The paper considers the personal determinants of quality in writing, by exploring poet Ted Hughes's proposition that ‘psychological crises' are necessary ‘to awaken genius in an otherwise ordinary mind.' Inspiration for this exploration is provided by the author's work as a creative writing mentor on a rehabilitation programme for injured and ill servicepeople. The experience of that programme is that participants will often produce compelling writing on the topics that have scarred them. Hughes's book Poetry in the Making provides some insights into why this might be the case, by suggesting that poetic composition is not a matter of close and professional consideration of the right words for any given topic, but rather emerges through an intensely-embodied imagining of one's subject matter. Hughes argues that when one acts out some subject matter vividly in one’s mind, the words emerge as if of their own accord, and with far more mimetic aptness. My argument is that the traumatized engage in such intense imagining as their very condition, and so end up doing the very thing Hughes recommends, when taking their trauma as their topic.