It is National Wellbeing week 17-24 May 2021– and an ideal opportunity for a weeklong writing focus on an essential theme – EMPATHY – “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” Oxford Languages
I have chosen empathy for two reasons – Firstly, it is essential for wellbeing as individuals, communities and society, in the way empathy supports belonging and understanding. Secondly, as writers the skill and depth of our empathy can help us explore themes more deeply and this will be reflected in the development of our work. We need to ‘see’ not just through our own eyes but through the lives, places and situations of others – real or imagined. If you can do this in a haiku then there is no limit to how you may choose to build story and character in a novel!
Empathy is the lifeblood of communities and creativity.
- For the Wellbeing Week I’ll suggest a different focus for each weekday, Monday through Friday, and then a weekend theme. Here are some tips to put yourself in other’s shoes – see from the feelings and places that may be quite different to our own experience and knowledge.
- Use images- your own, books, newsfeeds, videos- imagined scenes…
- Work your senses- what do you see, touch, hear… what’s going on? Put yourself ‘there’ and dwell in the moment before you write. Do not limit your imagination to the comfortable.
- The momentary is as powerful as the majestic.
- Don’t assume anything. Be curious…
- Explain little and show much. Let actions explain reactions.
- How can you reveal your own personal insight of something new?
Empathy- Monday – My Younger Self – Begin with yourself. Perhaps a childhood picture, alone, a group or an event in school or career- a scary or familiar place? Revisit and write now as the person you were then. Memories? Inventions? Be creative! Be silly or serious. Write several haiku – one for each person in the picture with you? If you need a writing prompt try – #Puddles or #Promises
Empathy- Tuesday- A Different Job – Choose a job or role you have never done – paid or unpaid- perhaps a random picture inspires, or someone you know whose jobs you may have loved or hated! Be that person and write- savour the moment in a work scene If you need a writing prompt try – #Doorway or #Wages
Empathy- Wednesday- Community Spaces – Use a picture of a local community space – town square, library, a shopping centre, a waiting room- or even visit and find a corner to sit and observe. Just imagine being a stranger in the scene and write their ‘life’ in some way. What are they seeing and being? Perhaps link several strangers together in a haiku series.. If you need a writing prompt try – #Waiting or #Echoes
Empathy- Thursday – A Challenge – Most of us have someone we have struggled to get on with or been put in an uncomfortable situation which has made us dislike someone. Can you find empathy here, to write kindly in their shoes? No names (of course) but do let go and surprise yourself if you can. If you have a moment, a place, a photo – put yourself there now… If you need a writing prompt try – #Curiously or #LettingGo
Empathy- Friday – Today’s News – Browse the newspapers or newsfeeds for today and pick a story. Place yourself as one of the real people in the story- whether that is a refugee or a film star, sports person, someone from politics… you choose! BUT …it’s you! What do you see, what’s going on? Be in the moment, work the senses. If you need a writing prompt try – #IfOnly or #Hiding
Empathy- Weekend- Never The Same Again – The pandemic continues … easing in some counties yet still devastating others. Life has changed for us all in some way… can you imagine someone else’s situation? A friend or a stranger… How has life changed? Can you show a glimpse of how they see the future. Can you contrast someone’s opportunity with another’s loss in two haiku? If you need a writing prompt try – #Belonging or #Learning