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Podcast Episode #3: How to Use Writing For Confidence & Self-Care with Emily Wheeler (Strength in Feathers)

Guest: Emily Wheeler, Wellbeing Writer at Strength in Feathers CIC

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Rose Burch – Community Member
Hi friend. Welcome to the Quiet Connections podcast. Do you feel anxious and not good enough in social situations? Feel like you’re weird broken or don’t fit in? You are not alone. Join Hayley and Stacie on a journey to quiet confidence. Picking up key insights to help you feel more calm and confident. So you can finally speak up, join in and feel like you belong too.

Stacie Clark
Hello, it’s Stacie here and welcome to the Quiet Connections podcast. Are you looking for a relaxing way to help calm your thoughts, process your feelings, or express who you are? Well a gentle writing practice might just be what you’ve been searching for. In today’s episode, I speak with writer and wellbeing workshop facilitator, Emily Wheeler, all about the benefits of writing for our wellbeing. We explore how writing can help with self reflection, gaining clarity, expressing our needs, and Emily shares some wonderful quick tips to help you get started with writing today. So let’s get to it…

Hi Emily, it’s so nice to have you join us today. How are you doing?

Emily Wheeler
Hiya, yeah I’m alright thank you. How are you doing?

Stacie Clark
I’m good. Yeah, I’m really looking forward to having a chat with you today and finding out more about how writing can benefit our wellbeing and how it can be a really good tool for those who are in our quiet community. So, to start with Emily, would you mind sharing with us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Emily Wheeler
Yeah. So, I’m based in Falmouth, I moved down here last summer, and I run writing for wellbeing workshops and mindful journaling workshops, and I run those alongside my own freelance writing work.

Stacie Clark
Amazing. We’ve also just set up your own Community Interest Company as well, haven’t you

Emily Wheeler
Yeah so really, really recently in the last week or so, I transitioned into formally registering my Community Interest Company which is called Strength In Feathers. It’s all about using writing for wellbeing, both in the community workshops that I do, as well as creating lots of resources online.

Stacie Clark
I love the name Strength In Feathers, you have to tell me what was the inspiration behind that?

Emily Wheeler
Oh, thank you. I’m not completely sure, I think it kind of came from a few places, O was brainstorming ideas and things that I like, and I think when I stumbled upon that one I really liked it. It’s similar to strength in numbers, but then also, I really liked the idea of strength being able to be something quite delicate and, the feathers reminded me of quills and writing and things like that. But yeah it just seemed right once I found it.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, that’s really beautiful and I love the reference to how strength can be something more gentle. To me that feels like an inner strength, and a more compassionate and kinder approach that we can take to our wellbeing.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, and I think it’s really important. So much branding is all about being so out there and in your face. And sometimes it’s nice that some of the most successful companies and brands, that really resonate with people are just simple.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, I love that and obviously that’s the approach that we’ve taken here at Quiet Connections as well, bringing in that sense of calmness and celebrating those quieter qualities.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, we’ve got similar similar colour schemes and very similar ideas.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, I love it.

Okay, so what I’d love to know Emily, is how writing has come to be a wellbeing practice for you. What has your journey been?

Emily Wheeler
I think I’ve always been into writing, and always really enjoyed it. I think, at school you quite often get split into being a maths person, or an english person, are you sporty, or are you arty, and all that kind of thing. Which is just silly segregations, but I was english, and writing was my thing because I felt comfortable with it. I used to do lots of writing, writing stories and things with my mum when I was little, that’s something that we would have done. She’s a primary school teacher, and so now we’ve got hundreds of little notebooks at home full of my stories, about all sorts, so it’s always fun to go back and read.

Stacie Clark
Oh that’s so lovely.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, and I kept on with the english and writing theme, and developed it more and more. And then my work came to be around writing, and I’ve done bits of copywriting for businesses, as well as some creative writing. I did a creative writing master’s and then was doing bits of creative writing on my own projects as well.

And I realised that while I was running the copywriting business, and starting to teach writing to businesses, about how they could do their website copy or their email marketing copy and things like that. I realised that actually what I enjoyed most is delivering workshops, and working with people and building their confidence in their writing and communication, and all that kind of thing.

