A Woman Writing at Home

The Therapeutic Nature of Creative Writing

Benefits of
Creative Writing

Recently there has been an increased interest in the potential benefits the arts can offer those affected by illness. Creative writing has been studied for its documented benefits such as raising mood and general well-being to improving quality of life. Yet, this is not a new concept. Over a decade ago, a study was released that stated that ‘finding one’s voice via poetic means can be a healing process’, this is as through this process you are ‘open[ing] up the opportunity for self-expression’, which cannot be ‘otherwise felt through everyday words’ (1).

Impact on Mood/Well-Being

Various studies have used control groups of cancer patients in order to evaluate the impact creative writing can have on the well-being of people living with the disease. The common trend found within these studies was an improvement in mood, which was at times significantly increased. In one study released in 2018, the results showed that creative writing could ‘restore’ ‘emotional wellbeing’ in cancer patients (2). Other studies have also displayed a notable ‘positive effect on mood’ after patients completed a series of creative writing activities (3). A trend amongst articles is the improvement creative writing can have on low spirit in cancer patients. Research undertaken in 2007 found that ‘expressive writing’ was a ‘useful mechanism to deal with breast cancer’, with the results claiming this therapeutic exercise ‘had an effect’ on ‘depression and anxiety’ (4). Similarly, a more generalised study in 2010 showed an improvement in ‘depressed mood’ in cancer patients (5).

Improvement on 
Quality of Life

In addition to impact upon mood, creative writing has been shown in studies to improve general quality of life for cancer patients with different diagnoses and ethnicities. A study undertaken in 2007 on breast cancer patients found that creative writing about cancer as a ‘traumatic event’ proved to be ‘statistically significant for improvement in functional quality of life’ (6). A recent study completed in 2018 focused upon this theory when applied to a specific ethnicity who had previously underwent cancer treatment and survived. The results followed previous studies, finding that in a short time, ‘quality of life was improved in the sample from baseline to the 6-month follow-up’, displaying a ‘large and statistically significant effect … on quality of life improvement’ (7). The study concluded that ‘expressive writing’ has been proven ‘to be an effective intervention to improve quality of life for Chinese-American cancer survivors’ (8). Creative writing has been proven in studies to help improve quality of life for various cancer types, helping different ethnicities at various stages through their journey through cancer.

Other Benefits:

Studies have shown other benefits caused by cancer patients/survivors undertaking creative writing. Firstly, several studies have shown an impact upon physical capabilities and pain management. One study showed writing to ‘improve control over pain’ and even to reduce ‘pain severity’ (9). Similarly, another research project showed writing to have an effect on ‘physical functioning’ (10). Yet, aside from physical improvements, there have also been documented cases of boosted confidence. A study from 2018, showed writing ‘builds confidence in the writer’, further concluding that ‘this is an art of allowing self-analysis and boosting self-esteem’ (11). The activity of creative writing has benefits not only on the emotional wellbeing and physical performance of cancer patients and survivors, but also improves the confidence of the writer.

Woman with Long Grey Hair
Writing

Your Turn!

Begin your writing journey today with The Big Creative. Use our Explore & Create Page to read works by fellow patients and their friends & family or use this link to submit your own personal work.

 

If you need some inspiration for your writing or would like to know what types of texts you can submit, please click here.

 

To read works from those throughout history with cancer or featured writers, explore our Featured Page.

 

© The Big C-reative 2021

References:

 

  1. Heather Stuckey et al., ‘The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature’, American Journal of Public Health, 100:2 (February 2010), 254-63.

  2. J. Swasti, ‘Creative Writing – An Under-Utilized Cancer Therapy’, Journal of Cancer Science and Research, 3:1 (2018).

  3. J. Zhu et al., ‘Effect of creative writing on mood in patients with cancer’, BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, 10:1 (March 2020).

  4. Melissa Craft, ‘Expressive Writing in Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patients’, Oncology Nursing Form, 34:2 (March 2007), 507.

  5. Stuckey, ‘The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health’.

  6. Craft, ‘Expressive Writing in Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patients’, 507.

  7. Qian Lu et al., ‘Expressive Writing Intervention Improves Quality of Life Among Chinese-American Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial’, Annals of Behavioural Medicine, 52:11 (November 2018), 952-62 (p. 952).

  8. Ibid., p. 952.

  9. Stuckey, ‘The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health’.

  10. Craft, ‘Expressive Writing in Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patients’, 507.

  11. Swasti, ‘Creative Writing – An Under-Utilized Cancer Therapy’.

Home Desk

Additional Reading:

 

Coulehan, J. and P. Clary, ‘Healing the healer: poetry in palliative care’, Journal of Palliative Medicine, 8:2 (2005), 382-89

 

Craft, Melissa, ‘Expressive Writing in Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patients’, Oncology Nursing Forum, 34:2 (March 2007), 507

 

Davies, E. A., ‘Why we need more poetry in palliative care’, BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, 8:3 (Sept 2018), 266-70

 

Esterling, B. et al., ‘Empirical foundations for writing in prevention and psychotherapy: mental and physical health outcomes’, Clinical Psychological Review (1999), 79-96

 

Graham-Pole, J., Illness and the Art of Creative Self-Expression (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2000)

 

Nesterova, D. et al., ‘Group-led creative writing and behavioural health in cancer: a randomised clinical trial’, in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care (January 2021)

 

Klagsbrun, Joan et al., ‘Focusing on Expressive Arts Therapy as a Complementary Treatment for Women with Breast Cancer’, Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 1:1 (2005), 107-37

 

Lu, Qian et al., ‘Expressive Writing Intervention Improves Quality of Life Among Chinese-American Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial’, Annals of Behavioural Medicine, 52:11 (November 2018), 952-62

 

McArdle, S. and R. Byrt, ‘Fiction, poetry and mental health: expressive and therapeutic uses of literature’, Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 8:6 (2001), 517-24

 

Pennebaker, J. W., ‘Theories, therapies, and taxpayers: on the complexities of the expressive writing paradigm’, Clinical Psychology: Sciecne and Practice, 11:2 (2004), 138-42

 

Stuckey, Heather et al., ‘The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature’, American Journal of Public Health, 100:2 (February 2010), 254-63

 

Swasti, J., ‘Creative Writing – An Under-Utilized Cancer Therapy’, Journal of Cancer Science and Research, 3:1 (2018)

 

Zhu, J. et al., ‘Effect of creative writing on mood in patients with cancer’, BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, 10:1 (March 2020).