Creative Writing vs Writing as Therapy


by Sara Kopeczky

I had a rough childhood and adolescence (but hey, who hadn’t?), and often times found consolation in making up stories. I would write short, gothic stories with monsters and witches that helped me cope with my everyday issues. Later on, when I became more serious about my writing, I realized that creative writing is so different from writing to soothe your soul, because you have a responsibility towards your readers (and towards yourself) to deliver something a bit more concise than fumbling notes about how your dad doesn’t love you and all the other kids are stupid. Here are some of the main differences between creative writing and therapeutic writing:

  1. Your audience: While therapeutic writing is usually intended for your eyes only, creative writing should aim a little higher than that. There are many things that a writer should take into consideration when writing, and his target audience is crucial. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. Editing: The best way to show your readers you care for them is to edit and proofread your text. As I’ve already mentioned, having an audience means you will have to cut out some of the things which are perfectly fine if you’re writing just for yourself, such as unnecessary adjectives/adverb, cliches, etc. Your readers are not interested in the “truth”, if it’s badly written: they expect good storytelling and prose which is more than a sob story (sorry, I am being brutally honest here). Remember, it’s not all about you. It’s about you, and your readers.
  3. Consistency: Also, if you are writing a piece of prose you are looking forward to publishing one day, it is important to get organized and to keep a working schedule. While writing for therapy does not require keeping up with the deadlines, in creative writing, consistency is key. Building up a habit of writing regularly, and not only when you feel like it, is what distinguishes professionals from amateurs (mea colpa).
  4. Art for Art’s Sake: When you are a professional writer, who wants his writing to improve with each written piece, you are looking forward to acquiring new skills and making your prose as good as it can be. Not because of money (let’s be real, nobody takes up creative writing in order to get rich), but because of the art itself. And this is something that is absolutely irrelevant when you are writing only for yourself, because you couldn’t care less about the form or style of your writing as long as you are succeeding in whatever your specific therapy goal is.

The reason why I have decided to dedicate today’s post to the difference between writing as therapy and writing as art form is because I have seen several other young writers struggle with this issue (separating the two worlds, that is), and I want you to know that you’re not alone in this. It took me quite some time to progress from writing down my (then) teenage thoughts to the more polished prose I am striving to write today. But that’s for my readers to judge. : -)




Guest post contributed by Sara Kopeczky. Sara is an English and Italian teacher living in Croatia. She is the editor of The Split Mind, a magazine dedicated to literature and culture. She is an aspiring author and has published poetry and short fiction in magazines, collections and online. She has won several literary competitions in Croatia and Germany.

45 thoughts on “Creative Writing vs Writing as Therapy

  1. Love it. I’ve been doing a lot of ‘journaling’ for my blog posts that I have pending. I realized early on that they required a lot of tailoring to ensure the message targets an audience and isn’t written for self-interest. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great, insightful post!
    I used roleplay (pen and paper) on a Tolkien community as therapy, playing an Elven Bard. I wrote a lot of cathartic poetry!
    Looking back on it several years later (I used to add commentary away from the threads to add ‘real life’ context), I decided to share it in a fictionalised memoir – it was hard to rein back on the insights but it was a good exercise in controlling passion and pathos! 😀


  3. This is great. I didn’t realize the different skills needed to write for an audience vs writing for myself until I took my first workshop. It was a struggle, but it also helped me realize what a powerful tool writing is for healing. Whenever I get overwhelmed now, I ask myself when was the last time I sat down and wrote?


  4. I am just starting my blog on creative writing.
    A bit fearful of the wide array of those who may look at my work..but again it is those who do critic, that make me more motivated. Thanks for your post!!


  5. I find that writing is most therapeutic when it’s out there for the world to see. For example, my blog contains self-improvement & short stories. The ability to share my experiences and thoughts with people, in hopes to help or aid in cathartic release is therapeutic. The reason I find it all to be therapeutic is because by allowing myself to be vulnerable with the world I am validating myself.

    I appreciate this post and I just wanted to give my perspective on writing.


