The value of creativity for carers

Kerry Mead is a carer and has kindly written an article for us about her journey as a carer and creative, and the therapeutic power of creative writing.

Everyone who is a carer knows how difficult it can be, but also how important it is, to make time to do something for your well-being away from your caring role.

It may be meeting up with friends or family, the occasional holiday, pursuing a hobby, hiding away with a good book, or finding some kind of creative outlet – but what if you took up a new hobby and found out it is a talent you never knew you had, or even a potential new career?

I’m a registered carer and a writer, but I’m not sure I would have ever become a writer if I hadn’t first become a carer.

I started writing in my spare time after giving up my job to look after my autistic son in 2016. I felt like I’d lost a big part of my identity when I stopped working, and writing a few paragraphs here and there in my spare time started as a way to feel like my old self for a while, rather than just ‘Mum’.

I also discovered getting my thoughts out on the page was really therapeutic, with the added bonus of being something I could do at home for free without having to arrange childcare. 

As I wrote more and started sharing my writing with friends and family I realised I was actually quite a good writer. I plucked up the courage to submit some of my writing to an online magazine in 2019, which got accepted for publication.

Seeing my writing out in the world for the first time helped me regain some of the confidence I had lost when I stopped working, so I took some short online writing courses and carried on writing whenever I had time.

My kids were really proud of me as well – I opened my laptop one day in 2021 to find a post-it note stuck to the screen written by my son which simply said: ‘Write a book Mother’. It was then I decided to take writing seriously and I applied for an MA in Creative and Critical Writing. It was hard juggling caring and studying at times, but I made it work with support from friends and family, understanding lecturers, and a few late nights!

The writing industry is very competitive and I often wondered if I’d made a big mistake trying to pursue a writing career alongside people with fewer responsibilities and more experience.

Then late last year I stumbled across The Curae Prize – a literary prize for writer-carers established by author, teacher, lecturer and researcher, Anna Vaught. She established the prize in 2022 to ‘offer a platform to other writer-carers, offering creative focus and access to the publishing industry.’ At the heart of the Curae Prize is the philosophy that ‘creativity, intellect, and ambition should be encouraged and supported for carers too.’

On discovering the Curae Prize, I realised that there was space for me in the writing industry after all. I decided to enter, although I knew, like most literary prizes, there would be hundreds of entrants. I was amazed to receive an email in May telling me my entry had made the nonfiction shortlist. 

And if you’re a budding writer, keep an eye out for the next Curae Prize. It’s free to enter and you don’t have to be a published writer to enter. You could win a number of prizes, including cash bursaries and online writing courses, or even mentoring from a successful author or editing and advice sessions with industry professionals to kick-start your writing career. But most importantly, you could turn that creative outlet into something really magical – the joy of seeing your words in print and a chance to get your own unique story out into the world.

The two winners, Kate Blincoe and Helen O’Neill, alongside the other shortlisted entrants, are due to have their winning entries published by Renard Press in the first Curae Anthology, which comes out on 28th November. Including a wide range of carers’ voices, there is something for every type of book fan, whether you love nature writing, magical realism, uplifting stories about overcoming life’s difficulties, or delving into topics like mental health, family relationships, and, of course, being a carer.

Buying a copy not only shows support for every carer with writing included but also, profits from every copy will be split between Carers UK and Carers Trust, so you’ll be doing something to support carers everywhere.

Kerry Mead is a carer and formerly volunteered with us at Carers Support Centre.

She has recently had her work shortlisted for the literary Curae Prize.