And I met some amazing women who worked in the wellbeing industry, and realised that’s so important to me. I just began to research writing for wellbeing and instantly thought “Why haven’t I put these together explicitly before?”. I think you implicitly know that it’s good for you to sit down and do some writing, but yeah, explicitly putting them together and acknowledge that it’s important to spend time on your wellbeing, and writing can be a nice creative way to do that.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, when I was a teenager I used to write poetry, and religiously kept a diary as a way to help me process, and then express all of the emotions that I was feeling at that time. And to say the things that I couldn’t, that I felt like I couldn’t say out loud. And that’s something that I still enjoy doing today, as a way to help me explore and look at some of the underlying feelings or emotions that I might be experiencing, and to bring those up to the surface, to get to know them a little bit more and understand how or what what might be going on for me and how I’m feeling.

I think it really helped me to get to know myself a little bit more, and I think it can be a great tool for us to use in order to do that.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, it’s a really nice self reflective practice to develop, and once you get into it, it’s quite easy as well. To begin with, it feels a bit strange, but once it becomes a normal thing to do, it’s really lovely. And I’m sure people who’ve tried meditation have felt the same way, that to begin with, it feels a bit of an unusual thing to do because we haven’t trained ourselves to do it before. But then it becomes really valuable and kind of second nature.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, I love what you said that and it comes back to this thing and I say all the time, which is that everything is a practice. We don’t do something for the first time and have it, you know, it doesn’t always feel like it comes naturally to us, it’s not always going to feel that easy to begin with, necessarily. But it’s about giving ourselves that space just to have a go, and to start getting curious about how it might actually be a beneficial activity or exercise for us to use.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, exactly. And once you take the pressure off as well and realise that it’s not. In this instance, the kind of writing that I mainly focus on, the writing for wellbeing, is not about the finished product it’s about the process of doing it, and whether it makes you feel better in the moment. But also tapping into things, and maybe discovering things about yourself or a certain situation, or just gaining a bit of clarity.

That’s the important thing. You’re not trying to create a beautiful masterpiece bit of writing that everyone’s going to read. I often encourage people, there’s one exercise we do in my workshops where you do a brain dump, scribble, free writing page, and then I say to people, we’re going to screw this up at the end so nobody’s gonna see it, we’re gonna screw it up and run it under water.

Stacie Clark
Yeah it completely removes the pressure doesn’t it, and I think you’re absolutely right when you say that it’s about doing it for the process. In fact, one of my favourite gentle reminders that I’ve learnt over the last few years is, do it for the process and trust the process.

Emily Wheeler
Yes, it’s finding ways to turn that self censorship off isn’t it. Which is such a challenge but a really nice thing when you can do it. There are lots of writing exercises like writing to music and things like that that I’ve done before, that you get a bit carried away with.

Stacie Clark
Yeah and just allowing yourself to be in the moment and allowing that authentic expression to come through.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, exactly.

Stacie Clark
And you just mentioned, allowing yourself to be carried away and that’s just reminded me of a TED Talk I’ve watched by Charles Limb, who is a neuroscientist, I believe. And he did this study of brain scans of people playing memorised music versus improvised music, and the brain scans demonstrated that when we’re in that state of flow and, we’re improvising, then the parts of our brains that are self censoring they shut down. Whilst the parts that are autobiographical and related to our authentic self expression are activated and full of energy!

Emily Wheeler
Ah that TED Talk sounds amazing, you’ll definitely have to put a link so we can go and have a watch later.

Stacie Clark
Yeah it was really interesting

Emily Wheeler
Like that completely makes sense about different parts of the brain. I can imagine being sat at a piano or whatever instrument, and playing something that has to be perfect and a precise piece that you’ve learned, and then going into improv mode. That that makes so much sense now you’ve said it that your brain will be on, it’s like on a different level or a different programme, even though you’re actually doing the same physical, you’re playing piano.

And I wonder how that applies to writing? That would be fascinating to think about. Because I wonder if it’s sort of similar to like editing and trying to create a perfect story or article or publication that’s for other people, and then free writing and doodling… and I always joke with people in my workshops that my handwriting, if you look in my organiser diary, I’ve got really really neat handwriting. And then, when I’m free writing, which, because I join in with the workshops and we do our 10 minute free writing exercise, and I’ll just sit and write too, and my writing gets so scruffy! With loops and all sorts of things, and you can’t read it! It’s a very different process.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, it is a different process! It’s much freer in some ways, isn’t it. And this is why I love using activities that do help to encourage us to be in that state, and using them as tools to help us connect with who we truly are, and help us express ourselves.

So you’ve already mentioned, free writing and writing to music, as some exercises we could try. So, what advice would you have for someone within our community who perhaps wants to start using writing for their wellbeing, but is experiencing those mental blocks that perhaps are getting in the way, they’re a little bit concerned about what might come up, or feeling a little bit judgmental of what it is that they are writing. What advice or tips would you have for them, to help them get started?

