EDITORS: Dr Caty Flynn (The Genre Lab.) & Professor Ursula Hurley (University of Salford) CALL DEADLINE: 500-word abstracts by FRIDAY 6th OCTOBER 2023
The phrase “creative writing” is used in wellbeing interventions as a catch-all term for many forms of practice. Currently, there is scant research to back up claims of efficacy, and little insight in terms of what the actual benefits of specific creative writing practices are, why these benefits occur, and how we can utilise this knowledge for shaping such practices so that we can get the most out of them. We believe passionately that creative writing can, indeed, improve wellbeing. But, we want to present a collection of investigations into the mechanisms of why and, by doing so, lay blueprints for how. This important intersection between wellbeing and creative writing has yet to be addressed robustly and this collection attempts to do so.
Creative writing research is inherently interdisciplinary. As Mi Csikszentmihalyi explains,
“being able to braid together ideas and emotions from disparate domains is one way writers express their creativity” (263). Science and psychology recognise the broader implications of creative writing’s applicability, evidenced by a wealth of developments over the last century, including but not limited to the explicit influences apparent in everyone from Freud to Damasio to Hofstadter, to Narrative Psychology (see Sarbin, 1986) and Drama Therapy (see Jones, 1996). Theorists of all disciplines typically turn to storytelling to elucidate their points. But, what can creative writing do for these fields beyond offering metaphors or analogies (useful as that may be)? What can creative writing do in terms of application, theory, communication, and creative conceptualisation with regard to wellbeing? In this proposed collection, we seek to move beyond metaphor towards mutual enrichment.
The overall purpose of the volume is to showcase innovative methodologies and new theories, highlight benefits and challenges, offer frameworks and directions for future research, and encourage new developments at the intersection of creative writing practice and wellbeing. Our enquiry considers the implications for creative practice; psychological and therapeutic practice; self-help; intersectionality, social justice and transformation; and experimental scientific research.
We aim to be inclusive in terms of discipline, approach, and background. We encourage both single-author and collaborative submissions, and chapters which incorporate practice-based research or creative or hybrid forms into process or presentation, thereby making form as well as content part of the research, as well as more traditional academic chapters. We are interested in chapters that foreground specific genres of writing or specific areas of wellbeing, and those which take a broader view. We encourage personal investigations as well as social research. Essentially, we are open to receiving any creative and robust response to the brief from any and every disciplinary perspective, to showcase the diversity of current practices and their transformative potential.
Of particular interest is interdisciplinary work that can creatively raise issues, themes, and topics such as:
- Creative writing as a practice through which to shift perspective, question given rules and habitual behaviours, and imagine things otherwise.
- Connections between the processes and concepts of writing and those of the cognitive and social sciences. Comparative essays on concepts from psychology, mental health, neuroscience, sociology etc with concepts from creative writing i.e., stories and brain processes, rhetorical/literary devices as biological/psychological/emotional functions/tools.
- How can we make creative writing concepts accessible beyond literacy, vision, or any other barrier which impedes engagement? Chapters might imagine brail or audio methods, oral storytelling, dramatic or musical performance, games, and/or inclusive social facilitations.
- Re-imaginings, syntheses, or innovative extensions of traditional or existing theory from an interdisciplinary lens – i.e., creative writing and psychology.
- Case-studies, evaluative reports, cameos, co-constructed content or other outputs from creative writing wellbeing intervention trials or projects.
- The capacities of creative writing to constitute a free and accessible mode of self-care for a large demographic of people in ways that support intersecting social inequalities observable in accessing effective mental health, wellbeing, and self-development support.
- Are all types of creative writing good for us? Are certain types of writing “better” for us or more transformational, and others “worse” for us or regressive? In terms of reading or writing, particular genres or styles or movements or periods or practices.
- Specific genres & their wellbeing potential / mental health utility/resonance; specific mental health conditions explored through the lens of creative writing; specific outcomes – self-expression; reconceptualisation; control; confidence; change; perspective; reflection; etc.
- Evolutionary advantages of creative writing.
- Disciplinary, sectoral, and/or any other challenges, difficulties, issues, or barriers in creative writing wellbeing research, development, engagement, and evaluation, including but not limited to ethical procedure, methodology, engagement, skillset, resources, knowledge base, facilitation, publication, funding, collaboration, and interdisciplinary working. How can we transform or overcome these challenges?
- Robustly researched theoretical essays regarding the “why” and “how” of wellbeing/self-development benefits which emerge from creative writing.
- The potential of creative writing for social change, resisting injustice, and transforming perceptions.
- Methodologies for creative writing & mental health research and innovation.
- Theoretical, experimental, and creative investigations of concepts and practices such as journaling; self-expression; life-writing; self-writing; and so on.
- How can we build co-construction, community involvement, and social engagement into creative writing wellbeing projects?
- Everyday utility/application of creative writing concepts/practices for self-care/expression/development.
- The future of writing for wellbeing – directions/next steps; predictions/hopes; necessary changes; potential problems.
All chapters must constitute fully-integrated interdisciplinary work – a dialogue between fields, rather than a reading of one discipline through another in a one-way dynamic. All of these topics/ideas can be approached in whatever genre of writing feels appropriate. However, we do expect there to be rigorous interdisciplinary research, reading, and critical thinking underpinning even the most creative or experimental chapter. We interpret creative writing broadly, so do contact us if you are unsure about definitional boundaries.
Format: We invite 500-word Abstracts for 5,000-10,000-word chapters (negotiable). Please include up to 5 keywords and a brief biography of the author(s) which includes an institutional affiliation and your contact email.
Send your abstract to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline for Abstracts: 06/10/2023.
Accepted authors will be notified 20/10/2023.
Accepted chapters to be delivered no later than 19/04/2024.
Editorial team: Dr Caty Flynn (The Genre Lab.) & Professor Ursula Hurley (University of Salford)
Cozolino, L. (2010). The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social Brain. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2013). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harper Perennial.
Damasio, A. (2000). The Feeling of what Happens. London: Vintage.
Freud, S. (2008). The Interpretation of Dreams. Oxford: Oxford’s World Classics.
Hofstadter, D. (2007). I am a Strange Loop. Philadelphia: Basic Books.
Koestler, A. (1975). The Act of Creation. London: Picador.
Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors We Live By. London: University of Chicago Press.
Prentiss, S. and Walker, N. eds. (2020). The Science of Story: The Brain Behind Creative Nonfiction. London: Bloomsbury.