As regular readers of this blog will know, I recently had the pleasure of speaking on the Overcoming Obstacles: Wellbeing for Writers panel at the 2019 National Writers’ Conference. It was an honour to be a part of such a well-ran literary event and speak alongside my fellow wordsmiths Maisie Chan, Jane Roberts and our chair Louise Palfreyman. Our discussion took place in the University of Birmingham’s Bramwell Music Building and in an hour of honest and heartfelt conversation we covered some important, timely topics.
We all shared our individual insights into our experiences of living with ill-health and a number of the creative and personal coping strategies we use to help us through.
Maisie spoke with candid eloquence about her battles with depression, Jane conversed bravely about what she humorously refers to as her “Mixed bag of health conditions” and gave a deeply powerful reading from her piece Little Follies: Notes on Thyroid Illness & fibromyalgia. Louise discussed her struggles with M.E. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and how she stays productive by carefully choosing when to focus more on her editing work and when to concentrate on her fiction writing. I talked about how having quadriplegic cerebral palsy impacts on my life and writing, the perspective it gives me and the importance of finding humour in adversity.
Our audience at the Conference were amazingly receptive and many of them opened up about their own varied experiences throughout our talk. This level of honesty and mutual understanding transformed it from a standard panel discussion to a wide-ranging chat among a roomful of people bound together by creative comradeship and hope for a positive, more inclusive future.
My co-panellists and I were hugely inspired by our audience and are keen to keep this channel of discussion open. So with that in mind we have created wellbeingforwriters.com a blog that we hope can become an online community where people can talk, post, share info, give and receive solidarity when they need it the most.
There are already a handful of powerful and thought-provoking pieces on there from my talented collaborators, as well as a humble scribbling by yours truly. We also have a resources page where you can find a range of organisations who offer personal and writing-related support. But there is room for so much more.
If you are a writer or creative who is fighting a mental or physical health battle, if you are someone with a disability or a carer with stories and wisdom to share or if you are a person who is cooking up ideas on how to increase inclusivity in the arts and wider society, please get in touch via the contact page. We’d love to hear from you.
With love & best wishes,