I consider writing one of the wellness arts. There’s lots of research to confirm that belief and I’ve had many years of experience being part of circles as participant and as leader. In terms of research Dr. James Pennebaker’s is the best known and when it comes to being a member of a circle, I’ve learned from many including Christina Baldwin whose circle guidelines I follow. (Christina and her partner Ann Linnea offer the circle guidelines on their website: www.peerspirit.com.)

Writing on one’s own is good medicine and creating in a circle offers support for the writing journey. The circle offers structure to allow people a feeling of safety. There’s an intentional beginning, agreements, inspiration from poets and writers, including those present in the circle, sharing and reflection, and an intentional closing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been reading a book called Catch the Fire: An Art-Full Guide to Unleashing the Creative Power of Youth, Adults and Communities by Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy. It’s published by New Society on Gabriola Island. The authors answer the question, Why the Arts? with a list of benefits. Reading the book has been affirming as the benefits also apply to self-expression through writing.

Here are the benefits to the arts as included in Catch the Fire followed by my own comments:

Elicits joy. In the writing circle we write and share without judgment. There’s always laughter as we lighten our loads and relax into the women’s oasis.

Promotes health. As noted above, Dr. James Pennebaker’s research revealed that writing about the emotional connection to one’s experiences increases immune function.

Builds confidence. Women in the circle have found their voice in the circle and a new confidence in a supportive environment.

Develops empathy. We don’t try to “fix” anything in the circle; we learn to listen to ourselves and one another.

Brings learning alive. We make meaning of our lives through our writing and let go of past experiences that shut us down.

Strengthens human connection. Sharing of stories in the circle connects me to the many other circles I’ve been part of and inspires me to think of this way of meeting in all sorts of different settings. Just think of the amazing results if we actually listened to one another.

Provides opportunities to take creative risks. The non-judgmental aspect of the circle allows women to just go for it!

Teaches 21st century leadership skills. I think a good leader shares her story and finds strength in revealing her vulnerability. On hearing such stories we become more apt to share our own because we can find where we’re different and where we’re the same.

I’ll be writing a review of the book and will add the link on my reviews page. For now, you can see what other books I’ve been reviewing lately. Have a look here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABe seen. Be heard. Be amazed at what comes out of the stillness. That’s been my motto for the writing circles since they began in my Toronto apartment in 1997. In that stillness you have an opportunity to find your “hidden wholeness,” something educational philosopher Parker Palmer says. (He’s quoted in Catch the Fire.)

To read about Writing Life, the women’s writing circle, you can read the description here and find the dates for the fall 2014 circle.