Reading (and writing) for wellbeing

When I’m not immersed in homeschooling or writing stories, I do a bit of mindfulness teaching, and I’m really interested in the potential of reading (and writing) fiction to support wellbeing.

Having recently stumbled across the concept of ‘poetry and story therapy’, I realise that the way I was trained to teach mindfulness incorporated a similar approach. I’ve witnessed many times how a resonant line of poetry – or a relatable story – can initiate a powerful paradigm shift or emotional release.

I’ve started a series of posts to explore the healing effects of fiction, most of them are over on my mindfulness site (Dawn Siofra North is my pen name for writing fiction) – here are links to the posts so far…

Distraction, or enchantment?

Slow down and be in the story

Reading for wellbeing

The stories that transform

Mindful journaling for more awareness

6 Reasons To Write

I’m hoping to add some posts about expressive writing, as I explore more deeply myself. I’ll update this collection with the links over time.

Dawn Siofra North is part of a home-educating family, an occasional mindfulness teacher and a writer of tiny stories. Her work has been shared in Legerdemain (National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2021) and on the Free Flash Fiction website. Her novelette The Girl Who Survived won third prize in the Retreat West 2021 Novelette-In-Flash Prize. She is inspired by story-based learning and imaginative meditation. She can be found online at

The power of vulnerability

Some years ago, I first discovered the power of witnessing each other in our vulnerability. And I suspect that fiction can play an important role in our ability to do that.

I believe that reading (and writing) fiction is one of the deepest ways to learn about being human. As a reader, we get to see characters in their full messy vulnerability, and we can be so enriched by that. Through their struggle, we learn to feel compassion and admiration for them, to see ourselves mirrored back, and be inspired to see ourselves differently – perhaps also with more compassion and appreciation.

What if we allowed this way of relating to permeate our real-life human relationships too?

I say ‘real-life’ because we commonly talk as if the people in fiction are not real. But to me they are real people, in that they do exist. Just because something exists in the imaginative realm does not mean it ‘exists’ any the less, unless we absorb the cultural conditioning that persuades us to view stories and the imagination as silly and childish.

In a book on gothic fiction entitled Love, Mystery and Misery, Coral Ann Howells observes that Jane Austen ‘was never so simple-minded as to believe that on the one hand there are novels and on the other is life; rather that there is a complex interrelatedness between living and imagining and that readers and novelists should both cultivate a lively awareness of their interplay’.

As a child, part of the comfort I sought in books was that they welcomed me just as I was. This isn’t always so easy to find in other relationships or environments, and so I’m always encouraged when I find groups or communities that feel truly supportive.

As writers, when we start sharing our work with others, we are also allowing ourselves to be seen in our vulnerability, though each of us will have comfort zones that look slightly different.

It can take so much courage to be willing to be seen in this way, but it’s worth it – because it allows us to connect as fully-alive human beings, not as mere machines performing ‘perfectly’ in our roles.