As well as being an obsessive reader and now a writer (I still pinch myself when I say this, and in my head, I’m still adding virtual quotation marks around that word!) I do have a day job and another passion in life! I’d like to tell you a little bit more about how I marry up my work as a Services Manager in Ceartas, a local independent advocacy service, and my love of the written word.
What if you could re-tell your story? What if you could shift the balance of power? What if you could change hearts and minds by demonstrating your abilities, and take the focus away from your disabilities? This is exactly what Ceartas set out to do when we employed Donna Moore as a writer in residence thanks to Big Lottery funding. We were then able to facilitate a creative writing course for people who use health and social care services across East Dunbartonshire.
I had always dreamed of combining my love of books and writing with my passion for human rights, equality and justice. The creative writing group has allowed that dream to become a reality.
Many individuals who seek advocacy only do so when all other routes have been exhausted. Numerous people report that they feel disempowered and voiceless. If independent advocacy is about ensuring individuals have a voice, then what better way to assist that process than using creative writing as a means of providing an outlet for their voice? There are so many labels and assumptions around people living with long-term conditions; many face stigma and discrimination as part of their daily lives. They are often denied a voice or lack the confidence to use their voice and speak up for themselves.
Words and language are important: we need them to tell others what we need and how we want to be treated. They are essential to connect with others. Words can inform our mind, excite and thrill our spirit or warm and kindle the flame of our hearts. We all have a voice, and we all have stories to tell.
Members of the group came along to try something new, but with little belief that they could write their stories. During the course, participants were encouraged to attempt creative writing activities in a safe and supportive environment. They were not only given the opportunity to be taught some of the skills used by writers, but they also learned and understood that they too had a voice and that they too had stories to share. They came together to support, encourage and learn from each other. In the process, they created powerful pieces of work.
The enthusiasm for the group was such that the sessions have continued. Our weekly creative writing Zoom meetings (a necessary tool during the pandemic) have provided an almost therapeutic outlet for some of the frustrations we experience throughout these difficult times. It has also been a wonderful way to stay socially connected. The best part of this initiative is the fun we have all together, and what’s life without a little bit of that in it?
Sharon Bairden is the author of Sins of the Father, a disturbing, heart-breaking thriller.