Emily Wheeler
Oh, that’s a good question, and I think just starting small is really important. And especially with our attention spans now, everybody’s are quite short, we’re so used to the online stuff and just little short bits of texts, so to suddenly go from no practice to go sit down, and write for a whole half an hour even, is actually really quite a strenuous thing to do if you’re not used to it. So maybe just starting with like a really cute little notebook, something small. And you can even take it with you like out on a walk or just have it in a cafe somewhere, or maybe not at the moment!

But just starting to do one page at a time, and you could start with something quite objective like you could be describing something around you. And then, from that, it’s sort of like, I challenge anybody to be able to write a description of the room they’re in without becoming a little bit descriptive and putting their own self into it. Because you just do, you get carried away, so maybe just starting with something really small, and little things like that, with a small notebook. Don’t give yourself too big a challenge to start off with.

Stacie Clark
I love that. Yeah, because that’s really breaking it down into, it’s about starting with those really small steps. It doesn’t feel too daunting, it doesn’t feel too overwhelming, it’s giving yourself that permission to start really small and then to grow gradually.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah. We just need to give ourselves that chance because you wouldn’t decide to run a marathon and go and run the whole thing at once.

Stacie Clark
That is very true!

Emily Wheeler
The Couch25K doesn’t get you doing 5K on the first day. Maybe with walking, I’m not sure. It shows how long it’s been since I’ve done it.

Stacie Clark
Yeah. I completely agree with that, and that’s very much the approach that we like to take as well. We call that our comfort zone stretch.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, that’s perfectly describing it, take the first step. There’s a lovely Charlie Macksey drawing at the moment, isn’t there, that’s going around saying, I can’t see all the way forward but I can see just the next step. And that’s enough, you can keep that.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, I love his illustrations. So as you know, many of the people we work with, struggle with expressing their needs, or voicing their thoughts or feelings – mind blank is a common experience for a lot of us, especially in situations that we feel uncomfortable in. And, you already mentioned earlier that regular writing practises can help offer us a sense of clarity and reflection, so could writing be another tool for us to use to help support ourselves in expressing and saying what we need to or want to in certain situations?

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, I think that would be a really nice, sort of preparation for it. I know we’re talking about different things, you can have challenges voicing yourself in a specific situation with conflict, and then you could have just challenges on an everyday level, and I’m trying to think about both. But if it’s about resolving a specific issue or maybe a particular conversation you’re nervous about, I think writing it down and first of all being really sure of what what you think and what you want to say. Because, I’m sure lots of people can remember a time where you said something and then you think afterwards, “Why did I say that, that doesn’t actually reflect how I felt like?”

Stacie Clark
Yeah, I’ve had that conversation with myself so many times.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, I think we all do that, and it’s a conversation that you sort of know is going to happen, which I know we can never plan things exactly, but if you know something that you need to tackle, and it can be really helpful to make sure you know what you think first, and by writing that down, that would be a way to do it. It would help me because brainstorms are my way of solving everything. It just really helps me to get everything out, get the words on paper and then mark it out from there.

And also letter writing I’m a little bit obsessed with, I love letter writing. And if it’s a specific person, you don’t have to send the letter, but it can be a nice idea to write things down to think what you actually want to communicate, when you have that time to sit and edit and redraft and all that kind of thing. And then even, in some situations it is appropriate to draft an email or a letter and then send that and say, I would find this difficult to talk about face to face but this is how I feel, and I’d love to hear your response.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, and I’ve actually done that before. So, a number of years ago when I would still really shut down whenever it came to sharing emotions, or expressing my needs, or sharing anything that felt vulnerable for me. And my partner actually bought a notebook for me to help me communicate those things with him. And the idea was that, I could write it down in the notebook, and then leave the notebook on his pillow for him to read later on. And then there was the option of responding in writing or we could physically talk about it. And that was super helpful in opening that door for me, and feeling more safe with communicating those things that I felt uncomfortable sharing and voicing out loud. And actually, we only used the book like three or four times before we didn’t need it anymore. So that was a really helpful tool to use and start opening the door. And, yeah, I’ve had a number of clients use similar approaches before and have reported back saying how helpful that was for them too.

Emily Wheeler
I think the more you start to do it, the more you start to write things down, you realise how useful it can be. And you think of more and more ways that you actually could get around that challenge by writing about it, or using writing in a different way.