  6. This is an awesome post. I love writing because it provides me with an outlet to express my feelings and emotions, but it is SO easy to get caught up in being dramatic or super pessimistic. Although readers do like raw and real writing, sometimes you gotta give the people what they want and leave your wild thoughts out of it (sometimes). This was some great food for though today, and beautifully written. Have a great week!


  7. This is an awesome post. I love writing because it provides me with an outlet to express my thoughts and feelings, but it is so easy to get caught up in being dramatic or super pessimistic. Some really great food for thought, thank you so much. Have a wonderful week 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. While reading this I gained a clearer idea as to what my readers expect from me. Deep down I want everyone to see what I see, and aim to relate that emotion or vision to their own personal life. Now I have a better idea as to how I should guide my readers.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is a fantastic post, and I agree with much of it. However, I would like to take a little bit of issue with point 1, when you mention that there is a difference between therapeutic writing and writing for an audience. I don’t find them mutually exclusive. There are readers out there who are going through what the writer is going through, and sneaking in those therapeutic moments that the writer is going through in his/her work only accentuate the story, making it more believable. In fact, many writer reflect their thoughts and feeling’s subtly in their work. It’s why we have great literature.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Thank you for this amazing post and I’m glad I’ve finally realised that I’m not the only one who does this as therapy!! I find creative writing a good release from the exam stress (etc) and it is extremely therapeutic. I’m glad you’ve pointed me in the right direction to improve upon it.


  11. Interesting take. I’d never considered that there is a difference before between writing for fun and writing for others. Therapeutic writing is actually how I got into writing but as I got older I found that it was more fun to just create stories rather than rehashing my life into some magical sob story – and hey, my content got a lot more interesting too.


  12. Great post.
    I agree that writing is good. I have just graduated and it is good for the soul 🙂
    It allows you to be more open minded and let your imagination run free, as opposed to being restricted to conformity.


  13. Have to admit, I prefer seeing the two overlapping.

    When they overlap, magical things happen. We all love reading people’s most candid thoughts – which means as a piece of creative writing designed to get eyeballs, therapeutic writing can be an engagement winner. Also, horribly scary to put out there! But that kind of raw, unflinching honesty, harnessed and released in the right way, can do amazing things. It can even make careers.

    Also, what greater responsibility to your readers than telling them exactly what you think and exactly what you’re really dealing with?

    See Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” as an example – and this blog post: ….which, amazingly, make her book a bestseller instead of killing it. Both examples of therapeutic writing, I’d say – and both fully public, with remarkable results.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I tend to agree with some of the posts here that these are not mutually exclusive. A writer writes because they need to write. If you have a need to express yourself creatively then creative writing is therapeutic. I came to grips with that in my short essay “Why I Write”. In short, even if nobody ever reads my stuff it is still worthwhile (and necessary) to get it on paper.


  15. “[…]fumbling notes about how your dad doesn’t love you and all the other kids are stupid” I laughed. Very relatable. When I was younger I used to go on this site called Fiction Press to “publish” my work, and I remember one of my readers very adamantly telling me that I should write for me and no one else. So I asked myself, if writing is just for me then why am I sharing my writing online with other people? That was when I first began to separate the difference between the two kinds of writing you identified. Great post!


  16. I say well done, clear and concise. Never did consider writing for me or writing for others. Seeing the difference as presented here is a learning for me. Will see where it fits inside my preps. Thanks.


  17. I really enjoyed reading this post. I write both to help heal but also because I love writing for an audience and have only just started to get the confidence to start sharing my work with the public. I really love and appreciate any feedback you might have on some of my work that I recently posted to my new website 🙂


  18. Thank you for sharing! You’re right, there’s a huge difference between the two and both work for their own reasons. Great pointers 🙂


  19. I remember experiencing “writing therapy” while being hospitalized a couple years ago. It was a group therapy session, and we weren’t expected to share the feelings we put down on paper with each other.

    Then I went into a creative writing class the year after, when I was discharged and returned to high school- and that was a totally different ball game. Not only was it my first time writing actual stories and developing characters, but I had an audience to consider. I had my teachers as well as the peers in this class I’d be expected to read my stories out loud to.

    Thanks for sharing. Great piece as always.

    Liked by 1 person

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