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It's all in the taking part ...

As 2011 begins, Sue Spencer has begun to explore how to be more productive and confident - if we take too much heed to the news we may feel very despondent about the year ahead ...

Two discoveries on the worldwide web have begun to open up possibilities and I know that there are ways that I can approach my writing and my work, and begin to have them work together instead of seeing them as two separate parts of me.

I discovered Sophie Nicholls when a student introduced me to a paper she had written about creative writing and wellbeing.1 Her work echoes and resonates with what I have been trying to say and do in the last few years and I enrolled on an online course she runs. This course has not been about the craft of writing, like on the university courses I have been on, but about how writing and particular exercises can help you "let go" of feelings and thoughts that hold you back and inhibit your development.

Another serendipitous discovery was that of Sage Cohen and her work in developing the poetic life and communicating ways of being. I have her most recent book and I am sure many of the tips it features would benefit every single one of the students I encounter at the university, as well as providing constructive ways to procrastinate.2

Another person I have been in correspondence with over the latter end of 2010 was Cheryl McLean in Canada. Cheryl is editor of the journal International Journal of The Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice and, through her work, has produced a book that draws together writings on a huge range of projects that bring creative arts into many disciplines.3

As we begin this new decade I wonder if we might be more inclusive and less defensive about trying different things. In the last week I have facilitated two very different creative writing workshops. Neither of them was developed for writers but for healthcare students and the processes and outcomes of both were quite astonishing. All of us have the capacity to be imaginative and creative and, given the opportunity to take part, we can always learn something new about ourselves.

If, in 2011, you are asked to take part in a creative arts workshop (painting, ceramics, printing, textiles, writing etc) and you find that all a bit challenging, don't dismiss it just because you don't think you have any ability. Ability and talent aren't everything - taking part can be just as enjoyable. You never know; you might find that you DO have talent, as well as new ways to express yourself and cope with the challenges you face within your role in practice.

I have promised myself that, although I am dreading being 50 this year, I am not going to dwell on it and instead I am going to take the opportunity to try new things and see what happens.

What are you going to try for the first time in 2011? I am going to the Nursing in Practice event in Belfast for the first time this year - and looking forward to it. If you are there come and find me, and let me know what you plan to do in 2011 to develop your inner creative spirit.

1. Nicholls S. Beyond Expressive Writing Evolving Models of Developmental Creative Writing. Journal of Health Psychology 2009;14(2):171-80 (Sophie can also be found at: and
2. Cohen S. The Productive Writer. London: Writer's Digest Books/Sage; 2010. Available from: and
3. McLean C, Kelly R (eds). Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice Inquiries for Hope and Change. Detselig Temeron Press; 2010. Available from:
For further information on Cheryl's work see: and

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I just attended the Nursing in Practice event yesterday in Belfast and may I say that if possible it was even better than last year, I was particularly impressed with Dr Carol Emerson's talk on the subject of women's health highly interesting and enlightening, and Dr Trevor Brown's discussion on anaphylaxis was also a highlight of the day for me. A resounding success and congratulations to all at Nursing in Practice for the organisation, I will look forward to next year. thank you" - Eileen McConnell