The healing power of creativity

The research demonstrating the health benefits of being creative was touched upon in my last post. We could continue to talk science but for me it is very personal story.

During the mid to late 1990s, my family experienced the losses of a number of loved ones mostly due to cancer. I was lucky in lots of ways. I have a loving husband and family. I had a few years of my career as a doctor under my belt, I worked with people who were supportive and I had worked previously with a palliative care team. I was well-armed to process information about what was happening and to help my family. It did get me to wondering how people manage to navigate the health system without a health professional background but perhaps that’s a topic for another time.


Photo by Mia Holton

I ran between work, which I still found rewarding, and my role as a caring relative, always wishing I had found more time to spend with my loved one before they got sick. As each illness took its course, both difficult and precious times were shared, everybody made a significant contribution and we were brought closer as a family.

Life goes on. You pull yourself together and do the needful. Days and then weeks and months pass in a blur. But grieving is painful and I couldn’t stay numb forever. In the dark days that followed one of our losses, a dear and wise friend Dionne Lew suggested that I write and told me about “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I was surprised that she even thought of me as a writer as I had focused so completely on my career that I had not written fiction since high school. In fact, I had read few novels since school as all my reading time was spent on medical journals.

I took her advice and wrote, at first tentatively, and gradually found that I got my right arm and my life back. Allowing myself to write let me process things differently, even when I was writing fiction. I strongly believe that when you write, you won’t go anywhere that you aren’t ready to go. Writing helped me to move on. I am also fascinated by how reading fiction, which is something I now do regularly, can help us to access our emotions, learn and better understand ourselves in a way that direct examination of our own lives might not allow. And the benefits don’t end with the written word. I also found that I enjoy painting and have found gardening to be another creative outlet.

Interestingly over the last decade I have noticed that when I don’t find the time for creative writing, I suffer terrifying nightmares. Not the kind of things I want to share or would ever write about even in fiction. It is like the creative urge is coiled up somewhere in my subconscious and needs to be given an opportunity to come out. I trudge back to my computer, start typing and they stop.

How has being creative helped you?

What are the consequences for you if you are not creative?

How you might make a change that promotes creativity and health?

I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to share your thoughts on creativity and health.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.


P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email. You can also follow me on  Twitter (@JacquieGS) and Facebook.


© 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith  (Photo by Mia Holton)

10 thoughts on “The healing power of creativity

  1. Great post, Jacquie. I particularly like the sentence, ‘I strongly believe that when you write, you won’t go anywhere that you aren’t ready to go.’ I’d even go further and say that writing leads us where we NEED to go. After all, it’s our subconscious talking.

  2. This one really resonates with me Jacquie – as you know I’ve been blogging this year post-redundancy and I’ve found that it’s not only given me a strong sense of purpose, it’s been great for observing, reflecting and learning.

    • Thanks Mairi. I’m so glad it resonates for you. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying reading your blog. As I reflect further on your comment, I see that part of what we are really talking about is the value of sharing stories – both for the one who shares and those we shared with. Blogging gives us the potential to share so much more freely. I look forward to continuing to share in yours and other’s stories.

  3. Hi Jacquie. Thanks for the follow on Twitter. As others have said, I also feel empathy with your thoughts here, especially the nightmares. Sometimes my mind is so full of “stuff” that I am unable to process anything, but I do believe that writing is very tgerapeutic. You can find me here – – inspired to update blog today !

    • Thanks so much for dropping by!
      I’m so pleased that my post resonates. It’s so hard when the thoughts are swirling to sit oneself down and write but I am convinced it helps (even if a little bit at a time!)
      Good luck with your blog update and best wishes for your writing (and an absence of nightmares if possible)

  4. ‘The Artist’s Way’ has been invaluable to me, too. I’m not exaggerating when I say that writing has kept me sane. I’ve recently discovered Zentangle which I’m also enjoying. It’s a fun, and therapeutic, way to create images – especially when you’re not confident in your artistic ability!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experiences Louise.

      Zentangle sounds like a wonderful approach to build creative confidence, and I think it is so often finding where to start that holds people back. Some of my family have done a Zentangle course and raved about it – I must relook at the book they gave my son. Thanks for the prompt!

  5. Reblogged this on docgrief and commented:
    There are no right ways of coping with grief but writing and creativity can be very powerful.

    • Many thanks for reblogging this post.
      I couldn’t agree more about there being no “right” way to grieve – excellent point. Also I think timing of the things that may help us is very individual.
      Best wishes and thanks again

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