Conversation 87: EMPATHY Workshop from Phil Isherwood to celebrate WELLBEING & CREATIVITY WEEK 17-24 May 2021

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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

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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!

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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.
  • TIPS
  • 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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

10 Comments on “Conversation 87: EMPATHY Workshop from Phil Isherwood to celebrate WELLBEING & CREATIVITY WEEK 17-24 May 2021”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful activity on EMPATHY Phil to take time to celebrate Creativity and Wellbeing Week. Empathy is such a good choice, something that binds us together and marks us out as human beings. Reaching out to others in person and in thought is how we grow emotionally to become more caring, kind and connected.

    still growing
    not knowing who I am – but
    knowing that’s fine

  2. He drowns in linen
    I drown in his salty eyes
    My brother waiting

    I was so taken by his eyes, different from when life was living in them. As I fed my dying brother, it was not gratitude or sadness I saw. It was the eye of a leviathan, waiting inevitably for the poised harpoon to strike. An ending to suffering, I couldn’t give. For a moment we were drowning together as one. Was this sibling empathy…

  3. if I wore her shoes
    they’d have hard soles cuttiing laces
    my feet left weeping

    if I wore her shoes
    they’d fit like cinderela’s
    sisters crushed toes

    if I wore her shoes
    maybe I would understand
    her judas action

    did he whimper for my touch
    as she turned and walked away

    There can never be forgiveness, even now the cruelty to me as much as to my lovely companion hurts. I did not realise how much so until now on writing this. Was this meant to be sympathy for others, if so in this case, though sh is long, long ago departed, I have no lightness to turn off this dark

  4. It is so lovely to see the openness in responses. Empathy can be difficult when applied to oneself – but psychologists tell us that unconditional (in spite of our journey) self-love / self-care is important for our emotional health. Even the bible says “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”. People do not realise that you need a strong self-love (self-worth) to be fully equipped to love others unconditionally. – but not the modern version of self-obsession!

  5. I am back in wheels
    my son pushes me now
    mother holds my hand

    he knows me I think
    this strong man made weak
    by a second curse

    I saw them, Father and son, one pushing the wheelchair for the other. I know the older man, grey, wilting in spring sunshine. I almost walk pass before he smiles and raises his hand. The salute we accepted while out walking our dogs in the park. Is it age, or effects of some cursed virus that has robbed him of his dignity. That in unkindly stealth has stolen his independence and made him a stranger to me. The last time I saw him was May 2020. So much has passed, so many have passed since then.

  6. I absorbed the message, Love your neighbour, as a child and carry it with me as an adult in her late sixties.
    I did not, however, absorb, or hear often enough, the message, to love myself. To have done so would have been seen as selfishness.
    I have to remind myself on a daily basis, that it is ok to love myself; in doing so I can love others better.

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