Over the last few days I have talked about the connection between mental health and creative writing and posted up some pieces of my own. I am very grateful for the positive response those pieces received, as a very amateur poet, posting online is especially scary. But I think posting anything online must be very daunting, even when you have edited and edited it and are feeling quietly confident that it is good. Whilst I know some poets who manage to write about completely fictional scenarios, for many, their writing is very personal and for me at least my poetry comes from a place of very raw emotion. Most of the poems I compose are completed within 10 minutes and are not very good. They are unrefined and really are as if I just took what I was feeling and threw it at a piece of paper.
Sometimes, just sometimes, some parts stick and become workable. If I am extremely lucky, the poem has written itself and there is just the smallest bit of tweaking to do. This is why poetry will never be more than a hobby for me. I was part of a student poetry group at university and witnessed the extensive editing of my fellows and the labour of love their poems became. They made statements, not just expressions.
For me, blogging has become an extension of creative writing. The expression of feeling is not as dramatic as it was when I was younger and charged with teenage hormones, but it is still a flow of consciousness, and perhaps to an extent unconsciousness, as sometimes the posts still feel as they are writing themselves. My hands hit a variety of keys just as my conscious mind manages to construct a sentence. I never used to be able to type like this. I used to always have to have pen and paper, the pen feeling like an extension of my arm. I was a real tortoise when it came to typing too, to the extent that it became quite the joke at school. So blogging seems to be developing all sorts of skills. I have enjoyed reading back over old poems these last few days as I selected what to post online (something like blogging I never dreamed I’d actually do). Perhaps the fact that I haven’t written anything for a couple of years has made me more aware about what is reasonable, workable and what just needs to be deleted and let go of. I’m becoming more aware of grammar too as I edit my blog posts, although my spelling is not improving!
Blogging and Mental Health
As I hoped, just as creative writing in the past helped me to process how I was feeling, since I have started this blog I have experienced a marked improvement in my mental health. I don’t feel as highly strung as I did two months ago, I am more inclined to reflect and by typing up and publishing some events I have been able to reduce their presence in the front of my mind. Of course they are still there, loitering somewhere in my memory, but they no longer appear as flashbacks, suddenly spiralling me out of control. Another comparison I have noted since starting this individual post is that just like my poetry, my posts are very personal. They are expressions of how I am feeling with the odd generalised observation thrown in. This is a criticism that has been made in the slam scene of my poetry, not necessarily meaning the poems themselves where bad, but that they didn’t suit the fast-paced, powerful and clear statements usually found in slam-style poems. Again, its the case that the poems made statements, not just expressions.
This comparative statement links back to every bloggers fear, that what they are typing and publishing online has absolutely no relevance whatsoever. Even when it is personal, human nature often seeks approval and desires to feel useful. That there is some value to ourselves and in what we do. The first few posts I published were very much just for me. I didn’t expect anyone to read them and I wasn’t too concerned about what they were saying, as long as I didn’t make a fool of myself on the internet. Then I started putting up posts that I hoped might be beneficial to someone else but me. Not helpful or advisory or anything like that but that they might find a solidarity in them. One of the reasons I began volunteering in mental health organisations was because I didn’t want anyone else to feel as alone as I did when my father died. I felt that I had no one to talk to about how his death affected me or about the grief I was feeling. Everyone just wanted to hear that I was fine so they could move on to another topic. All aspects of mental health can feel the same way. I was lucky that both my mum and dad had prepared and responded to the situation in a way that meant my mental health remained stable even after his death. But a few years later a number of things happened and my mental health did decline. I hoped that posting about these experiences would let someone else know that they weren’t alone in that experience and that there was something beyond it.
Now I am looking into maybe trying to make my blog a little more substantial. I am enjoying blogging, it’s great to be writing again and, as I mentioned, there have been a lot of positive outcomes so far. However, in the reading that I have been doing (it’s still pretty minor at the moment, the idea of really getting my teeth into blogging is a very recent one) the recurring theme is not just to find a niche, but also to solve a problem. I’m not sure that writing posts expressing my own experiences with mental health in the hope of instilling solidarity and presenting empathy to hoped-for readers can be classified under problem solving. I’m also pretty convinced that I am either too niche or not niche enough. I am quite an eclectic and, I suppose, erratic personality, even as an archaeologist and historian, I know a little about the whole expanse of human existence, from early hominins to the 1980s. But I am not the person you want on your team in a pub quiz because I don’t know enough about the specifics. I don’t specialise well.
I have come to terms with my eclectic blog, writing about all the little bits and bobs bouncing about in my brain was the reason I started blogging, its the reason its helping my mental wellbeing and I’ll just have to hope that someone else finds it enjoyable or useable, perhaps by accident. It is perhaps possible (and as soon as I have finished typing this I will sit for a while with my fingers crossed) that by pursuing and documenting all these little bits and bobs, I might stumble into a bit more of a niche and maybe that will solve the problem of problem-solving for me. One can dream.