Being a writer is much less important to me than it was, now I am enjoying writing in a much deeper way (QPS9 ). Its left me […] more certain where I want to go with my writing, but left me very much more open as to how I achieve it, and Im quite enjoying that thought […] Im very interested in playing with ideas now, whereas I would never be like that before, I would have had a fixed view of where I was going to be. And I know that I dont know quite where the writings going to take me, and Im actually enjoying that now (13F Int2).

9 Significant Factors contributing to this Change* Creating space for exploration of self-experience through creative writing (also through learning journals and reflective essays) Objectifying the self on the page through small group work Increasing understanding of the above through studying theory of self and creativity Providing a contained learning environment with tutors experienced in transformative learning *in order of significance

10 Examples of Creative Writing Exercises used: 1. Focus on Bodily Feeling and Emotion Freewriting: avoiding the censor (Peter Elbow) Metaphor for the present self: immersion in the feeling of the present (Ira Progoff) Rhythm and Rhyme: Identifying rhythms associated with everyday activities and using them to create rhyming poems (Cheryl Moskowitz) Sound Language: playing with the sound and feel of words, particularly those remembered from childhood (Dominic McLoughlin)

11 2. Focus on Inner Dialogue Experimenting with Point of View: creating self- dialogues between 1 st, 2 nd and 3 rd person Self as Source: creating dialogue between two different aspects of the personality through characterisation (Cheryl Moskowitz) Future Self: creating dialogue between oneself in the future and a new person in ones life (Cheryl Moskowitz) Imagining the Reader: creating dialogue between oneself as author and the reader(s) one imagines one is writing for (Celia Hunt)

12 Developmental Role of Creative Writing Exercises focusing on bodily feeling and emotion facilitate opening up to the felt nature of self- experience beyond dominant self-concepts: showing rather than telling the self creating an oblique angle on oneself creating/exploring new metaphors for self Focus on inner dialogue keeps the inner space open by facilitating reflexivity between different voices of the self and others who speak in us: creating/exploring new self-narratives

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