Changing Gears

Some days creativity comes easily. The muse finds us; we are full of ideas, and stories we want to tell. Words flow out of us and we are able to fill up the blank page before us with scintillating sentences. But, at other times it is not easy for us to come up with ideas for things to write about.

Our creative selves feel as though they’re covered by fog and we struggle, with an unmoving pen stuck in our hands and ideas glued in the grey matter of our minds.

This can be especially true when we are unwell, distracted, stressed, or we’ve simply had a difficult day. The therapy programme at Camino Recovery is intensive. It’s specifically designed to help clients recover from long-term trauma and addiction in a short period of time. It’s a challenging and tiring process. Changing gear from a rigorous therapy session to a creative writing workshop can be tough.

With a little patience and flexibility there are ways to facilitate the segue. I like to begin each writing session with a timed freewrite. The rules are simple; we write non-stop for between seven and ten minutes. We’re not allowed to go back, cross things out, or correct spelling. This stops us from engaging our inner-critics and avoids self editing — it helps us to let go and just see what ideas end up on the page when we’re done.

Sometimes we might find lovely idea for a story or poem that we might want to develop!

Recently, we had a workshop where the clients were too tired to do more writing exercises. They’d had a difficult group session just before creative writing, and said they found it hard to ‘change gears’. It was important to me that they have a positive experience with the writing workshop.

Much as creative writing has been shown to boost self-esteem and wellbeing, it can also leave us feeling frustrated, like we just don’t get it. Just the opposite of what we want it to help us achieve. This is when the facilitator needs to change gears to help the clients.

Forest at La Maroma

On this occasion, I decided to completely abandon the writing exercises I had planned. We wrote Haiku poems as a group instead. Haiku are unrhymed poems written in 17 syllables; over three lines with 5 / 7 / 5 syllable patterns. They originated in Japan in the 17th century and were made popular by the writer Basho as he took to writing a collection of haiku during his travels throughout his beautiful country.

These poems are often inspired by nature — and what better place for inspiration than Camino Recovery’s beautiful gardens and the impressive La Maroma mountain range in the distance!

With exhausted, but willing, clients we sat by the swimming pool on a sunny spring day and brainstormed out loud what we saw, sounds we heard, sensations we felt, smells, tastes. I wrote the words they called out onto paper and then created different haiku together as a group.

Moving from individual writing to a group activity seemed to change the dynamics. Everyone engaged in the activity, and the mood lifted.

Here are some of the day’s efforts.

Breeze through the palm trees
Cool wind caressing our skin
Blue water glistening.

Azure blue water
Cool, refreshing soul soothing
Sunlight giving life.

Majestic mountains
Twin pair, bare rock, scorched grey earth
Barren granite peaks.

Fertile life force
Eucalyptus trees spring green
Orange groves bear fruit.

Creative writing is part of the weekly schedule at Camino and for more details please see or contact


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