5 Questions

Jasmine Cooray

13 May 2021

Writers' Gathering D&G 2021 takes place this weekend. Ahead of her Words and Wellbeing event on Saturday, Jasmine Cooray answers some of our pressing questions. There are still a few places available in Jasmine's workshop. You can sign up here

1) What are some simple mindful activities that you would recommend for writers?

Something I often do in my workshops is a free write detailing anything sensory in that moment – including details about your surroundings, but also your inner world – the sensations of your body, your emotions, the pace and nature of your thoughts. This is a simple way to get in touch with what’s present, and it doesn’t have to be linear either which helps. 

2) Do you think focussing on wellbeing and mindfulness can affect things like writer's block?

I think any practice that releases pressure helps with creativity. Often we feel blocked due to judging our ideas before they’ve even come out. Creating a mental space where whatever comes is acceptable is more welcoming, and helps writing to be playful or experimental rather than an assessment or test. And sure, if you feel well, you might be more inclined to play. But I’ve also had many moments where being creative was it’s own ticket out of stuckness – doing it for its own sake can help.

3) It seems that society has become more conscious of matters like wellbeing. Would you agree with that? 

To a degree – yes we know we are supposed to eat our veg and go for walks, but I would argue that being well, and prioritising it, is not yet built into the way that we live and certainly not into the structures that define working environments/ expectations, housing, healthcare, education. We are trained to be disembodied and consumer oriented, and we are not trained in school to recognise or regulate our emotions, or to co-regulate with others. And wellbeing is an individualised concept – we are encouraged to go and buy some bubble bath, but bubble bath isn’t going to help you with the psycho-emotional wear and tear of, for example, racism, poverty, ableism. Being well is informed and limited by what is structural and systemic – it is a social justice issue. We need bigger change all the way through.  

4) Did you find it difficult to keep creative during lockdown? How did you overcome it?

I didn’t apply pressure to myself to be creative. I mostly didn’t write, though I made some music, and a lot of cake. Mostly I was in a dissociated state, or numbing the distress of loneliness and anxiety with screens. I was kept afloat by the responsibility in my work. I manage all aforementioned distress better now, with movement, walks, etc. Creativity is a state of play that requires a sense of safety, which is not a physiological state we can expect of ourselves if we are in survival mode – fight, flight, freeze. The pandemic was and continues to be traumatic. I don’t think anyone should feel bad about not being able to be creative during this time. Kae Tempest says something important in their book On Connection about this – they encourage us to see creativity in every action we do. I think that’s helpful. It takes it out of the realm of ‘art forms’, takes the pressure off. 

5) Could you give us a taste of what we can expect in your workshop?

My workshop will involve some mindful writing, some play with our personal traits/ characteristics, some letter writing, and a form of an invocation for support when needed. It’ll be warm, and fun, but certainly not academic or serious.