Stacie Clark
Yeah exactly. Well, you’ve shared some amazing tips and ideas , and exercises already, that we can all have a go at. I’m actually going to have a go at the writing to music exercise later on, that sounded really exciting.

So, to start wrapping things up, if you could send a message back to your younger self, what would you say?

Emily Wheeler
Oh, that’s a tricky question. I think I would like to just tell my younger self to just try and relax. Learn how to relax and slow down and not worry about what other people are thinking. Because most of the time, other people aren’t thinking about you, they’re thinking about themselves, probably. And not to be so self conscious. Which isn’t particularly connected to writing, that’s kind of a more holistic whole lifestyle approach way of being. But I think I was very nervous and worried about what people would think, and just finding any ways that work for you, to just sort of letting that go.

Stacie Clark
And has writing been one of those ways for you?

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, I think so. It’s helped with my confidence as well. In that it’s something that I’ve done professionally, so there was an element for me of it being something I could feel secure in. But even if that isn’t the case, most people probably use some form of writing in their daily life or at work, but there are so many completely different kinds.

The writing I did for work didn’t really have any or many similarities with the writing I do for myself and my wellbeing and journaling, but it gave me a little bit of a launching point I think to be confident that writing was where. I felt sort of safe and comfortable, because people had told me when I was at school and in my GCSEs and in my a levels and my degree, they’re like yes, writing, tick, you can do that. So it was a safe launching space for me.

But it’s silly that you, well, I felt like I needed that, because you don’t need any kind of permission to start writing and just get going, and then screw it up at the end and throw it away. And that’s a hugely valuable exercise, if you’re not going to read it back to yourself.

Stacie Clark
Yeah that’s such a great exercise to start with, and you’re absolutely right. The only permission needed is the permission that you can offer to yourself.

So do you have any last words of kindness that you’d like to offer to our listeners?

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, I don’t think anybody is too quiet. I don’t think there should be anyone telling us we’re too quiet. Yeah, so not to worry about being quiet because it’s an amazing skill. Bet you can think of some people who need to be a bit quieter. There shouldn’t be a pressure to be loud. There are far too many people who are too loud.

Stacie Clark
Yeah. And there are so so many beautiful, and a much needed skills and qualities in those of us who are quieter. We make amazing listeners for starters!

Emily Wheeler
Yeah. I don’t think people should feel that they need to apologise for being quiet.

Stacie Clark
I love that, yeah you don’t have to apologise for being quiet.

Emily Wheeler
It’s only if you feel it’s limiting yourself and then you can find small ways to unlimit yourself.

Stacie Clark
Exactly, and it’s recognising the difference between growing, because it serves and benefits us, and shifting those unhelpful beliefs, whilst embracing our true selves versus feeling like we have to change because we think that we’re just not good enough. Because, the truth is, is that you know the world needs those of us who are more quiet and the qualities that that we bring with that.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, and that actually comes right back to what we were saying at the beginning about the branding that I’ve settled on for my Strength in Feathers Community Interest Company. It’s that combining the strength and the confidence and feeling really grounded and settled with it. It can be something quiet and delicate, like a feather and it doesn’t need to be loud and brash and in your face but it can still be really quite confident and strong.

Stacie Clark
Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you Emily and I can’t thank you enough for coming on and sharing your thoughts with us.

Emily Wheeler
Oh, thank you for having me. I think there are so many shared values between Quiet Connections, and between what I’m starting up with Strength in Feathers, so I think it’s so important to collaborate when we have these opportunities and talk to each other and share what we’re excited about and all that kind of thing. So, yeah, thank you for having me as well.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I hope you have a lovely day, and I’m sure we’ll speak to you again soon.

Emily Wheeler
Yeah and you. Okay, thanks. Bye.

Stacie Clark
So, if you’d like to find out more about any of Emily’s writing for wellbeing workshops, then you can pop on over to her website, which is StrengthInFeathers.com.

Thank you so much for tuning in.

And our next episode will be Hayley speaking with the amazing Vicky Otter, who is a wellbeing coach. This is an episode that you don’t want to miss. They are getting into some really interesting pieces around why our thoughts are not our reality and how we can start to let go of feeling like we’re not good enough.

In the meantime, stay connected.

Rose Burch – Community Member
Thanks for listening. You can find the show notes for this episode at quietconnections.co.uk. If you found this episode helpful, then please tell a friend about it or share it on social media. With gratitude for the support of the National Lottery Community Fund.

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