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“Writing is a way of saying things I can’t say”—therapeutic creative writing: a qualitative study of its value to people with cancer cared for in cancer and palliative healthcare
  1. G Bolton
  1. Gillie Bolton, 15C Bury Place, London, WC1A 2JB; gillie{at}


This paper reports on a therapeutic creative writing project undertaken at King’s College London and University College Hospital London, funded by Arts Council England. The project sought to increase understanding of experiences of personal expressive and explorative writing by cancer patients receiving palliative care. Narrative methods were used to analyse and interpret patients’ written and oral (transcripts of semistructured interviews) responses, researchers’ field notes and written responses of staff. These indicated that writing: (1) facilitated patients’ ability and opportunity to discover what they thought, felt, remembered; (2) enhanced their awareness of, and ability to express, issues to which focused attention needed to be paid; and (3) offered satisfaction and fulfilment of creative expression and exploration and the production of writings which to them and close others were vital. Illuminatively drawing upon patients’ writings and responses, this paper is underpinned by discussion of therapeutic writing and its relationship to creative writing, with reference to a range of previous research.

  • therapeutic writing
  • creative writing
  • narrative and story
  • metaphor
  • arts in healthcare
  • palliative cancer care

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  • Funding: Funded by the Arts Council England.

  • Competing interests: None declared.