Heather Shakespeare

An Audience of One

Brown pen on white notebook

When I was teaching English, I always reminded my students to think about their purpose and audience before starting to write, or even plan their writing. Effective communicators always consider who they’re addressing and why, and this inevitably shapes what they say and how they say it.

But writing for wellbeing is different. In essence, it’s writing for yourself rather than anyone else. The usual rules of ‘good writing’ and effective communication – spelling, grammar, structure etc. – don’t apply here. In fact, with this way of writing, there are no expectations or rules other than to exercise self-care. That means you have the freedom to write whatever you want or need to write without concerning yourself with what others might think. Of course, you might choose to share your writing with others later, but the bottom line is they are your words. There’s no getting it wrong – whatever you write is right for you, as you write to express rather than to impress. For many people, this release from rules, judgement and evaluation has proved to be surprisingly liberating and revealing.

And it’s not a case of one size fits all. A wide variety of approaches are used in writing for wellbeing: lists, flow writing, writing from prompts such as images or poetry, dialogue and guided visualisations to name but a few. The activities vary in length and always leave room for individual choice, offering the freedom to let your pen take you where it will.

Writing for yourself – allowing space for creativity, expression and reflection – has so much to offer. There’s a growing body of research which demonstrates the beneficial effects it can have on our health and wellbeing. It can relieve stress and anxiety, develop self-awareness, provide fresh insights and open up new perspectives. It can be a useful and versatile tool when we’re feeling stuck or confused or conflicted or apprehensive.

So it’s easy to see why writing for wellbeing is now being used increasingly in hospitals and workplaces, community halls and prisons. People everywhere are discovering the power of writing to help them make sense of their world, cope with life’s challenges and make the most of its opportunities.

Read more about writing for wellbeing

Further reading