How creative writing can help children in care

February 12, 2020

Collage by Exposure

Steven Moss explains how winning competition boosted his confidence

I was in year 8 when one of my teachers told me about the Voices creative writing competition for children in care and care leavers run by Coram Voice.

I was intrigued because I wanted to start writing to express the feelings I had held in over the years. At the time I struggled to speak out loud, but I could put pen to paper.

My foster mother and teacher were a huge motivation. At one point, I wanted to give up with the competition, but they both gave me the push I needed to carry on. When I sent off my entry, I never thought that I would win but my foster mother had faith in me which helped me to feel more optimistic.

When I won the competition I was initially nervous because I didn’t actually think I ever would. I had a feeling in my stomach you could describe as butterflies in the moments leading up to it, but they turned into feelings of excitement when I was told I won. I was proud of myself and my foster mum was extremely proud of me too, and I knew that the teachers at my school who rooted for me would be as well.

“If you feel you have a story inside you, you probably do. Why not try to let it out?

Creative writing to me is a way to escape from the everyday. Your imagination starts to flow and it can be a creative outlet. It can also be therapeutic, with many psychologists recommending creative writing as a way to express your feelings. You can create any universe you want and help readers do the same. It helps to explore your feelings as you can write about anything and simply say “it’s just a character, it isn’t real” which, for some children in care, can be very helpful. Sometimes writing is a way to help others understand what you are feeling.

Writing gave me a sense of euphoria. The ideas just kept coming and I was able to write for hours on end.

If you feel you have a story inside you, you probably do. Why not try to let it out? It’s as simple as sitting down, pulling up a blank document, and letting it all flow out through your fingers. Being creative and ‘pretending’ is part of being human. Creative writing is whatever you want it to be. A story can blossom from virtually anything.

Steven reciting poetry

Creative writing can help a child in care to assess what they want from life. It allows them to see where they have come from, where they are at currently, and possibly what it is that they want to do with their life in the long run. It gives the child a sense of achievement too because they have successfully completed a task. It gives them something to be proud of and share with their friends and family.

Since taking part in the Voices competition, I have a clearer outlook on life. And after reading my winning entry to so many people, including my peers in high school, I have now realised exactly what I want to do with my life, and that is to be a firefighter. I now know that I want to go into the public services, and serve the community I’m in. And who knows? Maybe I’ll do some writing along the way.

The competition gave me a major confidence boost. It was great to meet inspiring people like Peter Capaldi and Sir Ian McKellen

I am very happy that ‘dreams’ is the theme for this year’s competition. Having dreams and ambitions is essential for everyone, especially children in care, because it is where motivation and desire comes from. If you are very clear about you ambitions, everything else will follow.

Dreams are the wishes of our subconscious. As we age, we tend to focus on what we should be doing rather than what we want to be doing. So if a child in care knows what they want to do, then they will grow up thinking of this.

It has been incredible to see the Voices competition grow over the past five years. More and more children in care and care leavers are taking part every year and I hope it continues. To any young people thinking of entering, I would say do it. It is the best thing you can do and you don’t know what will happen until you at least attempt it. Write because you have something to say, because you enjoy it.

I won the competition in 2016 and went back the following year to present the awards with Peter Capaldi. The competition gave me a major confidence boost. It was great to meet inspiring people like Peter, Sir Ian McKellen, Ashley John-Baptiste and others.

Speaking with Peter, I realised that the future is whatever you make it. He told me that “it doesn’t matter what happens to you in life, it’s what you do with your life that matters”.

Steven with Peter Capaldi

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